Cats have been around a long, long time. So there's bound to be a lot of lore about their history, geography and breeds. Here's a smattering of cat-tastic facts:
Will work for mice
Cats were domesticated (as domesticated as cats can be, anyway) 7,500 to 10,000 years ago, most likely in the Mediterranean region. From there, cats spread throughout the world, in which they were prized for their ability to protect crops and grain stores from mice, rats and other vermin.
Worthy of worship
We've likely all heard the story that cats were worshiped as gods in early Egypt. To this day, they haven't forgotten it.
Cats were associated with three Egyptian goddesses. Mafdet, portrayed as a cat or panther, offered protection against venomous animals and was known as "Slayer of Serpents." Bast (also known as Bubastis) represented fertility and motherhood. And the lion-headed Sekhmet symbolized the sun and bore the title "Lady of Slaughter."
It's easy to see how each of these personifications arose from feline behavior.
A cat by any name
Sure, cats have litters. But did you know that there are several other collective terms for cats? There's a "kindle" of kittens, a "pounce" of kittens, a "clowder" of cats and, according to the Harley Manuscript, which dates to the 15th century, a "glorying" of cats. Contemporary veterinarian, author and blogger Dr. Grace Elliot says she prefers an "independence" of cats.
Talk about a litter
The largest number of kittens ever born to a domestic cat was 19. According to Guinness World Records, a Burmese-Siamese cat in the United Kingdom delivered 19 kittens on Aug. 7, 1970. Four were stillborn, but the remaining 15 must have been more than a handful for mama cat and her people.
The world's cats are divided into groups from four areas: Asia, the Mediterranean basin, Western Europe and East Africa. The Persian is thought to be the oldest recognized cat breed, and Persians have been used to develop other breeds.
Coming to America
No one knows exactly when cats first came to the New World, but it was surely by ship. Genetic evidence shows that American cats consistently group with cats from Western Europe, suggesting that North American cats descend from cats brought to the New World by European settlers.
They may have arrived with Viking explorers; sailed the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria with Columbus; or accompanied Spanish colonizers. We know that at least one cat was on the Mayflower with the pilgrims, because, although nameless, the cat is mentioned in ship records. The first known written mention of cats in New England dates to 1634.
Off to a wild start
Bengal cats originated as a cross between Asian leopard cats — small wildcats weighing 5 to 12 pounds — and domestic cats. Today's Bengals, however, are domestic all the way, with no wild blood.
Who are you calling piebald?
A cat whose coat is any color or pattern combined with any amount of white — as little as a single spot — is said to be bicolor. There are numerous variations on bicolor (or piebald) cats.
Cats that are mostly white with random splashes of color are described as magpie. Cats that have splashes of color between the ears and color on the tail are called van. A cat with color on top of the head and on the upper half of the body with white below is said to have a mask and mantle. And, of course, there's the classic tuxedo cat, with white belly and paws.