There are not a lot of modern day phenomena about which the origins are so obscure as modern day house cats. Which is another way of saying that cats, their history and how and when the entered into the common realm of human experience remains largely unknown, although, as often happens with science, hypothesis morphs into ‘fact’ and what was once conjecture becomes commonly espoused as truth, without the addition of new evidence.
It was previously thought that the Egyptians were the first to domesticate house cats but more recent archaeological and genetic discovers indicate that cat domestication may have begun in the region of Mesopotamia as early as ten thousand years ago, although it remains curious that whereas there are numerous other animal images in early paintings, there are none of the cat and at most ancient sites there is no record of their bones as there are of dogs, cattle and other species known today. In any case, most of our early information concerning cats comes from the Egyptians from about 2500 BC. where they would seem to have been trained and used. Yes, it is clear. The Egyptians engaged in training cats.
Notice this papyrus painting from the twentieth dynasty of the Egyptian kingdom. It shows a dog herding goats, or sheep, and a cat herding ducks. They are shown in the upright position to demonstrate their dominance, their control over their respective charges, just as people would be. Think about this. If the picture showed the dog and cat on all fours, they would be seen to be in the company of goats and ducks, not controlling them. The Egyptian painter shows them standing upright to indicate that they are in control, and the staff they hold emphasizes this. Clearly, just as dogs had been trained to herd goats, cats were trained to herd ducks.
Most of we cat owners and cat lovers don’t train our cats because we think them untrainable but there are plenty of examples of cats being trained in the modern world. When their trust is absolutely gained (and it takes a great deal for this to happen), cats become a different sort of being altogether. Yet it’s no wonder they often seem inaccessible.
Cats have been the victims of pogroms that had the intent of eliminating them from the face of the earth forever. They were associated with witches and demons, thought evil and hunted down and burned by the tens of thousands more than one time and in more than one place.
So is it any wonder that cats remain aloof, distrustful, independent, seeming unresponsive and certainly untrainable? Wouldn’t you, if within your genetic makeup you had the memory of betrayal and horror inflicted by humans that your ancestors were fortunate, or wise enough to escape?
Can your cat be trained? Can you gain his trust? Yes, and Yes. If anyone has any examples of success with training their cats we’d all love to hear about it. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and share your story, images and videos.
As an aside, cats can really enjoy being useful and performing as asked. Personally, I have no doubt that one reason cats were so beloved in Egypt was because of the relationships created between cats and people by the Egyptians training cats. The cats knew their usefulness, appreciated it and the people loved them for it.