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    From the Barn to the Hearth

    From the Barn to the Hearth

    Little written documentation exists regarding domesticated cats during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. What we do know supports the idea that people originally kept cats for practical reasons, as mousers. However, some of these cats no doubt found places for themselves in warm kitchens and were allowed to remain inside. (Anyone who has ever enjoyed the company of a cat knows how capable a cat is of winning hearts.)

    Author Katherine C. Grier, in her book Pets in America (2006), states that cats were becoming acceptable pets during the late 1800s, particularly for women and young girls. During this era, families were increasingly photographed with their pet cats. Felines were also appearing in children's stories, such as Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland, which indicates that cats were sharing living space with families and playing a more prominent role in domestic life. Nevertheless, cats were far less celebrated pets than dogs (and even birds and fish) and continued to be regarded more as the family mouser until the 1950s. Author Katherine C. Grier, in her book Pets in America (2006), states that cats were becoming acceptable pets during the late 1800s, particularly for women and young girls. During this era, families were increasingly photographed with their pet cats. Felines were also appearing in children's stories, such as Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland, which indicates that cats were sharing living space with families and playing a more prominent role in domestic life. Nevertheless, cats were far less celebrated pets than dogs (and even birds and fish) and continued to be regarded more as the family mouser until the 1950s.

    People began to spend more on their pets in general after the Second World War, when they could concentrate on domestic life and even earn some disposable incomes. Small mom-and-pop feed stores started rethinking their roles in the marketplace and began catering more specifically to pet needs, with items such as food bowls, beds, and collars. Some even sold boxes and bags of sand so that cats wouldn't have to go outside in inclement weather.

    Cats have sailed all over the world. Sailors welcome them onboard for their prowess as ratters.

    In 1947, Minnesotan Edward Lowe, who sold clay absorbents to garage owners to soak up gasoline spills, was asked by his neighbor Kay Draper if she could try some of his absorbent clay to replace the ashes she was using in her cat's box. He obliged, and Draper was so excited with the results that Lowe decided to market this new cat box filler. He trademarked the words kitty kitter and, with his product, changed the course of history for domestic cats. Today, for many cats in America, domestication means having an exclusively indoor lifestyle made possible by Edward Lowe's invention and others like it.

    By the 1980s, the pet business had become an industry of international proportions. In the United States, it is now an economic force that rakes in billions of dollars annually and outsells toys, jewelry, and candy combined. By this time, most people stopped serving table scraps to their cats and started looking for proper cat food to meet the nutritional demands of their charges and products to improve their cats' health and well-being. In 2004, a market research analyst named Pam Danziger, an internationally recognized expert in understanding the mind of the consumer, published a report called Why People Buy Things for Their Pets. She made the point that Americans no longer simply have pets- they have animal companions, or, more specifically, furry family members.

    Current statistics from the National Pet Owners Survey, published by the American Pet Products Association (APPA), highlight that more than 80 percent of American cat owners call themselves "pet parents." In this role, they want only the best for their kith and kin in terms of a lifestyle that mimics their own. (This same survey shows that many of the 86.4 million cats living in the United States live in multicat households [two to three cats], demonstrating how welcome cats are in the American home.)

    It is clear that, in tracing the history of the domesticated cat, the feline has evolved from a working companion animal (one that worked for her own benefit) to a beloved companion.

    Although many cats live in a state of domestic bliss, modern domestic life has produced a dark side, too, with hundreds of human-dependent cats being abandoned and left to fend for themselves. This has also created a social problem: feral cat colonies. Thus, while researchers continue with their insatiable thirst for additional knowledge to learn more about the ancestors of the felines that inhabit our homes and have a place in our hearts today, other scientists are trying to resolve the issue of unwanted or stray cats. They (and many other cat lovers) hope to create a world where every domestic cat has a loving home.

    The World's First Spokescat

    Morris, the orange tabby who is the spokescat for 9Lives cat food, has been one of the most recognizable feline faces in the United States since 1969. The first Morris was rescued from a Chicago animal shelter by trainer Bob Martwick in 1968. He was twenty minutes away from being euthanized! He eventually became an honorary director of StarKist Foods, with the power to veto any cat-food flavor he didn't like. He was invited by President Richard Nixon to cosign (with a paw print) the National Animal Protection Bill. In 2006, the spokescat spearheaded a national campaign to find homes for 1 million cats. This was achieved by June 2008. The current Morris spokescat is the fifth orange tabby to hold this position. He lives in California with Hollywood cat trainer Rose Ordile.

    The Cat That Walked by Himself

    Author Rudyard Kipling's story called "The Cat That Walked by Himself," which appears in his famous book Just So Stories, tells of the first man and woman to collect animals to help them. The dog joins the family to help the man hunt. The horse is employed to carry the man. The cow is brought into the family to provide milk. The cat watches all this secretly and finally makes a deal with the woman, whereby he will keep the baby amused and catch mice when necessary; in return, he will be allowed to live in the cave, drink the milk, and lie next to the fire. The deal is entirely in the cat's favor because no working hours are specified. In his contract, the cat agrees to be kind to babies and hunt mice when it suits him. Kipling writes: "but when the moon gets up and night comes, he is the cat that walks by himself, and all places are alike to him. Then he goes out to the wet, wild woods or up the wet wild trees or on the wet wild roofs, waving his wild tail and walking by his wild lone, just the same as before."

    From The Cat Bible, Copyright by Sandy Robins, licensed through ContentOro, Inc and used by arrangement with I-5 Press

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