Cats, People, and the Black Plague – Those Who Kept Cats Survived


Inside the long history of human-animals relationships, a few episodes stand out in which one species made a significant contribution to the survival of another. Rarely accomplish cats get credit to get such an accomplishment–more often dogs or horses, and then, usually in times of war–but the Dark Plague of Europe is one of those times.

By way of background, the ancient Romans, into their conquest of Egypt, had brought cats home for you to Europe. Cats subsequently experienced a period of disfavor during the superstitious Middle Ages, for they had become associated with witches and also the Devil; some people believed african american cats were witches with disguise, or that they assisted witches in performing their very own craft. Those who kept felines as pets were the particular objects of much suspicion, and widespread cat searching led almost to their extinction.

When rats from Asia brought the bubonic plague to Europe via buying and selling ships in the mid-1300s, typically the epidemic (variously known as often the Black Plague, the Great Plague, the Black Death, as well as the Great Mortality) swept across the continent, resulting in devastating loss of human life. In all, one-third of the population of Europe–some 34 million people–died. In England alone, more than half the human human population perished; in some parts of This particular language, ninety percent.

It took the authorities some time to figure out the cause of the problem. At one level they tested the theory the disease was being spread by means of dogs and cats; thus the mayor of London ordered the actual execution of all such pets. Despite the extermination of millions of companion animals, however , the particular plague did not abate although actually accelerated, for, of course , the elimination of all cats was soon followed by the explosion of the rat inhabitants.

Eventually it became evident that individuals who had kept cats, in violation of the law, fared better; for the cats, according to their nature, killed typically the rats that carried often the fleas that really carried the plague. People slowly began to deduce the rat-flea-disease connection. When the truth finally came to light, cats were rapidly elevated to hero status, and soon became protected by law.

The Great Plague ended when the fleas started dying, as a part of their natural lifetime cycle, in the cold involving fall and winter. Subsequent plagues would visit European countries over successive generations, and other continents suffered similar outbreaks; it would not be until the 19th century that scientists genuinely began to understand the epidemiology of the plague. Increased sanitary conditions over time helped reduce their incidence, and with the discovery connected with antibiotics in the 20th hundred years, the threat of the affect was greatly reduced.

Would it be a stretch to say that, by bringing the rodent population under control, cats saved humans by extinction? At least, European humans? At a minimum, cats deserve credit for heroically saving the actual species that, through ignorance, almost wiped them out and about.

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