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Remember that rhyme you used to sing in your head to answer questions on your history test?
In fourteen-hundred-ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue…
Yeah, us too!
Columbus Day is October 8th, and it’s all about the discovery of the Americas by Ferdinand and Isabella's darling, Christopher Columbus.
But did you know that our precious feline friends also have a history of sea voyages with the famous explorer?
Columbus’s Big Day
Columbus Day is a federal holiday that kids and adults revel in as a much-needed day off. But what is Columbus Day really all about?
You probably know that Christopher Columbus discovered the Americas on accident. In fact, he was actually aiming for a shortcut to Asia and instead became the first European to explore the Americas since the Vikings stumbled upon our now-homeland way back in the 10th century.
Good ol’ Chris made three journeys across the Atlantic before he realized it was a new land – then, click! (That’s a forehead-slap moment if we’ve ever heard of one.)
This happy accident was celebrated officially for the first time in 1792 by New York’s Columbian Order. Later, President Benjamin Harrison encouraged celebrating Columbus Day in 1892 to celebrate the 400th anniversary but still did not declare it a federal holiday. He suggested using the day to “cease from toil and devote themselves to exercises that express honor to the four centuries of American achievements.”
Basically: have fun and celebrate being American.
Finally, in 1937, President Franklin D. Roosevelt officially proclaimed Columbus Day a national holiday.
You’ll find banks, post offices, and schools closed on Columbus Day and celebrations in many cities throughout the United States.
Which Came First: Cats or Columbus?
While we can’t imagine life without our furry companions today, there were no domesticated cats in the Americas before Columbus sailed the ocean blue. While there were wild cats such as panthers and mountain lions, none were domesticated and they would never be named Fluffy.
So, how’d they get here and become the master of men and women alike?
Cats and their humans have coexisted for thousands of years. In fact, as soon as we stopped hunting and gathering and started small villages, our furry friends realized they could be a benefit to us. Since Kitty chased the rodents that eat the grain that humans need to survive, it became a match made in heaven that has spanned over 8,000 years.
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Traveling over long distances via ships was the only way to get from Europe to the Americas back in the days of Columbus. That meant food and drinks needed to be kept fresh, without refrigeration, for months at a time. Grains and oats were the go-to for such long journeys since they could be stored in barrels and were easy to cook – just add water!
However, as you can imagine, rodents took this opportunity to infest ships and get into all that delicious grain.
Cats were kept on ships to chase and destroy any rodent who threatened the food supply. It was a win-win since the cats were fed with the rodents and the humans got to eat their stored grain.
In fact, cats did their jobs so well that they were considered part of the crew and became incredibly valuable as long voyages across the ocean became the norm for Europeans.
While the look and behavior of these first kitties to land on American soil has changed quite a bit, they still maintain some of their more adorable wild qualities.
Columbus Day & Cats
Cats were an important part of Christopher Columbus’ crew. Without Fluffy to hunt the rodents and protect the food supply, those aboard would have either starved or been made sick by diseases carried on board by rodents.
Because our feline friends are so industrious, they leaped at the opportunity to explore a new world right along with their human masters. As Europeans settled throughout North and South America, cats were introduced to more and more land, new types of rodents (yum!), and different environments that helped to create our beloved best friends as they are today.
As you celebrate Columbus Day in 2018 give a little nod to those brave and fearless feline friends that made the journey across the ocean blue with Christopher Columbus way back in 1492.
Tag us in a pic of your darling explorer doing what they love best on Columbus Day on Instagram @PrettyLitterCats
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