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 much further back. 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 nearest relative of the modern-day domestic cat and was bred by Mesopotamian farmers, most likely as a means of controlling pests, such as mice, which were attracted by grain supplies.
Cats have been adored for centuries 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, almost 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. This worship of the cat resulted in the establishment of a penalty prior to 450 BC in Egypt, whereby the killing of a cat resulted in death.
The devotion 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 highly regarded throughout the land 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. While the Phoenicians are acknowledged to have traded extensively with every known civilization of the time, cats may have been routinely introduced to the region. It is well documented that cats were kept on ships to control vermin during the time of the 15th century Age of Discovery 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. With more than 100 million pets, China has now become the third largest pet owning country after the US and Japan. The pet economy now encompasses an array of services, from grooming, manicures, pet furniture and carriers, numerous types of fresh and raw food, treats and baked goods as well as the huge market for pet toys. According to industry trends, projections for the pet business will continue with its constant upward growth unabated. In 2017, 69.51 billion was spent on pets in just the United States alone.
Cats are capable of developing extremely strong bonds with people and are often preferred to the dog due to their ease of care. Cats tend to be more affordable since they don’t require daycare or regular dog walking services, the neutering procedure is also less costly. 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 certainly don’t require the space of a dog. In fact, more and more cat owners are keeping their kitties indoors for safety reasons due to the various predators living within the residential areas.
Cats are often considered to be standoffish however, they are more susceptible to stress. This can result anywhere from family separation anxiety to slight changes within the home or routine. It is generally known that cats have the tendency to hide illnesses which is why it is so important to assess the state of any illness when considering a vet visit. The consequential stress as well as the maturity of the cat should also be taken into consideration since they are so averse to leaving the home.
While people recognize both the pros and cons associated with dogs and cats, humans will continue to cherish their relationships with them, treat them as another family member and reside with them in harmonious perpetuity.
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