Cats in History: A World History Edition

Cats in History: A World History Edition

Nowadays, cats are adored as pets and share their adorable presence with us, but their journey to this point has been filled with numerous hardships.

Cats were not always cherished throughout history.

So, how did cats interact with historical events and figures? Let's explore some episodes to find out.



1. Why Cats Started Living with Humans
2. Were Cats Used as Biological Weapons to Destroy the Ancient Egyptian Dynasty?
3. Islam and Cats
4. Witch Hunts, Cats, and Horror Movies
5. Cat-Hater Hitler vs. Cat-Lover Churchill


1. Why Cats Started Living with Humans

Before we delve into how cats have been involved in world history, let's briefly explain how they began living with humans.

Agriculture started in Mesopotamia, between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, about 10,000 years ago.

As farming developed, mice began to appear and ravage the crops.

Soon, the African wildcat began to enter settlements in pursuit of these rodents, naturally starting to live close to humans.

In other words, the mutual benefits between people troubled by rodents and cats wanting to hunt led to their coexistence.

As agriculture spread, cats, protecting the crops from pests, spread worldwide.

At the Shillourokambos site on Cyprus, an African wildcat buried with a human about 9,500 years ago was discovered.

This is considered evidence that cats were respected and kept as pets at that time, making this the world's oldest known pet cat.


2. Were Cats Used as Biological Weapons to Destroy the Ancient Egyptian Dynasty?

In ancient Egypt, there was a deep connection between cats and humans. Cats were bred to protect grains from small animals like mice and were treated with great care.

When a cat died, it was mourned as a family member, and cats belonging to high-status owners were even mummified.

Furthermore, cats came to be seen as incarnations of the goddess Bastet, revered as protectors against diseases and disasters.

The ancient Egyptian dynasty's enemy was Persia.

In the battle of Pelusium in 525 BCE, the Persian army exploited the Egyptian's love and worship of cats.

The Persian army tied cats to their shields (or merely painted images of cats, according to some sources) and went into battle.

As a result, the Egyptian soldiers, unable to harm the cats, were easily defeated.

Persia effortlessly destroyed the 26th dynasty of Egypt, making this perhaps the most cunning use of biological warfare in history.


3. Islam and Cats

The Prophet Muhammad, being quite a cat lover, has led to cats being highly valued in the Islamic world.

Cats, known for their frequent grooming and lack of smell, are seen as 'creatures of cleanliness'.

In Islam, cats are believed to have seven souls, and love for them is seen as a manifestation of piety.

Here's one story from the Islamic world about Muhammad and a cat:

One day, as Muhammad was preparing for prayer, he found his beloved cat Muezza sleeping soundly on the sleeve of his robe. Not wanting to disturb the sleeping cat, Muhammad cut off the sleeve to wear the robe and left for prayer. Upon his return, Muezza bowed to Muhammad in gratitude.

It's also said in the Islamic world that the 'M' mark on the foreheads of tabbies, mackerel tabbies, and orange tabbies is a sign of Muhammad's touch.


4. Witch Hunts, Cats, and Horror Movies

During the witch hunts that raged in Europe from the 15th to the 18th century, cats also faced a period of persecution.

It was believed that demons and witches worshipped in the form of cats or rode on them to gatherings in forest caves.

As a result, cats came to be seen as familiars or incarnations of witches.

Fanatical groups taking extreme actions are not uncommon today, but similar individuals existed during this period as well.

Merely owning a cat could lead to being treated as a witch, and black cats were especially shunned for their color, associated with darkness.

Tragically, cats were often killed as witch familiars or violently chased away.

Interestingly, the extermination of cats, protectors against rodent pests, led to a boom in the rodent population and the spread of the plague, although this is a misconception. Europe's plague pandemic occurred about 300 years before the witch hunts.

Then, in 1843, Edgar Allan Poe's short story \"The Black Cat\" was published, sparking a 'fear of black cats' trend. Consequently, black cats became symbols of bad luck, a notion that persists even in horror movies today.

Perhaps the excessive fear of cats stems from a collective guilt or remorse for their mass slaughter.

Regardless, it's an inconvenient narrative for black cats.


5. Cat-Hater Hitler vs. Cat-Lover Churchill

Hitler was known for his love of dogs, owning a German Shepherd.

As a dog lover, Hitler ordered that stray dogs be protected and find homes.

However, he was quite cold towards cats, stating, 'They can be killed if they interfere with hunting.'

The reason for Hitler's disdain for cats is not clear, but it may be due to the differences in nature between dogs and cats.

Hitler idealized a dog-like society, loyal to the leader (owner) and disciplined, and thus may have disliked the independent and individualistic nature of cats.

In contrast, Churchill, who fought against Hitler, was a major cat lover.

Churchill always kept one or two cats at his private residence and the official residence.

There are several stories about Churchill and his cats, with one of the most notable involving his cat Jock.

Jock, an orange and white cat, was a gift to Churchill on his 88th birthday and became his last cat.

Churchill must have adored Jock greatly.

When donating his home to the government, he included a condition: 'There must always be an orange cat named Jock living here.'

Today, the seventh Jock, an orange cat, lives happily in the house Churchill donated.



This article introduced how cats came to live with humans and interacted with people throughout world history.

Not all historical accounts of cats are positive; they were tied as shields in warfare (as biological weapons?), and during the witch hunts, they were violently mistreated based on people's arbitrary beliefs.

However, they were also valued for their role in protecting crops from rodents, and there are stories of cat lovers in history who adored them.

In every era, there are people who cherish cats and those who treat them cruelly.

Cats will continue to interact with humans in history, hopefully in a more positive light.

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