Cats In History

Cats, dogs, civets, hyenas, raccoons, and bears have a common ancestor in small, extinct meat-eating animals called Miacidae, which lived about 40,000,000 years ago. Cats seem to have developed rather suddenly from the civet branch of the carnivore group of animals.

It is believed that cats were first domesticated in northern Africa. Egyptian carvings made more than 4,500 years ago depict cats as domestic animals. The cat was a sacred animal in Egypt, associated with the goddess Pasht, or Bast. Many mummies of Egyptian cats have been found.

Phoenician sailors introduced cats into Europe, and the African cats interbred with European wildcats. From Egypt cats also spread east to India, China, and Japan. Exactly how and when cats were introduced into the New World is not known.

Cats were regarded as the servants, or familiars, of witches in early days. Satan was sometimes thought to take the form of a black cat. Cats of different colors are considered lucky or unlucky by superstitious people.

What Short-haired Cat Might Bring Luck?

At the entrance to many stores, restaurants, and even private homes in Japan you may see a small ceramic cat with one raised paw. Called a Maneki Neko (Beckoning Cat), these ceramic cats represent a breed of cat, the Japanese bobtail. This breed of cat has existed in Japan for centuries. Many Japanese consider this cat to be lucky.

This slender, medium-sized cat has a very short, rigid tail covered in bushy fur. This breed may have many colors of fur, but the traditional “good luck” color for a Japanese bobtail is white with patches of red and black.

Cats make up the family Felidae. The domestic cat is Felis catus.