They have been living close to us for about 10 thousand years. The earliest proof of humans and cats’ coexistence was found on Cyprus in a ca. 9,500 year-old tomb. Besides the human skeleton and smaller and bigger articles for personal use, the remains of a cat were also found. Cats are not autochthonous on the island; they might have arrived from the continent, probably from the area of the ’fertile crescent’, where domestication of cats must have happened first.
The biggest cat cult developed in the ancient Egypt, but they were not the only people who admired cats. These animals had important roles in the Far East and in the Greek-Roman cultures as well, thus they also contributed to the spreading of cats in Europe. Treasured pussies were smuggled out of Egypt by Greeks, though Egyptians sent troops to get them back, it was too late by then. Merchants took them and sold them on different areas of the continent, thus cats spread everywhere in Europe by the early Middle Ages. Without doubt, they had significant roles both in the cities and in agricultural areas: they kept away rodents and other pests from the crops.
Later, Christianity identified cats with the Satan, the very devil and sorcery, moreover the church called upon worshippers to torture them and kill them. This act had its result, because rodents proliferated and brought different diseases and epidemics, like the one of the most devastating ones: the plague.
After all, cats are not totally innocent either. They extinguished several species completely, though indirectly, as they were brought by humans on ships of discovery. In the modern age, cats were present almost everywhere and killed most autochthonous animals on far-away islands as they did not expect to meet a new kind of predator.
The deliberate breeding of cats started in the 19th century and the first cat exhibition was organised in London in 1871. By the 20th century, the cat became one of the most frequent pets. Some kept them for the love of it, some for practical reasons to keep away rodents.
Cats appeared in arts at an early time. They were represented in Egyptian statues, on Greek coins, on Roman mosaics, in music, and in literature they had and has constant place. Among authors, it is worth mentioning Ernest Hemingway, who adored cats. He wrote about them this way: ’A cat has absolute emotional honesty: human beings, for one reason or another, may hide their feelings, but a cat does not.’ A great deal of cats lived on his land in Key West, which now functions as an animal home and museum of memories. A lot of cats find shelter there nowadays, many of which have a special disease causing the cat to be born with more than the usual number of toes. Caretakers try to maintain this polydactyl mutation, because they are the so-called Hemingway cats. Purring fur-balls are common characters not only in literature but also in films and cartoons. Nevertheless, they are not always positive, for example in a famous Hungarian animated film ‘Macskafogó’ (Cat City or Cat Catcher), cats are the bad boys. In the television series ‘Magyar népmesék’ (Hungarian Folk Tales), creators focused on cats’ crookedness and permanent, unappeasable hunger.
Cats are the kings, the brightly shining stars of the internet. There are a huge number of contents about them on different video sharing sites and other entertaining portals. Certain ‘star cats’ have more followers on social portals than some politicians, actors, artists and other celebrities have altogether. The first kitten video was put on Youtube in 2005 and there’s no stop ever since. But why are cats so successful on the net? Many people have searched for the answer. According to an aspect, the cause is that cats neglect filming, they ignore cameras, thus they behave more naturally and honestly and we can have a better sight into their everyday lives. Another aspect is also connected to honesty. As we find them honest, we can attribute human features and emotional reactions to them, thus we can feel them even much closer to ourselves.
The effect of these contents has been also examined, and they have found that it is absolutely good. Kitten videos discharge positive feelings inside us, diminish discomfort and we grow happier due to them. So finally, please watch this spirit-lifting pussy (and doggie) recording from 1939.
Translated by Zita Aknai