cats are one of the most popular pets globally, next to dogs. It was widely accepted that cats were first 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. Within the last decade or two, 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 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 employs variations on this word. The goddess Bastetwas among the most popular deities, portrayed as a cat or as a woman with a cat’s head. 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 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 highly regarded throughout homes, farms and even palaces due to its serviceability with controlling the pest population of less desirable creatures such as mice, rats and snakes.
It is generally thought that the Phoenicians introduced the cat to Europe by the traders possibly smuggling them out of Egypt. While the Phoenicians are well known for having 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 possible, 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, in Canada there has been an upward trend established toward the number of households owning a cat or dog since 2004, with 8.8 million cats versus 7.6 million dogs considered as pets 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 self-sufficiency and independent nature along with their cleanliness 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.
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 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 family member and reside with them in harmonious perpetuity.
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