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In Ancient China, cats were revered for their ability to rid homes of vermin and pests, but at the same time were also feared for the evil spirits that would accompany them into a home. Ceramic cat figurines were used to ward off the evil spirits, but were used for pratical reasons, as well. Hollowed figurines with a candle inside to make the eyes and mouth glow were used to scare rats away at night,
Book of the Cat
Tomb paintings in Egypt show that the cats of antiquity were tabby striped/spotted, and were used in hunting birds and game. Theories suggest that the cats were used to flush game out of the brush.
Book of Cat
Attached to leashes, these animals hunted birds for the family table; a boomerang flung by the master brought the birds down and the cats, unleashed, would retrieve them.
In Anciet Egypt, from 1580–390 BC, cats were held in high esteem due to the sect associated with Bast, a female goddess with the head of a cat. They lived lives of leisure, protected by law, and were embalmed after their death. In the late 19th century, 300,000 feline mummies were found at the site of Ben Hasai. Unfortunately, most of those mummies were exported back to England as fertilizer. The Book of the Cat
Chinese farmers and peasants revered the cat, because they protected the crops and food stores from rats and other pests. Some evidence suggests there was actually a feline diety known as Li Shou which was worshipped as a divine pest controller.
Book of the Cat
Most authorities believe that the short-haired breeds are derived from the Caffre cat, F. libyca, a species of African wildcat domesticated by the ancient Egyptians perhaps as early as 2500 BC and transported by the Crusaders to Europe, where it interbred with the indigenous smaller wildcats.
It is believed that the spread of cats from Egypt to the Mediterranean area and Europe is a result of Phonecian traders ignoring Egyptian laws and smuggling them out. Cats did not attain as high a stature in Greece or Rome because those cultures already had vermin catchers in domesticated weasels, martens and/or polecats.
|Sheri Ann Richerson|