Why do humans have cats as pets
Cats join the sedentary man
A cat grave in Cyprus brought down the previous theory that cats first joined humans in ancient Egypt. In 2004, French researchers discovered the approximately 9500 year old grave near a human grave in Cyprus. It is reasonable to assume that it was man's house cat.
Since there were originally no cats in Cyprus, people must have brought the cats with them in the boat - probably from the nearby mainland, i.e. today's Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan and Palestine.
Cats - more precisely: Nubian blackcats - had probably already joined humans when agriculture and sedentary life began in the Middle East about 11,000 years ago.
Mice were drawn to man's stores, and the cats hunted these mice - which in turn pleased the people.
Ascent to deity
The cat actually only became a real house cat in ancient Egypt, around 3,600 years ago. Illustrations show cats wearing collars, eating from bowls or sitting under chairs.
The Egyptians were not only grateful to the new allies for chasing the mice out of their granaries. The grace and beauty of these animals also enchanted people.
The gratitude of the Egyptians for their elegant mouse hunters quickly turned into love. They admired the cats so much that it became a real cult. The goddess Bastet, daughter of the sun god Re, was responsible for love, fertility and reproduction and had the shape of a cat.
The divine career began in 2000 BC and peaked some 500 years later. The temple of the cat goddess Bastet was in Bubastis, which means "House of Bastet". Countless depictions of cats have survived from this period: statues, paintings and papyrus drawings.
Anyone who injured a cat was sentenced to death. If a cat died, the residents of the house put on mourning clothes and shaved their eyebrows.
Many dead cats were brought to Bubastis, embalmed and buried in the mausoleum. Archaeological digs uncovered enormous amounts of cat mummies.
Cat smuggling to Europe
For a long time it was strictly forbidden in Egypt to take cats out of the country. But the animals were very popular abroad. Cat smuggling, which Phoenician seafarers liked to do, flourished. Anyone who managed to get hold of a "Made in Egypt" cat had a status symbol as a pet.
This is how the Egyptian black cat came to Europe. The European variant of the wildcat already existed there, but it could hardly be tamed. To protect supplies, ferrets were often used as mouse hunters until the arrival of the Egyptian black cat.
The Greeks were just as taken with the animals as the Egyptians - many frescoes and mosaics still bear witness to this today. The Romans saw it less emotionally: For them, cats were only mobile mouse killers. For this purpose they were even carried and used in the conquest campaigns.
From girlfriend to scapegoat
For centuries the cat was a good friend to Europeans. Then came the time of witch hunts in the early modern times. People were looking for scapegoats and symbols of the devil - and one of the things they chose was the cat. From now on it became very uncomfortable for them.
As allies of the alleged witches and helping spirits of the devils, cats were persecuted, tortured and burned at the stake. It was believed that the ghost of a witch likes to live in the body of a cat, which then slips into the stables to spoil the cattle.
One can only guess why it hit the cat so hard. Perhaps because the Christian patriarchs feared the ancient intimate relationship between women and cats.
Or because, according to the traditional mythologies of the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans, the cat was in close contact with the moon and the underworld.
It's going uphill again
In the 18th century, both witch and cat persecutions were finally over. The mistrust and some prejudices persisted for a long time. So the superstition has persisted to this day that a black cat brings bad luck if it crosses the street from the left.
But gradually the realization won out that the cat could be of great use to humans - it was valued again as a mouse and rat hunter.
Today the cat is the Germans' favorite domestic animal: there are almost twelve million of them. Many people appreciate the ambivalence of cats: sometimes they are cuddly and sometimes scratchy, sometimes independent and sometimes affectionate, sometimes sweet and sometimes wild.
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