York's Original Lucky Cat

The History of Cats in York

York has had an association with cats for almost 2,000 years. Brought to Britain by the Romans in the 1st Century AD, cats played a critical role in Eboracum (Roman York) which was at the heart of regional commerce. Merchants would have kept cats to protect their grain stores from vermin. Over time the relationship between cats and humans grew - food and shelter in return for a job well done.

Whilst the oldest cat statues visible in modern York date from the 1920's, one can imagine a 1st Century BC Roman trader making a model of his best mouser to celebrate their hunting skills. After all, the Ancient Egyptians worshipped cats and even had a special cat Goddess, Bastet.

Several hundred years after the Romans left Britain, the Vikings periodically took control of York. They too were known to value cats. Indeed, Freya, one of the pre-eminent Goddesses in Norse mythology, had her chariot pulled by two felines!

From Bad Luck to Best Friend

Cats had a harder time in the Middle Ages when superstitions linked cats, especially black cats, to witchcraft, evil and bad luck. Many cats were killed allowing the rat population to grow unchecked. Combined with insanitary conditions, vermin-borne diseases like plague spread easily within human populations, leading to much death and suffering. During the Bubonic plague, humans realised that cats were not the source of their woes and cat killing stopped. Soon vermin populations were back under control and since then, cats and humans have co-existed much more happily.

Helping Cats in Need

Despite being domesticated for centuries, cats as recently as the mid-20th Century remained poorly understood and undervalued animals. Veterinary attention was focused on working animals and dogs with research into the needs of cats being virtually non-existent.

From the late 1950's this started to change as charities like International Cat Care used veterinary research and education to understand cats better. Thanks to their efforts cats now live longer, happier, healthier lives. This small UK charity punches well above its weight. improving the lives of over 25 million cats per year.

We are delighted to donate 1% of sales of York's Original Lucky Cat to International Cat Care, to help cats less lucky than our own pets.

Where to find us

York's Original Lucky Cats can be bought from this website, or found at the Cat Gallery in York, close to the junction of Stonegate and Low Petergate.

These modern streets follow the two principal roads in Roman York.

It seems fitting than an animal introduced to Britain by the Romans, is now celebrated and revered right art the heart of the city they established nearly 2,000 years ago.

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