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Tabby Cat History


The tabby cat has a distinctive coat that features stripes, dots, or swirling patterns, usually together with an "M" mark on its forehead. Tabbies are sometimes erroneously assumed to be a breed of cat. In fact, the tabby pattern is found in many breeds of cat, as well as among the general mixed-breed or mongrel population. The tabby pattern is a naturally occurring feature that may be related to the coloration of the domestic cat's direct ancestor, the African Wildcat.

Prior to the existence of the African Wildcat, the Saber-toothed Tiger (Smilodon) was the dominate cat species.These large, fearsome members of the cat family roamed and hunted much of the ancient world before finally hunting their prey and themselves into extinction.

By the close of the Stone Age, wild cats were beginning to interact with humans. Wild cats had discovered that wherever humans existed, rodents, an easy source of prey, were always nearby. This was still too early in cat history for them to be considered domestic pets. A cat's jawbone that has been dated to 6000 BC was uncovered on the island of Cyprus, and as cats are not indigenous to the island, it points to cats arriving on the island along with the first human colonists.

smilodon skulls

Ancient Egypt

ancient Egyptian cat

The Ancient Egyptians had developed a method of storing grain and other food supplies. Naturally these stores attracted rats and mice. It was not long before cats were tempted by the abundance of the rodent population.

The Egyptians saw the advantage of allowing the rat killers free reign. This was the point in history that marked the beginning of the cat/human relationship. The cat gradually took up residence in Egyptian households and it came to be revered and worshiped as being godlike. History records that the export of cats was forbidden and the penalty for killing a cat was death.

Cats were mummified after death and buried in sanctified plots. They were often buried with their supplies of mummified mice for the afterlife!


Asia and Europe


It did not take long for cats to spread to the Indian sub-continent and to China. In some places in Asia, history shows that cats were thought to have magical qualities, and as in Egypt, became revered as gods. Everywhere cats soon became highly regarded pets and were prized for keeping the rodent population in check.

It was the Romans and the Greeks, who introduced the domestic cat to Europe. The cat was not worshiped but kept to be petted and for companionship and keeping the mice and rat populations down. The 11th century brought the Black Death and domestic felines became vital in destroying vermin.

ancient ruins

Medieval Superstition

witch and black cat

Cats were believed to be agents of the devil and to possess magical powers. Pope Gregory IX declared the cat to be a "Diabolical Creature". People that kept cats were suspected of being witches and were put to death with their pet.

Cats were beaten and killed or driven away from towns and villages. The domestic cat population of Europe came close to being wiped out. Some of the superstitions from those times have survived history, such as believing it bad luck to let a black cat cross your path. The witch hunts ceased and cats became highly prized and loved household pets, once again. By the late 1800s distinctive breeds were being established and cat shows held. The long-haired breeds were especially popular.


North America

Although the North American continent had many varieties of wild cats, there was no history of domestication of cats until the Europeans arrived. The cats were made to suffer the long sea journey and were imported to control the rodent populations of the settlements. Needless to say, these felines soon started making cat history and became favored pets in the New World just as much as they were in the old.
clipper ship sailing

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