Cats have shared a home with humans for thousands of years. No one is sure when cats became pets, but evidence points to around 1600 B.C.. Through the years, cats have been valued for their skill as hunters, as well as for their beauty and grace. The ancient Egyptians were the first to keep cats in their homes. For them, cats were not only friends, but also objects of worship. They were immortalized in many ways, depicted in artworks and hieroglyphics on pyramid walls, and were usually embalmed and buried in tombs with their masters.
Despite Egyptian laws forbidding the exportation of cats, sailors smuggled cats aboard their ships and brought them to other countries throughout the Mediterranean area. When the Black Plague struck Europe in the 11th century, cats were sought after to hunt and kill disease-transmitting rats. Ancestors of today’s American cats probably sailed to the New World ports in the 1600s. They accompanied pioneers on their West-bound journey and helped minimize the rodent population in fields where settlers staked their claims and sowed crops.
Through good times and bad, our “tigers of the hearth” have managed to survive in great numbers. Cats have retained their keen hunting instincts and self-reliance. They make the same purring sounds and continue to display the same aloofness and affection as their Egyptian ancestors.
Today, physicians and psychologists have discovered an added benefit to owning a cat – stress reduction. It’s been proven that having a cat can actually lower blood pressure and relieve stress. Cats also make ideal companions for older people or adults who are living alone. With so many rewards, more and more people are sharing their lives with a cat. In fact, cats have edged dogs out as the most popular pet in Canada!