Over time, it has become a cultural symbol capable of arousing hatred, passion and adoration in equal parts.
A god for the Egyptians
It is believed that it was domesticated by them around the year 4000 BC. of C. to turn it into the most expert hunter of mice, since the rat had become a dangerous plague for the crops. This function earned the cat the respect and admiration of the Egyptians, until it became a god that symbolized the protection of the home, the family.
The cat reached the rank of Totem (Myeo) and entered the pantheon of Egyptian gods. Among the numerous deities in the form of cats and lionesses, the goddess Bastet is the most important, a cat-headed goddess of love and a symbol of femininity, softness, sensuality and motherhood.
The cat came to occupy such a great position in the family that, at his death, all members of the family shaved off their eyebrows as a sign of mourning for his loss.
A beloved animal in the Orient
The cult dedicated to the cat in Egypt left its traces and its influence reached foreign countries, such as Gaul, as demonstrated by the discovery of amulets, statuettes and sistrums that probably date from the 1st century BC. C., and in the British Isles, where remains of cats have been located in various cities.
In the Far East the cat enjoyed great respect and Buddhist monks bred cats that were considered sacred. In Japan, the Kyoto palace opened its doors to a white cat that gave birth to five kittens. The temple dedicated to the Maneki Neko cat, who was represented seated, and with one paw raised in welcome, demonstrates the homage paid to the cat in the empire of the rising sun.
The cat reached China and India shortly after its spread in Egypt, where it was treated as a companion animal, especially among women. In China, the wild god Li Shu was represented as a cat and, in India, Sasti, the goddess of fertility, was the equivalent of Bastet, just as in Greece it was the goddess Artemis who created the cat. The Roman civilization appreciated the cat not only as a skillful hunter, also valuing its beauty represented in mosaics and frescoes and highly esteeming its spirit of independence and freedom.
From divinity to symbol of evil
With the spread of Christianity, the cat plunged into darkness. In the Middle Ages, especially between 1180 and 1233, the cat, with its strange and unpredictable behavior, was framed and considered a symbol of evil. It was associated with the imaginary crimes that the pagans attributed to the Christians and, later, the Christians to the agnostics and the Jews. For the Cathars, the cat was the image of the devil. Medieval Japanese distinguished between amulet cats, because of their fur, and evil cats, because of their split-tipped tail and because they could transform into witches.
Hundreds of years later, in the 17th century, the cat began to be associated with witchcraft in different parts of the world. Almost everywhere the black cat was associated with good luck, and yet in the United States and in some areas of Europe, such as Spain - where witch hunts took place - it was associated with them and made them be considered as bringers of bad luck With the arrival of the Inquisition, the black cats were burned or thrown from the bell towers of the Churches.
Superstition led to the bubonic plague spreading through a large part of the old continent due to the virtual extinction of these cats.