The domestic cat appeared several thousands of years ago. First documented interactions with cats happened in the early Egyptian cultures. Cats assisted in pest control in this early agricultural society. Soon they became more than an assistant and the house pet was born. Cats became honored members of the household and very prominent in the culture. Severe punishments were given to those who injured or killed cats. If someone killed a cat they were put to death. Egyptian cats were treated like Pharaohs when they died. They were mummified and placed in their own graves with mice to feed the cat in the afterlife.
Cats had a positive relationship with sailors. They helped keep the rodent population under control on the long voyages. As much help as cats were to the Egyptian agriculture and the sea vessels they have not always had a positive time with people.
One such time was in Medieval Europe when church officials labeled black cats as evil. The church followers responded by killing all the black cats and expanded to include other color cats as well. Another time was in the Dark Ages when Europe was fighting the Bubonic Plague. Cats were blamed for the spread of the disease when in actuality it was fleas that were on the rats. Cats were actually helping to fight the spread but were being killed by those who knew no better. The homes that kept cats were more likely to be spared the agony of the plague.
Once cats passed the horror of the Dark Ages they were greeted with adoration again. In the Renaissance period cats were treated as loving house pets again. They even traveled to the United States with the first settlers. But this is where they had yet another period of trouble with people.
This time the cat suffered as a result of association with people. People were being prosecuted and punished for being “witches”. The cat was considered a witch’s companion and a sign that someone was indeed a witch. Trials were held and many innocent people found guilty and put to death. So many cats suffered the same fate as their owners. Once again this time passed and the cat survived to see better times.
Recent times have ushered in the best time yet for the cat. The cat has become the favorite pet of Americans and continues to gain popularity. Hopefully this time the relationship between cats and people will stay positive.