A Cat’s-Eye View of History, by Kimberlie Hamilton
The world’s two-legged inhabitants rarely give credit to any but their own kind, but humans aren’t the only species to play a role in shaping the course of history. I wrote A History of the World (According to Cats) to set the record straight about some of history’s smallest (and furriest) unsung heroes. Here are five things I learned while researching my book:
1.Cats and humans have been buddies for a loooooong time.
How long? About 12,000 years! And no, the Egyptians were not the first ones to keep cats as pets. Credit for that goes to the long-ago inhabitants of Cyprus. Archeologists on the island discovered an ancient grave containing the skeleton of a Very Important Person, who was sent off to the after-life with stone axes, flint tools and seashells, all valuable items back then. What they didn’t expect to find was a skeleton of a cat, nestled nearby and facing the same direction.
Who was this mystery moggie? No one can say for sure, but clearly this kitty was important enough to this dearly departed bigwig to spend the rest of eternity with him. It’s the first evidence we have of a human and cat friendship.
2. Catching mice changed the course of human history.
As a vegan, I must admit I am less than thrilled whenever one of my four cats brings home a mangled mouse. But writing this book taught me that mouse hunting has been a noble profession over the centuries.
Thousand of years after a feline was buried with his friend in Cyprus, someone painted a cat on the wall of an Egyptian tomb and started one of the greatest periods in history for cats. The Ancient Egyptians were the ones who turned cats into the cuddly furballs that we know and love today.
Writing about ancient cultures requires a great deal of detective work, and things like art and poetry and fables can provide important clues. For example, an old tomb painting of a cat under a table tells us that people at the time allowed cats into their homes. Cats were important and treated like members of the family. Without cats to guard food and stop the spread of nasty diseases, human civilization might have gone in a totally different direction. This was a huge turning point for the feline species and they were eventually worshipped as living gods. There were even special laws to protect them – if you harmed a cat, even by accident, you’d be swiftly sentenced to DEATH!
So the next time your cat brings you a mouse, consider it a gift as well as a reminder that your furry friend is descended from a long line of rodent conquerers. Either that or your hunting skills are rubbish and you are in dire need of some assistance. Thanks, Whiskers!
4. Cats are the greatest explorers in history.
Back in Ancient Egypt, it was forbidden to take cats out of the country, but people did so anyway. They cat-napped the kitties and smuggled them across the Mediterranean Sea to places like Greece and Rome, and from there they spread just about everywhere. Cats followed their human friends onto ships and accompanied them on expeditions all around the world, eventually settling on six continents (with an occasional foray into Antarctica). They kept the mice under control, preventing them from damaging food and gnawing on ropes, and also provided companionship and entertainment on long voyages. Over time, sailors came to believe it was good luck to have a cat onboard, and some sailors even refused to set foot on any ship that didn’t have one.
5. Cats are survivors.
What I’ve learned is that the journey of cats through time is a messy one. Moggies have been on a roller coaster ride throughout history, loved as well as hated throughout the centuries. They have endured it all and, astonishingly enough, they have forgiven humans for all the terrible things people have done to them over the years. Cats don’t need humans to survive (unlike dogs); they are more than capable of looking after themselves. They choose to live with humans and we are all the better for it!