This article contains information found at Scientific American, the Vet Medicine program at the University of California-Davis and the Smithsonian Magazine.
The history of the domesticated cat has changed in the last five years due to archeological finds. It was first believed that the domestication of cats occurred around 3,600 years ago by the Egyptians, but through genetic testing and new archeological evidence, domesticated cats may have been around as far back as 10,000 years!
There is a lot of evidence for the domesticated cat in Egyptian times. Mummified cats are found in many burial tombs, along with statues and carvings. In Ancient times, the cat was worshipped as a god. Bast was one of the cat goddesses.
There had to be a large population of cats in the Ancient world. Some resources suggest there were cat breeders that ensured there were enough cats for sacrifice and mummification. In 1888, a discovery outside of Beni Hasan uncovered a tomb dating back to 1000 BC or earlier that held 80,000 cat mummies. One resource indicated that if you wanted your cat mummified there were only a few places who could do the process. That may have been the case at Beni Hasan.
Cats maintained this elevated position in Greek households as well. The cats were protected and if a person killed a cat, even by accident, the person was sentenced to death. The death of a cat was mourned like that of a human, with the household shaving their eyebrows to express their grief.
Islam also addresses cats. The prophet Muhammad had cats. His favorite was named Muezza. Muhammad is said to have stroked the cat three times and gave Muezza seven lives and the ability to always land on his feet. It is a severe sin in Islam to mistreat a cat.
So why do we say that cats have nine lives? The only reference found was about a group of gods known as the Ennead (the Nine). This group would take on the body of a cat, nine lives in one, to visit the underworld.
One of the reasons the cat was held in such regard in the ancient times is their fearless pursuit of the large desert snakes. They found favor with societies who became farmers and needed a way to control the vermin feeding upon the harvested grains and food stores. This sharing of space and interdependence was the first step towards the domesticated cat of today.
Cats and Superstition
The Asian culture has statues called Lucky Cats. If you place one of the statues in your home or office you are given protection and/or wealth. If your lucky cat has a raised left paw, you will receive wealth. If the right paw is raised, it provides protection.
There are rules about where to place your lucky cat for the most benefit.
Here in the United States a black cat is seen as bad luck, but that same cat is considered to be good luck in Great Britain, Japan, and Ireland. In Scotland, the arrival of a black cat upon your doorstep brings prosperity. In Germany, it makes a difference which direction the cat is going. It is good luck if the cat crosses from your left to right, but bad luck if it crosses from right to left. Sailors believed a black cat was a positive thing, so the ship’s cat was usually black.
Black cats were considered evil during some parts of history. The Pilgrims believed a black cat was associated with the devil and evil. A person caught owning a black cat could be put to death. The black cat also was feared during the Middle Ages. This led to the death of many cats, which had a horrible consequence. The rat population increased and this aided the spread of the Black Death.
It depends on who you ask how many cat breeds there are. The numbers varied from 35 up towards 100. The American Cat Fancier’s Association lists 53 breeds on its website but breeds are still being created and recognized every year.
The most popular colors for domestic cats are bicolor, Maltese, tabby, and calico. It seems that calico cats as well as black and orange tortoiseshell cats are almost always female. It has something to do with genetics. With 38 pairs of chromosomes, there should be thousands of combinations, but somehow in certain sequences this color combination results with the female genes.
Early cultures didn’t seem to make a distinction among the breeds. It wasn’t until the mid-19th century that the English began to establish breeds. The first National Cat Show took place in 1871 in London with 170 entries! One of the exotic breeds was a seal point Siamese that was described as “an unnatural, nightmare kind of cat.” Interest in cats continued to grow, and in 1889 the National Cat Show had 600 entries. The first pedigreed breed in the United States was the Maine Coon. America’s first large cat show was in New York in 1895. Today the most popular breeds include the Persian, Maine Coon, Siamese, and Ragdoll.
Names for our Cats
Prior to the 1980’s is seemed we gave our cats appropriate animal names, often describing their physical features like “Spot” or personality like “Happy”. As animals became more important in our lives, we began to give them human names. Studies have been done giving us these rankings for the most popular cat names. Here are the top five names by country as compiled by Wikipedia from reports by cat food companies, insurance registrations, ASPC, etc.
- Australia (2010): Oscar, Max, Tiger, Sam, Misty
- United Kingdom (2006): Molly, Charlie, Tigger, Poppy, Oscar
- United States (2010): Max, Chloe, Bella, Oliver, Tiger
- Germany (2006): Felix, Gismo, Charlie
- Quebec Canada: Minou, Grisou, Ti-Mine, Felix, Caramel
- Italy: Dama, Ancella, Briseide, Folco, Jack
Throughout time, cat owners have immortalized their cats through statues, carvings, and mummification. Stitchers have our own way of remembering our feline friends and family members. Here are a few cat-themed accessories that sit with us when we stitch.
We hope this guide makes your stitching easier and more enjoyable!
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