Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Cats and Dogs

Cats and Dogs are the most common pets in America. To us they are companions and friends. Some might be workers as well. Few think of it, but they are important to our culture.

Who has not heard of the Crazy Cat Lady or Dog Whisper? The movies: All Dogs Go to Heaven and Cats & Dogs (The movie I took this post's title from)? Or not seen a commercial for kitty litter or dog food? Even those who hate pets know someone who could not imagine their life without one.

We find it hard to think of our pets in any role than what we see them in every day, our friends and family members. Yet it was not always like this.

All through out ancient history, dogs were hated and feared. Predators that hunted in packs and feasted on any carcass they found, no one kept them as a pet. They smelled, ate things people did not want to think about, and scared little children. If people had them at all, it was for hunting as the Babylonians did.

Israelites especially disliked them. Their holy books (the Old Testament) are full of verses comparing evil or disgusting people to dogs. One of the worst things that could happen to someone would be that a dog ate them when they died.

Dogs surround me,
    a pack of villains encircles me;
    they pierce my hands and my feet. Psalms 22:16 NIV

 Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision. 
Philippians 3:2 KJV

Egyptians were the only people who seemed to like dogs in general. They did keep them as pets and made status of them. Dogs would some times be mummified. This was because of the Egyptian god Anubis, guardian of the underworld, who is pictured with the head of a jackal. Unlike most cultures, Egyptians did not fear death so the keeper of the underworld was not an evil figure.

Mostly, though, Egyptians really liked cats. They mummified a lot of them as they were believed to be the form of Bastet, one of their goddesses. Bastet was the goddess of the home and pregnant women, meaning she was important to everyday life. Hoping to make her happy, families would keep numerous cats around the house and mummify them when they died. To kill one often resulted in punishment by death because they were so sacred.

Until after the dark ages, most dogs that people had were large. The only way a family could keep a dog was if it could hunt or herd. As of yet they still were not really pets. It was not until later that this occurred.

The days of the courtiers was when dogs took center stage as pets. This was also when people began to breed them for their smaller sizes (at least more often). Courtiers had to put up a front of wealth and they often did this by buying small dogs. The dogs were good for sitting in the courtier's lap (or that of his wife) and sleeping all day long. Obviously, one had to have a lot of money to feed and care for an animal that didn't do anything. Before this, only royalty could afford such a pet.

Eventually, when nobles became involved in the hunts, small dogs went with them. They were useful in hunting rabbits and other burrowing animals.

In Asia at least, cats and dogs are, to this day, eaten. I'm not going to show any pictures of this because, honestly, it makes me sad.


P.S. If you have any other knowledge about dogs and cats in history, please share it below!

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