cats are one of the most beloved pets worldwide, next to dogs. It was widely believed that cats were originally domesticated in Egypt 4,000 years ago however, their history among humans actually goes back much further. While it has now been determined that wild cats lived among people in Mesopotamia over 100,000 years ago, they were domesticated around the same time as dogs, sheep and goats approximately 12,000 BC. Recent archaeological excavations have provided evidence that the Near Eastern Wildcat is the closest relative of the modern-day domestic cat and was bred by Mesopotamian farmers, most likely as a way of controlling pests, such as mice, which were attracted by grain supplies.
Cats have been adored for generations by various cultures, most notably the ancient Egyptians. In fact, the actual name ‘cat’ has been credited to the Egyptians in that it derives from the North African word for the animal, “quattah”, and as the cat was so closely associated with Egypt, practically every other European nation applies variations on this word. The goddess Bastet, commonly depicted as a cat or as a woman with a cat’s head, was among the most popular deities. She was the keeper of hearth and home, protector of women’s secrets, guardian against evil spirits and disease, and the goddess of cats. A penalty of death was put in place around 450 BC in Egypt if a cat was deliberately killed.
The adoration to the cat is also noted in India. The Indian cat goddess, Sastht, served much the same role as the Egyptian goddess, Bastet. The cat was honoured throughout homes, farms and even palaces due to its usefulness with controlling the pest population of less desirable creatures such as mice, rats and snakes.
Cats are thought to have been introduced to Europe by Phoenician traders who may have smuggled them out of Egypt. Since the Phoenicians are acknowledged to have traded extensively with every known civilization of the time, cats may have been spread around the region on a fairly regular basis.. It was well documented, during the 15th century Age of Discovery, that cats were kept on ships in order to control the vermin population and, it’s plausible, they served the same purpose for the Phoenicians.
One common cat figurine popular with the Japanese is the maneki-neko or “beckoning” cat. The cat has its paw raised as if it's waving which is believed to bring good fortune. This became a popular trend in the last few decades in China whereby a shop owner would keep a cat or simply a cat sculpture on the counter, hoping to increase sales.
Pet ownership has proven benefits to both our health and social well-being. In fact, The number of households owning a cat or dog has been steadily growing since the start of the millennium, with a recorded 8.8 million cats and 7.6 million dogs considered as family pets in Canada alone in 2016.
In Asia, the perception of pets has changed toward making cats and dogs more like a family member which has caused a massive surge in the pet economy. The annual growth rate of the pet care industry in Asia between 2017- 2022 is expected to be 8 per cent, making this one of the few mass market industries seeing rapid growth. China has become the third largest pet owning country after the US and Japan, with over 100 million pets. Demand for other ‘pet’ services has grown dramatically too. Owners not only visit pet salons for grooming and manicures, but also indulge in clothing, pet-sized furniture and carriers, gourmet ‘baked’ treats as well as the ever evolving array of toys.
Cats are often considered as the preferred choice over the dog as they too are capable of establishing strong bonds with people, but are easier to look after and don’t require the daily walks. Cats also tend to be less expensive as they don’t require any day care services and the procedure for spaying and neutering is significantly less. Cats are uncanny, solitary hunters that have the ability to understand how things work without being trained.
Cats are known for their cleanliness, self-sufficiency and independent nature and they definitely do not need the same amount of space. In fact, cats are becoming more ‘indoor’ creatures in many parts of the world due to the various common predators lurking in the suburbs such as the coyote, raccoons, foxes, bears and cougars to name a few.
Even though cats can sometimes appear to be aloof, they quite often develop separation anxiety when their favourite person disappears for an extended period of time. They aren’t fond of change and can get stressed out simply with the move of a chair. It is common knowledge that cats have the tendency to hide illnesses which is why it is so important to consider the degree of illness prior to taking kitty to the vet. The age of the cat and the resulting stress should also be taken into consideration since they are so reluctant to changing their surroundings even if only temporarily.
Both dogs and cats are the most popular family pets and while both have their pros and cons, concerning their upkeep, humans will continue to cherish their relationships with them, treat them as another member of the family and live along side them forevermore.
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