How Long Have Cats Been Pets?
The house cat was tamed long ago. Most likely, it was first tamed in Egypt. We do know that more than 4,000 years ago, the Egyptians kept tame cats. These pets were probably the wild bush cats of Africa – small, ginger-colored animals with rather long ears and a long, ringed tail.
Cats kept rodents from overrunning the great Egyptian grain storehouses. The cats’ skill in killing them may have first earned the affectionate attention of Egyptians. An Egyptian who harmed a cat was punished. The Egyptians even had a cat goddess named Bastet. When a pet cat died, its Egyptian master shaved off his eyebrows as a sign of mourning.
Early Egyptians even mummified their beloved pets for their journey to the next world. Cultures around the world later adopted cats as their own companions.
Like their wild relatives, domestic cats are natural hunters able to stalk prey and pounce with sharp claws and teeth. They are particularly effective at night, when their light-reflecting eyes allow them to see well than their prey. Cats also enjoy acute hearing. All cats are nimble and agile, and their long tails aid their outstanding balance.
Cats communicate by marking trees, fence posts, or furniture with their claws or their waste. These scent posts are meant to inform others of a cat’s home range. House cats employ a vocal repertoire that extends from a purr to a screech.
Domestic cats remain largely carnivorous, and have evolved a simple gut appropriate for raw meat. They also retain the rough tongue that can help them clean every last morsel from an animal bone (and groom themselves). Their diets vary with the whims of humans, however, and can be supplemented by the cat’s own hunting successes.