This guide highlights books, periodicals, and other resources from the 19th and early 20th centuries on the subject of cats as pets. Recommendations for contemporary resources on the history of cats as household companion animals are also included.
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Alison Kelly, Reference and Research Specialist, Science, Technology & Business Division
Note: This guide was originally created by Madison Arnold-Scerbo in 2017.
Last Updated: March, 2020
Cats were social companions in some Eastern countries even in Ancient times. However, in Europe and the United States, cats were mainly used as mousers or studied as biological specimens until the mid-19th century, when their position shifted to that of household companion animals. Along with this shift, the focus of scientific study of the cat moved away from simply serving as biological specimens to researching the ancient origins of domestic cats, origins of coat colors, and cat diseases in relation to humans.
Except for the more modern books on the history of cats as pets, the books in this reference guide primarily span the years between 1858 and 1922, when the shift in the role of cats took place. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, cats effectively transitioned from serving as vagabond mousers and biological specimens to becoming beloved household pets and pedigree display objects. Cats as pets became recognized for their intelligence, independence and personalities.