Companion Animals and Their Unique Place in Society–Part 1
Every once in a while, a discussion of the role of animals in our lives makes the news as some difficult decision must be made. The interesting thing about this is that our relationship with animals, though different in different times and places through history, has been established since Bible times.
Several years ago, legislation was introduced to make illegal the use of horses for human consumption. It passed, but the depth of feeling on both sides of the debate was striking. The idea of using companion animals for food is so counterintuitive that I felt compelled to do some research, for although instinct would tell us that this is wrong, the facts to support such a position strengthen our arguments.
For the purposes of this article, and with my apologies to lovers of rabbits, hamsters, ferrets, pot-bellied pigs, cockatiels, tarantulas, and every other type of pet, I am going to focus on the three most popular pets—cats, dogs, and horses.
A brief history of the domestication of cats
Some experts think the cat was first tamed by 3500 B.C. The ancient Egyptians were the first people to keep cats as pets; they also worshipped cats as gods. The goddess Bastet, daughter of the sun god Ra, had a cat’s head. The Egyptians loved and worshipped her, and so loved cats. Deceased cats were mummified and given the same kind of burial as human family members.
The ancient Romans, in the conquest of Egypt, brought cats home to Europe. After a period of disfavor during the superstitious Middle Ages, cats were restored to hero status. When rats from Asia brought the Black Plague to Europe, people who had kept cats fared better; their cats, according to the nature of cats, killed the rats. Soon cats became protected by law.
In Victorian times, cats were a favorite subject of artists and writers, and were considered part of a happy home.
Studies have shown that petting a cat lowers a person’s blood pressure, and that elderly people who are enabled to keep their pets live longer. The healing power of cats is being used to advantage in increasingly popular programs in which pets are taken to visit people in nursing homes.