This is a page on cat history written for children. Anyone is welcome to use it in any way they wish. If you do please credit the source, this website http://pictures-of-cats.org
There was a time about 40,000,000 (forty million) years ago when there were no cats in the world. None. There were lots of other animals. One sort of animal was called a “Miacid”, and it slowly changed into the first cat. But it took millions of years for this to happen. It was like slow motion transformers. It is the way nature works and even today quite a lot of people don’t agree with this but most people do.
The way animals gradual change over millions of years is an important subject. It is called “evolution”. Animals “evolve”. What happens is this. Sometimes, when animals are born they are different from their parents. This may be a mistake of nature. But if this newborn is able to survive more easily because he is different, he is also more able to pass on that difference to his cubs and so there will be more animals of this type. And then there will be only animals of this type. This takes a very long time to happen.
And so it came about that the first animal in the world that really looked like a cat, and walked like a cat, lived around 10,000,000 (ten million) years ago. It was named Pseudaelurus. This cat lived in Europe, Asia and North America. It had a strange name but people who know cats and animals very well like to give names to animals using an old language called Latin. It makes them sound more important.
These animals are no longer in the world because they evolved into different animals. Then very gradually a cat called Martelli’s Cat appeared in the world. It lived in Europe about two and half million years ago. At about this time the saber tooth tigers lived in the world too. Saber tooth tigers are not real tigers. This large cat is no longer around. It has completely disappeared. This happened about 10,000 years ago. The saber tooth tiger was unable to survive. We believe that the first lions, leopards, cheetahs and jaguars in the world lived about the same time as Martelli’s cat (2,500,000 years ago). The tiger arrived around one and half million years ago. The dates are not certain.
Martelli’s cat evolved into many of today’s small wild cats. One of these small wildcats called an African wildcat had the courage to live near people because the people were farmers and the cat liked to eat the mice who ate the grain the farmers had grown. Gradually the wildcat and the people become friendly with each other because both made the other’s life a bit better. The cat killed rats which helped the farmer and the reward for the cat was a meal. It was a good deal. This first happened about 9,500 years ago in a place that is around the eastern side of the Mediterranean Sea. The result of this friendship was the world’s first domestic cats. We know this happened because the grave of a person was found with a African wildcat at his feet. The grave was about 9,500 years old.
The ancient Egyptians were the people who really domesticated lots of cats. The domestic cat was very useful in killing rats and snakes. About 3,000 years ago the domestic cat was a part of the lives of Egyptians. They became so much a part of their lives that they worshiped the cat. That made the cat a god. But in worshiping the cat they also did bad things in killing cats as a sacrifice to keep their cat-god happy. Today the Egyptians still keep cats. They are called Egyptian Maus. Here is short video on this cat breed. It was made for adults and has some cat history in it about this cat breed.
The domestic cat was a useful companion animal 3,000 years ago. This lead to the cat travelling with people who went to far off places to sell things. The domestic cat spread to other places in the world. About 1,500 years ago people in India had their first domestic cats. In Russia this happened about 1,300 years ago. The Romans brought the domestic cat to Great Britain when they invaded the island about 1,900 years ago. North America was one of the last places to see the domestic cat. When people from Europe came in ships to live in America 300-400 years ago they brought ships’ cats with them. The cats were useful rat catchers both on the ships and on land.
Some of the first cats to land with people from Europe gradually came to be the first Maine Coon cats and American Shorthair cats today. Both of these cats are popular cat breeds today. In between landing on the east coast of America and today they were working barn cats.
Because both the wild cat and domestic cat is so talented in surviving and so mysterious in their behavior at night they came to be both admired and feared. The founder of the Muslim faith, the prophet Mohammed, who lived about 1,400 years ago, lived with a cat who he named “Muezza”. They lived in Damascus. Mohammed respected and liked cats and for this reason today cats are allowed into mosques. At about the same time, in Peru, Chile, the people worshiped a puma god. The puma is a large wild cat and it still lives in parts of Chile, South America. In Buddhist temples cats are kept as mousers.
The religion of Christianity has been both good and bad for the cat. There were wild cats living in Israel thousands of years ago at the time of Jesus but there is no mention of cats in the bible. In 1232 (780 years ago today – 2012) a Pope of the Roman Catholic Church said that people who did not believe in their faith worshiped the devil instead and he said that the devil was a black tom cat. It sounds crazy now but it was very serious then. For the next 460 years the poor cat was persecuted by the Christian church. The cat was wrongly blamed for the bubonic plague of 1347-48. Cats were seen as companions to witches and witches were burned on fires. In Europe where people were Roman Catholics, if you kept a cat you were tortured and killed. Cats were really seen as the devil and badly treated as a result. Even as recently as 1692 in Salem, America people were put on trial as witches. These bad times for the cat are now history and the cat is generally liked and loved but there are still many people today who fear and dislike the cat.
The tabby cat is the most common cat coat because it comes from the domesticated African wildcat and this sort of coat helps protect the cat because it looks like the surroundings. The domestic cat’s coat changed gradually because there was no need for the coat to protect the cat because the cat was protected by their human companion. Many of today’s domestic cats have bright coats.
Around the middle of the 1800s (about 160 years ago – at 2012) people who really loved cats decided that they should form a club and show off their cats to each other and other people. They decided they could make their cats look better if they made sure that certain cats mated with other cats that they liked the look of and chose. In this way purebred cat breeds were made. These people are part of what is called “The Cat Fancy”. You can read more about cat breeds on this page.
In 2012, there are many cartoon cats and many books that include cats such as Alice in Wonderland (the Cheshire Cat) and in the books of Beatrice Potter who made cats into humans. The wild cat is often used as inspiration for sports teams because of their fearless courage, strength and agility. The cat is a beautiful companion. Please always respect the cat.