cats are one of the most popular pets globally, next to dogs. It was widely believed 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, practically every other European nation employs 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 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.
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 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 possible, they served the same purpose for the Phoenicians.
The maneki-neko or “beckoning” cat is a famously common cat figure popular with the Japanese. It is a cat with its paw lifted and it moves back and forth as if it is waving. This figurine can be found in numerous places now throughout the world and it is believed to bring good luck. Within the last few decades, shop owners in China have begun keeping a cat or a cat statue on their sales counter in the hope it will increase business.
There are legitimate benefits to both our social welfare and health when owning a pet. 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 cleanliness, self-sufficiency and independent nature and they definitely do not need the same amount of space. 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.
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 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 reluctant to changing their surroundings even if only temporarily.
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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