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Watch our video to learn about the origins of the humble pet cat
The domestic cat is descended from the African Wildcat, a species still found today. The domesticated pet cats of today, despite their owners’ best intentions, often find themselves in an environment far removed from that of their ancestors which can sometimes lead to stress and unwanted behaviour as the cat tries to make sense of their world. You can learn more about the origins of the domestic cat in our online course.
Nearly all cats, including lions, tigers and the domestic cat, are descended from one prehistoric creature. The oldest known relative, the African Wildcat, first developed over 12 millions years ago. The species still exists, living in the Savannah in the Middle East and Africa.
Cats began to choose to live with people in 4000 BC, in Ancient Egypt. They began to search towns for food, usually rats in Egyptian grain stores, and the relationship between cats and humans began.
The Ancient Egyptians welcomed cats into their home, usually to keep snakes away. They began to worship cats as sacred animals, banning them from being taken to other countries.
In 500 AD, cats had become used to living with people. As the Romans empire gets bigger, they introduce cats to the whole of Europe, including Britain.
After being regarded as a sacred animal for thousands of years by the Ancient Egyptians, cats become associated with evil and are treated badly and even killed. In the 1700s, American settlers ship in large numbers of cats from Europe to control plagues of rats, introducing the idea of the domestic cat to the Americas.
By the 1800s, the popularity of keeping cats as pets in Britain grows. At the turn of the century and into the First World War, cats serve a great purpose and are used for sniffing out poisonous gas and on war ships to control rats.
Today, cats are one of the most popular pets in Britain, with over nine million cats owned.
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