The Aegean Cat is a landrace of domestic cat that originate from the Cycladic Islands of Greece. They were recognised as a formal breed of cat in the 1990s by the new Greek cat fancy but have yet to be recognised by many cat breeders and organisations around the world. They are also considered to be the only native Greek variety of cat.
Aegeans are thought to be one of the oldest domesticated breeds of cat and originated across the Cycladic Islands. They are called a landrace, which means that they are a locally adapted or traditional variety of cat that has developed over time in isolation from other breeds. They are commonly found as feral cats around the ports of Greece where it can be seen begging for food. The Greeks consider the cats to be a national treasure.
Aegean cats are of medium size and very muscular, with short hair coats. They are bicolour or tricolour with one colour always being white without signs of yellowing. This typically takes from one to two thirds of their body colour. Other colours include black, red, cream, blue and with or without tabby stripes.
Their paws are classified as medium in size and have a rounded shape while the ears have a wide base and rounded tips. Their eyes are almond in shape and come in shades of green.
Perhaps due to their island ancestry or habit of living in ports, they are fond of the water and fishing. They are also relatively free of common feline diseases because they have developed in isolation from other breeds of cat.
Aegeans as pets
The breeding of these cats specifically as pets is a recent undertaking, though the breed has been domesticated for centuries and is well adapted to humans. It is a social cat that copes well living closely with humans such as in an apartment and is very intelligent and active. It is lively and can communicate with humans well. They are also kept in rural areas for pest control, as have very good predatory instincts.
Aegeans in mythology
While cats were as prevalent in Greek mythology as they were in either Egyptian or Roman tales, there were plenty of stories about cats that indicated they were a normal part of life even that far back. Because Aegeans are the only native breed of Greek cat, it is possible that the ancestors of these cats were the ones being referred to.
One story involving cats was when the goddess Artemis turned into a cat to escape the god of the wind, Typhon. Pure black cats were seen as an omen of death and were associated with Hecate, the goddess of witchcraft.
Evidence of cats as pets can even be seen in the writings of the comic Aristophanes who often included cats in his plays. He used the phrase ‘the cat did it’ often for comic effect, though as a cat owner, this may well have been an accurate description of what happened – it often is the cat that did it!