Now remember guys, this is very draft-like. I thought I’d give you a taste of how bad my writing is when it’s just in draft phase. The following is not all that funny, probably because I spend too much time meandering and trying to frame the situation.
ca. 7500 BC
The Cat is Domesticated on Cyprus
“Domesticated” being a general term.
Living on an island during these times was a sweet deal. There was not a lot of danger from the outside coming in, and you were surrounded by lots of fish, who are reasonably challenging but not terribly difficult to catch. And because there is only so much land to walk without building a ship and going somewhere, it was not unreasonable to think that one could in his lifetime come to know the entire layout of the land, and all the neighbors.
There was at this time a chieftain of the wild cats; let’s call him King Sylvester. Island cats were not big cats, an island like Cyprus could not support very many tigers for long; they were typically shorter than a human, but may have been somewhat larger than a modern housecat. They were slate gray and had dark stripes. These are the kinds of cats that were eventually moved to Egypt.
Some historians and biologists think that cats were naturally predisposed to domestication. This is not at all unreasonable, given the cat’s nature.
So the humans and the cats shared this island together, vaguely in peace. As I’ve said before there is something of a unsaid ban on eating the meat of another predator unless you really need to, but there was enough fish to go around. And the cats and the humans eventually started speaking the same language as one another. But eventually, King Sylvester called the king of the humans for an audience.
“When you first came here,” Sylvester said, “we had more in our diet than fish. Whatever happened to all those tiny elephants?”
“You’re drunk,” said King Human.
“No I’m serious! There used to be tiny elephants and hippos all up in this place.”
King Human turned to the tribesmen who attended him, and made spinning finger gesture with his hand. The other humans tried to suppress a giggle.
“I have not been nipping,” Sylvester said, “we know that you’re keeping sheep and goats in your pens, and you won’t let us have any of them! You keep chasing us away with you baffling sharp sticks! We’re not going to hurt you, we just want some land prey.”
“And why should we just give you our sheep and goats?” said King Human, “we raise them ourselves so that there’s enough for all our people to eat, and we don’t even give them to ourselves for free.”
“That’s what I don’t understand! You killed off so many of the wild land prey and then started keeping the ones you didn’t kill off in pens! Why are you working so hard at it? The land prey ate the grass just fine before you started pointing them to where they ought to eat it!”
King Human looked uncomfortable. “Well you know. When they’re out in the wild, they’re hard to catch.”
“Now wait a minute,” King Human said, “how many injuries do the wild cats suffer every year because you have to hunt all the time? Bringing our food production into a systematic, orderly—”
“Oh there you go with the bureaucrat stuff again!” Sylvester threw his hands into the air and paced around his wicker throne madly. “Organization! Ledgers! Tables! Trade! Barter! Mathematics. It’s just life and you hairless monkeys are constantly overthinking it.”
“Be that as it may,” King Human said, “we have something you want, and more than enough of it.”
“So give us some!” Sylvester said, sweeping his paws in a gathering motion.
“We don’t like layabouts.” King Human said.
“Oh come on, we work hard!”
“Then come work for us and we’ll think about it. I’ll speak with the farmers, see if there’s work for you to do.”
Now, already at this time the humans encroached onto the lands that the cats once occupied, and occasionally the cats still stayed around, on the edge of King Sylvester’s jurisdiction (or could be if the cats had any organized system of law). Speaking to the farmers, King Human discovered that many of them would prefer to have extra farmhands, especially since they had far less rodent problems with the cats around.
King Sylvester was carted to the human settlements on a litter (Which, despite its name, does not include any sand; that’s just the chair with long bars carried on shoulders).
The farmer held out a hand in greeting, but Sylvester just sniffed it and said, “Well, where’s the food?” This has not changed.
“Your catship,” the farmer said, “I employ a number of your people, though they were mainly hanging around this farm when my pappy owned it, and they just stayed. They eat the mice that get into the barns, doncha know.”
“Wait, you humans don’t eat mice yourselves?”
The farmer shook his head. “Makes us sick, my pappy used to say. And they make stew smell foul. Its too hard to clean ‘em for too little meat.”
“Well you eat everything else, I don’t see how that’s different!”
But Sylvester was baffled all over again as he was taken to the cities where the fishing ships were cast off, and the merchants had their storehouses filled with grain. Again, they also had mice trouble.
“The mice just don’t listen when you talk to them!” the fisherman said, “I tells them, they’re not allowed on the ship! We don’t even have any food for them ‘cept our lunches, but they get on them once in a while, ’specially the bigger ones.”
“I have all the latest in pottery technology,” the merchant said, “this model has a weighted lid, but all that does is make the mice work together to get into the storage. It’s maddening sometimes, spending all that work collecting the grain only to have vandals steal it, and they don’t even bother to close the lid when they’re done.”
It seemed to King Sylvester that the human’s system was very susceptible to collapsing for as much work as they put into it. If they had such trouble with small things like mice, what happened if the mice organized? If trouble happened, the rodents would overrun the cities and loot them since there was so much of their kind of food stored everywhere. And the work! Did the humans tire themselves out on purpose? Did they need to gather so much food only for it to be stolen by the rodents?
No, the humans seemed setting themselves up for disaster, and so King Sylvester promised King Human he’d think about it. Though he really just thought about what a goat must have tasted like.
That was, until the next storm came. There was a predator famine in the wild. Many of the old trees where the cats built their dens were knocked down, and while plenty of insects came out to eat, many of the prey animals died so there were not enough left to feed the cats. They could still fish, but without tools like nets, it was a slow sometimes painstaking process that wore out an already tired people.
“Please, King Sylvester,” said one of the cat advisors, “we need to partner with the humans.”
“And what makes you think they have it any better?” Sylvester said.
King Sylvester toured the humans settlements again, along the same coast the storm hit. The houses were still standing, the pens were still up. Sheep and goats grazed in the treeless hills in just as large of numbers as there were before. The barns still had food, and mice continued to multiply.
“Alright, how did you do it?” King Sylvester asked King Human.
“Do what?” King Human said, confused.
“Survive the storm! You’re flourishing!”
” . . . just last week?”
“You call that a storm? There’s at least one of those every year. We learned long ago to anticipate the weather and protect ourselves. Sure, maybe with trade, every so often a destitute man loses too much of his livelihood that he’s unable to pick himself back up, but it is certainly a far better deal than everyone losing the capacity to survive. We rarely lose so much that we don’t have enough to eat.”
Sylvester was despondent. At the time, he was sure like every other time that there was a shortage of prey, things would eventually look up. But it might not happen this time, especially not with the growing number of humans. A compromise had to be reached, and it may as well have been now to save the rest of the cats from the consequences of the prey shortage.
“Alright,” said Sylvester to King Human, “We’ll do it. But we want respect for the work we’re doing for you, do you hear me?”