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Kitties In The Ancient World

September 15, 2022
You may know that dogs are considered our oldest companions, and they have definitely earned the title of Man’s Best Friend. However, Man’s Second-Best Friend has also been our companion for a long time. A Washington DC vet discusses kitties in the ancient world in this article.

Fluffy’s Arrival

It’s commonly assumed that cats were first domesticated about 4000 years ago, in Egypt. (Given that Fluffy convinced the ancient Egyptians to treat her as a deity, it’s very possible that she just walked into a temple and made herself at home, but that’s another topic.) It turns out that the Mesopotamians were living with wild furballs more than 100,000 years ago. The earliest evidence of feline domestication is from about 12,000 years ago. This is close to the same time that we first tamed dogs, sheep, and goats. Also of note is a 9500-year-old cat skeleton found on Cyprus, which had no native cat population.

Various Cultures

As mentioned above, we know cats assumed their position as overlords of Egyptian society early on. Fluffy was also connected to Bastet, who was a half-feline warrior goddess, and to Sekhmet, a lion-headed goddess. However, kitties also made some fans over in ancient Japan, where they were given the duty of guarding Buddhist scriptures. In ancient Greece, having a kitty was associated with wealth. Over in Scandinavia, kitties became associated with the goddess Freja, who was said to drive a carriage pulled by two huge cats. In fact, it was a common practice at the time for farmers to leave milk out for the mythical kitties. (Presumably, real cats probably had no qualms about taking advantage of this.) However, humanity in general was still making our collective minds up about Fluffy. Plutarch noted that kitties were very clean, while Pliny found them lustful and Aesop thought them quite devious.

Cats Being Cats

One thing that apparently hasn’t changed over the years? Fluffy’s affinity for mischief. Her telltale pawprints have been found on medieval manuscripts, Roman roof tiles, and in cement from a Roman fort beyond Hadrian’s wall. Chaucer also referred to his frisky feline buddies in his work. Then there was Tilbert, a kitty character in Reynard The Fox, which was written by Pierre de St. Cloud back in 1175. Is your furry bff due for an appointment? Contact us, your Washington DC animal clinic, today!
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