Cats have a long history of association with humans, and their presence can be traced back to ancient times. Here's an overview of how cats were perceived and treated in some ancient civilizations:
- Ancient Egypt: Cats were highly revered and considered sacred animals in ancient Egypt. The domestic cat (Felis catus) likely originated from the African wildcat (Felis silvestris lybica), which was native to the region. Cats were associated with the goddess Bastet, the protector of home, fertility, and the pharaoh. Killing a cat, even accidentally, was punishable by death. Cats were often depicted in art, and many Egyptians kept them as pets to protect their homes from vermin.
- Ancient Greece and Rome: Cats were not held in the same high regard as in Egypt, but they were still appreciated for their ability to control pests. They were associated with the goddess Artemis (Greek) and Diana (Roman), who were both goddesses of the hunt. Cats were commonly kept around farms and homes to control rodents.
- Ancient Persia: Cats were also respected in ancient Persia (modern-day Iran). Their ability to hunt and control pests made them valuable assets to farmers and households.
- Ancient China: Cats were introduced to ancient China from the west, likely along trade routes. While they weren't as prominent as in some other cultures, they were appreciated for their pest-control abilities.
- Viking Age: Cats were brought by Norse seafarers on their ships to control mice and rats. Some archaeological evidence suggests that cats were buried alongside their owners, indicating a level of affection and companionship.
It's important to note that while cats were present in these ancient societies, their status and perception varied widely. In some cultures, they were highly regarded and revered, while in others, they were merely functional companions for controlling pests. Today's domestic cats are descendants of these ancient felines, and they continue to be beloved companions in many parts of the world.