The History of Cats ExplainedThe world’s most popular pet is the domestic cat, there is believed to be close to half a billion domestic cats in the world today. The history of cats however starts way back before the modern twentieth century right to the beginning of known and recorded history. The ancient history of the domestic cat starts at the time of the ancient Egyptians 4000 years ago where they were regarded as sacred creatures.Cats in Ancient EgyptThe origins of cats (domestic cats) are thought to have come from the African Wild Cat. The breed was domesticated in ancient Egypt to control vermin which was harming crops and causing diseases. And like our fury friends now they were very good at catching mice and rats! The cats controlled the rat population which reduced disease and deaths and also allowed a larger supply of food for the poor. This therefore changed the quality of living for the Egyptians and cats become a sacred creature representing life. They were associated with the goddesses Bast, Isis and Pasht.By the time the Egyptian empire fell cats were revered as master hunters and were worshipped like gods by all Egyptians including the pharaoh. If an Egyptian killed a cat they were immediately given the death penalty yet the fear of the all mighty cat itself made this a rare occurrence. The pharaoh’s were mummified and buried with statues of cats. This represented good luck and safe companionship to the afterlife. Even today archaeologists are finding more and more hieroglyphics, statues and carvings of cats emphasizing there importance in Ancient Egypt. Some cats were even mummified and their bodies left to lay in tombs and shrines. It was illegal to sell a cat outside of Egypt as they were such an important asset to their beliefs and society. The history of domesticated cats started in Egypt where they acclaimed their first home, but like all cats they didn’t want to stay in one place to long!History of Cats . . . From Egypt to ChinaTowards the end of the Egyptian empire cats were sold to the Greeks and Persians. In 500 BC a domesticated cat was given to the Emperor of China and cats were the most popular pet of the rich during the Song Dynasty. The cats were bred with the wildcats of Asia and became a common asset of the first emperors, then the nobility, priests and eventually the peasants. Cats in China were breed with many local breeds which had helped produce some of the breeds we know today such as the Siamese and Birmese. The domesticated cat spread to all the surrounding countries of China Including India and Japan.History of Cats . . . From Rome to BeyondEgyptian traders brought cats to Europe and they were introduced to the Greeks and then the Romans. The Romans used cats to control the pest population and as their empire increased so did the population of cats. Cats become common and valuable assets to all those who harvest crops who had problems with rats and disease. They were introduced to Britain around 100 AD and were protected by Law by the King of Wales, Hywel Dda as sacred and valuable animals. Killing a cat could again be punishable by death.History of Cats . . . The Fall of the CatDuring the Middle Ages cats were associated with superstition and witch craft. They were considered animals of sin and were thought to be associated with Satan. When the Black Death (The Plague) started in 1348 the rulers ordered the killing of all cats who were the initial suspect of the disease (or the devils work). Ironically because of this mass killing the rodents spread and populated Europe in abundance which spread and worsened the pandemic. Many believe that the mass cull of cats cost millions of lives where the population of Europe was killed off by 50%.From Europe to AmericaCats were used upon Ships on voyages of discovery during the 15th/16th Century to control rodent population and disease. A ship crashed off the Isle of Man in the United Kingdom and the cats on board the ship swam to the shore. This created one of the first known pedigree breeds, the Manx. When Christopher Columbus discovered America cats from the Ship were left in the country and flourished. The breed today known as the American Shorthair is thought to have originated from the British Shorthair which was believed to be used on those ships.The Twentieth CenturyCats flourished in the Twentieth Century when they were introduced once again as household pets by Queen Victoria of England and have become a key part of modern society. Kings and Queens, Presidents and Prime Ministers have all owned pet cats during the twentieth century. New breeds were created such as the Sphynx, the Bengal and the Himalayan. During the 1990s cats overtook the dog as the world’s favorite and most common pet and today there is thought to be close to 500,000,000 domestic cats in the world. Films both Animation and Sci-Fi have been made about cats and they are a huge part of family life and culture amongst modern society.We hope you learnt some cat history facts from our cat history timeline! From the cats of Egypt 4000 years ago to the modern day cats of today they are still a very sacred animal to many people around the world.
Thousands of years ago, a wildcat first started lingering on the outskirts of a human camp, perhaps to eat the mice living in people's granaries. Now, billions of house pets and countless cat videos later, researchers have revealed the genetic roots of the special relationship between humans and cats. A new study has revealed the genetic changes that make kitties snuggle up with humans and purr for treats. Many of the changes have altered the cat's motivation to seek rewards and have changed their fear of new situations, said study co-author Wesley Warren, a geneticist at the Genome Institute at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. The team also discovered the genetic changes that make cats keen nighttime hunters and why their noses aren't as sensitive as their canine cousins'. Domestic mystery Cats and humans go way back: Some studies suggest cats were first domesticated about 9,000 years ago in the Near East, while others trace cat domestication back to China around 5,000 years ago. But though the relationship between you and Gingersnap may seem completely natural, domestication is an extreme rarity in the animal world. Humans have only domesticated a handful of animals — such as the dog, cow, chicken, sheep and goat — and scientists did not know which genes were involved in the domestication process. Then, in the 1950s, scientists at a fur farm in Novosibirsk, Russia, began breeding foxes for their friendliness to humans. Within a few generations, foxes wagged their tails and licked the faces of humans affectionately. Along the way, the foxes developed floppy ears; lighter, patchy coats; and curly tails — traits found in other domesticated animals, such as dogs, pigs and sheep. The fox study, which is still going on today, hinted that some of the behavioral domestication genes were tied to those curly-tail, floppy-ear genes. And a study published earlier this year in the journal Genetics found that domesticated animals have changes in their neural crest, a group of embryonic cells that guide the development of various organ systems. But without advanced genetic analysis, it was difficult to tease apart exactly which genes were responsible for domestication. Big cat, little cat In 2007, scientists sequenced the genome of an Abyssinian cat named Cinnamon (who has since died). But that analysis wasn't complete, so scientists couldn't say much about the genes underpinning domestication. Warren and his colleagues did a second sequence of Cinnamon's genome, along with the genomes of several other domestic cats and two species of wildcat, and compared them to the genomes for the tiger, the dog and many other animals. In domestic cats, genes linked to motivation and fear had faced strong evolutionary pressure over history, leading the cats to be less shy and more driven by rewards, Warren said. Compared to dogs, domestic cats and their wild cousins, such as tigers, had several more copies of genes for receptors to detect pheromones, or sex hormones. This could help the solitary creatures find mates, Warren said. Dogs, in contrast, have many more copies of genes for smell receptors, which may account for their amazing sense of smell. The genes for feline night vision and keen hearing were also under strong selection in both big cats and house kitties. Those areas of the genome may explain why felines are such expert hunters, Warren said. Cat origins The findings help underpin some of the biological changes associated with domestication in cats. “The study is great, especially in defining changes in the genome that have led to domestication or, more correctly, to the adaptation of the ancestors of domestic cats that allowed them to associate with humans and thus gain both protection from their predators and an ample food supply (rodents),” Niels Pedersen, a veterinary researcher at the University of California, Davis who was not involved in the study, said in an email. The paper provides a springboard to analyze cats in greater detail, added Dominic Wright, a geneticist at Linkoping University in Sweden, who was also not involved in the study. “It will be great to take some of these regions which they identify and go further with them,” Wright told Live Science. But the study only identified relatively large gene regions that changed in the domestic cat, and it's still not clear exactly what those genes do or how they are regulated, he added. To really understand that, scientists now need to focus on these specific gene regions, studying animals with different versions of the genes and then analyzing the effects on their behavior, Wright told Live Science. The findings were published today (Nov. 10) in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Follow Tia Ghose on Twitter and Google+. Follow LiveScience @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Originally published on Live Science.