Heard of the Cyprus cat? No? Then maybe you know it by its other name, “Aphrodite’s Giant”? Still not ringing any bells? Then let me make the introductions. The Cyprus cat is one of the most ancient breeds in the world. Some people claim they’ve been inhabiting the island of Cyprus for as many as 4000 years. Others claim they’ve been around even longer than that. Whichever side you believe, one thing’s clear. This is an old, old breed. So why more isn’t known about them, who knows? But it’s time to change that. Without further ado, here are ten things you didn’t know (but always secretly wondered) about Cyprus cats.
1. They’re found mainly in Cyprus
Now, granted – if you’ve clocked the name and have a basic knowledge of geography, the first of our fun facts is unlikely to come as much of a surprise. Because yes, believe it or not, the Cyprus cat is found mainly in Cyprus. Such is their abundance in the region, it’s actually become a problem. In recent years, the island has become overrun with gangs of feral Cyprus cats – so much so, in fact, they now outnumber the human population. According to cyprus-mail.com, there’s now a staggering 1.5 million Cyprus cat’s in the country, a problem it puts down to chronic underfunding of spaying and neutering programs.
2. They’ve been recognized by the World Cat Federation
Some cat breeds wait for years to be recognized. Not so the Cyprus cat. As Wiki notes, the World Cat Federation (WCF) has already awarded them recognition both the long-haired and short-haired varieties under the name Aphrodite’s Giant, with breeding regulated by the World Cat Congress (WCC). It’s also been provisionally recognized by The International Cat Association (TICA) as the Aphrodite.
3. They’re one of the oldest breeds ever to be domesticated
If the findings of an archaeology dig organized at a Neolithic site in southern Cyprus are right, the Cyprus cat has been around even longer than everyone thinks, and a lot longer than most of us thought possible. Until now, it’s been widely believed that the first domesticated cats originated in Egypt around 7500 BC. But after researcher J.D. Vigne and his group uncovered the carefully buried bones of a cat on the site, the whole idea has been thrown into doubt. According to Vigne, the fact that the cat was buried next to human remains and artifacts suggests it had a status in the human settlement, something that would only have happened had it been domesticated. As the cat skeleton predates the earliest references to cats in Egyptian culture by around 4000 years, it raises some interesting questions.
4. They divide opinion
The Cyprus cat may be small, but it certainly knows how to create a big stir. Take the story of its origins. For years, legend had it that the cats were introduced to Cyprus by Saint Helen of Constantinople. As a gift to the island, she sent two boatloads of the creatures from Egypt in the 4th century A.D. At the time, Cyprus was under siege from an infestation of snakes: the cats, it was believed, would prove the perfect weapon. But others dispute the claim. According to the World Cat Congress, for example, Cyprus cats developed naturally in the mountainous region of the inner island.
5. Their thick coats helped them become better hunters
Whether you believe the story of Saint Helen of Constantinople’s boatload of cats or not, the one thing we know for sure is that the Cyprus cat is a ferocious hunter. During their early years, they became known for their legendary ability to hunt down even large prey like snakes and lizards. The only problem they faced was the cold, wet mountain weather in winter. As a way of coping, they developed the thick, bushy hair that characterizes their appearance today, along with their large, relatively muscular bodies.
6. They need lots of exercise
If there’s one thing Cyprus cats need plenty of, it’s exercise. As cattime.com notes, these active, playful little creatures need plenty of space to explore and run around in to stop them becoming bored. As they also love company, they make a great addition to multi-pet households, and will fit right into a family where someone is always at home. If you spend long stretches of the day at the office and equally long stretches of the evening at the bar, they might not be the best pet for you.
7. They can weigh up to 16 pounds
The Cyprus cat is a strong, robust little creature that typically weighs between 8 to 16 pounds (although exact sizes can vary considerably). As with most breeds, the male is usually taller and stockier than the female.
8. They’re generally healthy
While some cat breeds are besieged with health problems, the Cyprus cat is cut from a different cloth. Hardy, robust, and as strong as the proverbial ox, Cyprus cats have no known inherited conditions or tendencies. Obviously, that doesn’t mean owners can afford to be negligent about their health. If you decide to welcome a Cyprus cat into the family, be sure to keep up to date with vaccinations, and whisk them to the vet at the first sign of trouble.
9. They don’t enjoy being handled
Cyprus cats make loyal and loving companions. But like most cats, they come with certain eccentricities and peculiarities you need to be aware of… at least if you want to keep on their good side. One of the things a lot of owners report is their dislike of being picked up. While they love a petting session as much as the next cat, steer clear of handling them too much.
10. Their eyes match their coat color
Cyprus cats are usually found with a thick, furry coat that can either be short, sleek, and dense, or mid-length and flowing. As for their coloring – well, the sky’s the limit. Tabby, colorpoint, mink, and striped tabby are the most common type of patterning. Solid colors are possible, but not that common. One of their most distinguishing (and interesting) features is their almond-shaped eyes, which can be any color but will most typically be the exact same shade as their coat.