From a recent study of cat genes that span the last 9,000 years, scientist found that wild cats and domestic cats of the past had no major genetic differences. Therefore, scientists think that cats domesticated themselves. They think cats came to live around human settlements in the Fertile Crescent and became tame to humans because they followed the mice and rats who were attracted to the crops produced by humans. Cats became companions to man and took on an important role in urban areas, as natural hunters, keeping pests like mice, rats, cockroaches, snakes and scorpions from running wild. Jumping ahead to the 13-century, Pope Gregory IX, a canon lawyer and theologian became Pope in 1227. He was very active, excommunicating an emperor, commissioning an overzealous inquisitor to go after heretics (rejecters of Church belief), and organizing the Papal Inquisition. The last item laid the groundwork for nastier forms of the Inquisition to follow in the next few hundred years. Pope Gregory seems to have been trying to make dealing with heresy more legalistic, rather than haphazard or politically motivated. Some have thought he was trying to bring heretics back into the fold. Up until then, hunting for heretics turned into conflicts between civil and church law, mob violence, and burnings. Anyway, Pope Gregory IX released a papal bull (decree) around 1232 that condemned a recent surge in devil worship in Germany and it described ceremonies involving visions of a giant toad, an emaciated pale man, and a statue of a black cat coming to life and speaking. Nowhere does the bull associate this diabolical cat with cats generally, nor condemn all cats, nor call for their slaughter. Yet authors and pseudo historians have claimed that this bull somehow caused the alleged massacres of cats and that the resulting lack of cats caused the spread of rats and consequently the spread of the Medieval Black Plague from 1346 to 1353 which was one of the most devastating pandemics in human history, resulting in the deaths of between 75 and 200 million people, .and between 30 to 60% of Europe’s total population. The claims continue to be made, usually without reference to any supporting evidence at all. Scientists now think the plague disease may have travelled west from Central Asian Deserts by infected camels, traders, and other animals bitten by fleas when their usual rodent hosts died from cold weather. The disease then spread to Europe by maritime trade routes. So the blame for the plague looks to go to the trade in exotic goods and not the rat. However, for some reason cats did become demonized in Europe during the Middle Ages. They were seen by many as being affiliated with witches and the devil, and many were killed in an effort to ward off evil. Pope Innocent VIII declared in 1484 that “the cat was the devil’s favorite animal and idol of all witches.” But not all medieval Europeans hated cats, and there are many accounts of cats being kept as pets, including by nuns. Not until the 1600s did the public image of cats begin to improve. In the 1800s cat fanciers began selecting cats with particular traits to create fancy breeds. Nowadays cats are one of the most popular pets in the word, loved by many, and cat services and products are a billion-dollar industry. And yet, the cat doesn’t seem to be able to entirely shake its association with evil. After all, how often do you see a movie’s arch-villain lounging in a chair, plotting the world’s destruction and stroking a dog?