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Cats - History - From Sabre Tooth to Tabby Cat

No one knows exactly when or how the cat first appeared on Earth. Most cat historians agree, that the cat's most ancient ancestor was probably a weasel like animal called the Miacis, which lived 40 million to 50 million years ago. Miacis are believed to be the common ancestor of all land-dwelling carnivores, including dogs as well as cats. It would appear that cats existed for millions of years before the first dogs. Perhaps the best known prehistoric cat is the Smilodon or sabre-toothed tiger. Fossils of this formidable animal are found throughout the world.

In the Ancient World the first associations between cats and humans may have been toward the end of the Stone Age. About 3,000 years BC cats were accepted into the households of Egypt.

Many of the breeds we know today have evolved from those ancient cats. The Egyptians used the cat to hunt fish and birds as well as to destroy the rats and mice that infested the grain stocks along the Nile. The cat was considered so valuable that laws protected it. A cult of cat worship developed that lasted for more than 2,000 years. Some would say it continues today in British homes!

Rosie and LucyDomestic cats were also found in China, India, and Japan where they were kept as pets as well as rodent catchers. Cats in the Medieval World In Europe during the Middle Ages became an object of superstition and was associated with evil. They were believed to be endowed with powers of black magic, associated witches and perhaps the embodiment of the devil. People who kept cats were suspected of witchcraft and often put to death along with their cats.

As the cat population decreased the rat population increased, contributing greatly to the spread of plagues throughout Europe. By the middle of 17th century the cat had regained its place as a companion and a controller of vermin.

By the late 1800s cat shows were being held in England andGinger cat fanciers' organizations were established. Many of the superstitions that arose during the period of cat persecution, however, are still with us today in the form of such superstitions as "A black cat crossing your path will bring you bad luck."

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