Domestic Cat History

Less than a generation before the first cat show in England the domestic cat was hardly a domestic cat at all. Domestic Cat History is really about the last 150 years or so. The cat fancy (that body of people who breed, love and show cats) started in my opinion in England in the mid-late 1800s. The first cat shows were in the early 1890s. The birth of the cat show was a manifestation of the change of public opinion towards the domestic cat. Before about 1870 domestic cats were semi-feral and lurking in and around people's homes eking a desperate living from scraps of food and avoiding children who made sport by hunting cats with their savage dogs.

In England, in the 1870s, the domestic cat was barely out of that black era in domestic cat history when the cat was considered dangerous and when black cats were friends of witches and in league with the devil. Lets not forget that some parts of the world are, in evolutionary terms behind the West (and this not a boast or being arrogant, it is simply a fact). In some of these places the cat is still seen in a more hostile and brutal light (some Indians eat cats)

The domestic cat was saved from near perpetual abuse by her ability to serve the people, the masters of the world by catching vermin of which there were no doubt vast numbers in a seedy London. Cats before the cat fancy began were seen as useful animals to serve humans. Perhaps there was the occasional person who secretly treated domestic cats well and even kept them as true pets as we do today. Yet outside on the streets a dog was considered to be a good dog if he/she could catch and kill a cat. Cat hunting with terriers for boys was the equivalent of their parents hunting foxes with hounds.

So, attitudes changed towards cats and domestic cat history took a turn for the better for the domestic cat (or did it?). What prompted this change? Just by way of speculation, and knowing the human fairly well and being rather cynical (regrettably), it probably happened because people decided that pets and cats were something interesting to possess and keep, like an animated object. In other words, the domestic cat had potential for being more than a useful tool for people, the cat could also decorate their lives. The cat was still serving her human master but in a different way.

Domestic cat history has some terrible stories to tell of persecution for the humble domestic cat. There is still a massive divide in societies relationship with the domestic cat. Some people still hate cats and treat them in a way very reminiscent of the early and mid 1800s in England. There is still masses of neglect and cruelty and prosecutions in the UK for animal cruelty in rising. Human development moves slowly. Maybe it moves backwards sometimes.

150 years ago we didn't slaughter millions of feral cats (once they were domestic cats or their parents or grandparents were domestic cats, lets remember) in places, euphemistically called "shelters". We didn't reprocess the feral cats we slaughtered into soap or cat food, did we? We didn't hunt them as authorized by the local authorities.

The lives of many millions of domestic cats is much better than it was, no doubt. But in the USA they often keep them indoors and declaw them, a wholly unnatural existence because they have made the outdoors too hostile for the cat to live in. What kind of madness is that? Experts recommend that cats live indoors permanently. This is an admission that we have made the world too hostile for cats (and that included big and small wild cats).

If we can't keep cats properly lets not keep them at all and stop bringing them into the world. In 150 years people have turned full circle from letting cats roam freely (to their detriment) to imprisoning them (also to their detriment). Clearly the world was and still is hostile to the domestic cat.

Really not a hell of a lot has changed in substance throughout the past 150 years of domestic cat history, just the appearance. Perhaps in 10,000 years things may have changed.

Domestic Cat History to Cat History

Domestic Cat History - Source:
  • Myself
  • Times Archive

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