We don’t know exactly when cats first arrived in America, but we can take a pretty good guess. Cats appear in American paintings and needlework samplers of the 1600s and 1700s, indicating that cats may have arrived with the Pilgrims. Cats probably voyaged on the European fishing boats that worked the coastal waters of America and came to shore when the boats put in to dry their catches. It is thought that cats may have arrived even earlier; evidence suggests that cats may have sailed over with Columbus in 1492 bones of domesticated cats have been found at sites Columbus visited. Since these sites were abandoned before 1500 a.d, and since North America has no indigenous cat species from which the domestic could arise, likely these are remains of cats that came along for the ride. There’s even some discussion about cats arriving with the Vikings in 1001 a.d., but no direct evidence exists to support (or disprove) this.

In any event, the settlers needed cats. In 1749 the importation of cats into America from Europe was approved to help deal with rat populations threatening the crops. The early pioneer cats established themselves as mousers and ratters in the fields and barns of the early settlers. No rosettes were awarded to these working cats; Best of Breed did not go to the feline with the finest conformation, color, or coat texture. The prize “life itself” went to the cat with the keenest brain, quickest paw, and strongest jaws, the cat that could best shape itself to survive the challenges of the New World. Life was tough in those days for human and cat alike. Over time, America’s domestic cats multiplied and diversified with the expansion of the settlers, spread across the country.

Cats also established themselves in front of the hearths of the settlers, as paintings, samplers, and literary references of the times suggest. It’s apparent that cats, even in the early days, were seen as companions as well as mousers. Cats did not entirely escape the paranoia of the religious zealots, particularly during the time of the infamous Salem witch trials, but for the most part cats were looked upon as allies.

When the European cat fancy began in 1871, America was not far behind. In 1895 the first large cat show was held in New York’s Madison Square Garden, and the cat fancy was on its way into mainstream America. The American Cat Association, the first American registry, started in 1899 (see Chapter Five). From then on, cats gained popularity as companion animals rather than the perfect mouse traps.

By the late 1800s Americans discovered that cats have appeal in advertising and began using representations of cats to sell cigars, magazines, shoe polish, and other products. Black cats were often depicted because in early American folklore they were considered symbols of good luck. (Black cats as symbols of bad luck came from European folklore.) Today, the focus has changed. Rather than using cats to induce people to buy products for themselves, the advertising is aimed at cat owners. The cat product industry is a multimillion dollar business as ever more people come to appreciate cats for their clean and quiet ways.


(TICA’s Standard of Perfection for the Household Pet Cat)
The Household Pet should be alert, friendly, and easy to handle. Allowance may be made for some nervousness due to unfamiliarity with shows. If a cat that must be removed from the cage by its handler is then fully amenable to being handled by the judge, no penalty shall be attached.


  • N/A      Activity
  • N/A      Playfulness
  • N/A      Need for Attention
  • N/A      Affection
  • N/A      Need to Vocalize
  • N/A      Docility
  • N/A      Intelligence
  • N/A      Independence
  • N/A      Healthiness and Hardiness
  • N/A      Grooming needs
  • N/A      Good with children
  • N/A      Good with other pets

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