In Egypt, more or less 4,000 years ago, the cat knew his moment of glory and domestication began. They were used to keep rats away from cereals and numerous snakes that lived along the Nile
Cats were admired and revered for their beauty and “magical” qualities, especially given their ability to contract their pupils in the light of the moon and sun.
Such was the veneration that when the death of the cat occurred, the whole foster family shaved their eyebrows in mourning. Wealthy families did mummify the bodies of their dead cats. In 1890, in Berni Hassan, a former cemetery of cats had more than 300,000 mummy feline animals.
Killing a cat was a crime which was punishable with death, even if the death of a cat was involuntarily.
The Myth of Bastet
Mythology tells that Ra, the sun god, sent his daughter Sekhnet, meaning lion-like, to tackle the rebellion of men. This lead to furious and bloody battle, which began to annihilate humans. Then Ra had to send Onuris, a warrior, who managed to tame Sekhnet, making Bastet, the goddess maternal, very popular among the Egyptian people. Bastet was either represented as a cat-headed woman , or as sitting stylized with a cat-like neck.
It was the Phoenicians who fraudulently exported cats from Egypt and were dispersed into all Mediterranean countries. Greece ignored these feline animals and did not recognize the talents of this predator. The Greeks used martens to protect the crops from rodents. At the base of a statue, dated to the year 80 BC, shows young Greeks pitting a dog against a cat.
However, the Romans adopted the cat as companion and rat catcher and embraced the embodiment of Bastet, as a goddess. In the year 392 AD, pagan worship such as of Bastet and Diana, was banned by decreed from Theodosius, the Christian Roman Emperor. Thus, started the beginning of a sudden distrust of the cat which would remain for centuries.
In China, the cat was known 3,000 years ago, shortly after Egypt’s worship. From the time of the Han Dynasty, animal companionship was reserved especially for women. Sele was attributed the power to attract bad luck, although, paradoxically, also had the ability to ward off demons through its cat eyes that shined at night.
In the sixth century AD , the cat llegço was introduced to Japan, but did not actually become commonly known in that country until the year 999. It was so successful, that a law of the eighteenth century forbade locking up adult and market to them.
As in Egypt, the cat was worshiped in India as well. In India, Sasti, the goddess of fertility took on a cat appearance.
In Europe during the Middle Ages, cats were highly prized by farmers for their hunting skills, thus challenging the judgment of the church, which regarded cats as a demonic beings.
In the fifteenth century, the belief that cats were evil and were associated with witchcraft rites. Then, the mere possession of one of a cat, even if it was black, it was enough to accuse someone of witchcraft, and thus burned at the stake, along with their feline animal.
The Inquisition, with Pope Innocent VIII, lead to the slaughter of cats, especially on the occasion of All Saints Day, a festival that began with the burning of boxes and bags full of cats. This help lead to the fact, that in the seventeenth century there was almost no cats in Europe, which led to the multiplication of rodents, bringing the plague.
Napoleon himself, although not fond of cats, was forced to publicly praise and encourage the breeding of cats and protection, as a means to help end the plague carried by rats which were ravaging his country.
From this date, and the has been was mentioned as a house animal in different writings. The cat became appreciated to the point that the first cat sold to Paraguay in 1750, was traded for gold bullion.
By the mid-nineteenth century, the cat became established as “house cats” which was not the same for dogs, which were relegated to the kennel.