A gray cat in Elmhurst relaxing on green pillow

It’s hard to imagine a culture that doesn’t celebrate and support our feline friends, but it took a long time for cats to take their rightful place at the top of the pet podium. 

In fact, their entire species has been on a bit of a rollercoaster ride over thousands of years. Ancient people loved them for ridding agricultural storage of rodents, but then in the Middle Ages their fates took a turn. A dive into the fascinating history of cat ownership should foster a deeper appreciation of our feline friends.

The Way Back

Ancient people were predominantly hunter-gatherers before they figured out how to domesticate animals and grow food in the Fertile Crescent. About 12,000 years ago, grains were harvested and stored in various types of huts. This attracted rodents in droves. Who came to our rescue? 

Cats, of course! 

Without a doubt, cats entered into a symbiotic relationship with early people. They hung around for easy meals and people rewarded them with shelter, affection, and care.

World Domination

There are hundreds of millions of pet cats around the world today (in addition to high numbers of feral cat communities), a testament to the positive impact they have on human life. 

This wasn’t lost on ancient people, either. In fact, one of the earliest known tombs in Cypress (a remote Meditteranean island without an indigigenous feline population) contained a 9,500 year old cat snuggled next to their owners’ remains. 

Ancient Royalty

Bastet was an ancient Egyptian goddess that took the shape of a half-cat, half-woman. As a result, ancient Egyptians regarded cats highly and harshly punished anyone that harmed them. 

Mummified cats have been discovered in ancient burial chambers along with their human counterparts, reinforcing the idea that cats were more than just helpers. Indeed, they were more like soul mates.

Everybody Loves Them

Like the ancient cat found on Cypress, early domesticated felines found their ways onto ships exploring new worlds. Over time, they populated areas throughout the Middle East, Asia, and all over Europe. Ancient Romans prized feline independence and cleverness. 


Sadly, religious leaders in the middle ages decried feline attachment and ownership. They became associated with the devil and were ritualistically threatened and killed throughout England and Europe. If their numbers hadn’t been frighteningly low during the Bubonic plague, they may have been able to reduce the numbers of disease-ridden rats and reduce the devastation of epidemic.

During the European and early American witch trials, black cats were perceived as helpers, or familiars, of witches and burned at the stake.

Righting the Many Wrongs

As times changed, cats became irresistible again. During the Victorian era and the age of Enlightenment, ancient Egyptian culture was venerated. Cats, then, regained their popularity and enjoyed an elevated status still in practice today.

The Benefits of Cat Ownership

Cat ownership contributes to our better health by reducing stress, as well as the risks of heart attacks and strokes. We focus our attention on their smooth, velvety fur and they respond with absolute delight. It is the obvious effect that our touch and presence have on them that underscores the benefits of cat ownership. In other words, people and cats are deeply moved by the other. 

Cat Veterinarians In Elmhurst

Are you a new or seasoned cat owner? Give our Elmhurst cat veterinarians a call! The Pet Experts at Elmhurst Animal Care Center are happy to help you and your furry feline friend.