When Did Cats Become Pets?

CatChannel expert Jeanne Adlon, professional cat sitter, explains the origins of pet cats in the United States.

By Jeanne Adlon

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Q. When did cats become household pets?

A: According to my research, it was only in the last 100 years or so that American families began bringing cats inside as pets. We do know they were worshipped in Ancient Egypt. Once domesticated, Egyptian cats were given a place of honor in the household and many were mummified to secure their journey into the next life.

Appreciated for their intelligence and ability to hunt vermin, cats inspired two Egyptian goddesses: Mafdet and Bast (later called “Bastet”). As I write this, I think my cats would like to be upgraded to Goddesses even though they already get the royal treatment.

A client of mine used to breed Egyptian Mau cats and he once gave me a kitten as a gift. I named him Bast in honor of the ancient goddess. He was very slender and beautiful and liked to wrap himself around my head — it looked like I was wearing a collar. Bast was a real people kitty and very affectionate. I miss him.

Cats arrived in “The New World” on the trade ships that helped built our nation. They were welcomed as natural predators for rodents who feasted on grain and produce. Barn cats became a common fixture on farms and eventually their poise and personality got them inside to warm themselves in front of the fire. I am not saying their lives were easy, but they found a way to adapt and make themselves useful — enough to get a meal now and then and open the door for future generations of felines.

Today's domesticated cats have a much easier life — and they deserve it.  You cannot ask for a better companion as any doting cat owner knows. As always I welcome your comments and stories.

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Reader Comments

Kiril    Houston, TX

7/21/2013 11:50:07 AM

When did cats become pets?

Hmmm...Nice piece, but, ever wonder if felines think such a question a matter of perspective?

Cats would probably ask "When did humans become pets?" :-D

The Opinionated Pussycat
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Shirley    Tucson, AZ

7/6/2012 4:12:57 PM

Thank you for the information regarding cats. Love your columns.

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