The origin of the English word cat (Old English catt) and its counterparts in other Germanic languages (such as German Katze), descended from Proto-Germanic *kattōn-, is controversial. It was thought traditionally to be a borrowing from Late Latin cattus, 'domestic cat', from catta (used around 75 AD by Martial),[22][23] compare also Byzantine Greek κάττα, Portuguese and Spanish gato, French chat, Maltese qattus, Lithuanian katė, and Old Church Slavonic kotъ (kot'), among others.[24]
"It was the custom to burn a basket, barrel, or sack full of live cats, which was hung from a tall mast in the midst of the bonfire; sometimes a fox was burned. The people collected the embers and ashes of the fire and took them home, believing that they brought good luck. The French kings often witnessed these spectacles and even lit the bonfire with their own hands. In 1648 Louis XIV, crowned with a wreath of roses and carrying a bunch of roses in his hand, kindled the fire, danced at it and partook of the banquet afterwards in the town hall. But this was the last occasion when a monarch presided at the midsummer bonfire in Paris. At Metz midsummer fires were lighted with great pomp on the esplanade, and a dozen cats, enclosed in wicker cages, were burned alive in them, to the amusement of the people. Similarly at Gap, in the department of the Hautes-Alpes, cats used to be roasted over the midsummer bonfire."[278]
The domestic cat's ability to thrive in almost any terrestrial habitat has led to its designation as one of the world's most invasive species.[203] As it is little altered from the wildcat, it can readily interbreed with the wildcat. This hybridization poses a danger to the genetic distinctiveness of some wildcat populations, particularly in Scotland and Hungary and possibly also the Iberian Peninsula.[56]
English-language touring companies have also toured the European region extensively. International tours in the early to late 2000s included stops in Sweden, Norway,[219] Finland,[220] Greece,[188] Portugal,[221] Germany,[222] and Italy.[223] The 2013–2014 UK tour visited cities in Belgium,[214][224] Greece, Italy,[225] Monaco, and Portugal.[153] Most recently, a UK production played in numerous European cities from 2016 to 2019, with tour stops in Switzerland, Croatia, Belgium, Poland, Bulgaria, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Netherlands, and Luxembourg.[226] These European tours have featured several notable performers in the role of Grizabella, including Pernilla Wahlgren (Sweden; 2003),[227] Katarína Hasprová (Slovakia; 2016)[228] and Jenna Lee-James (Netherlands; 2018–2019).[229]
Meanwhile, the first Canadian national production premiered in March 1985 at the Elgin and Winter Garden Theatres in Toronto, Ontario. It moved to Montreal two years later and then toured other parts of Canada. By the time the production closed in August 1989, it had become the most successful Canadian stage production of all time with a box office of $78 million from nearly 2 million tickets.[118][128] A second Canadian touring company began in 2013, 28 years after the first one launched.[129]
Practical Cats, as the show was then called, was first presented as a song cycle at the 1980 summer Sydmonton Festival. The concert was performed by Gemma Craven, Gary Bond and Paul Nicholas. Eliot's widow and literary executor, Valerie, was in attendance and brought along various unpublished cat-themed poems by Eliot. One of these was "Grizabella the Glamour Cat" which, although rejected from Eliot's book for being "too sad for children", gave Lloyd Webber the idea for a full-blown musical.[10] He explained:

It was long thought that cat domestication was initiated in Egypt, because cats in ancient Egypt were venerated from around 3100 BC.[11][12] However, the earliest indication for the taming of an African wildcat (F. lybica) was found in Cyprus, where a cat skeleton was excavated close by a human Neolithic grave dating to around 7500 BC.[13] African wildcats were probably first domesticated in the Near East.[14] The leopard cat (Prionailurus bengalensis) was tamed independently in China around 5500 BC, though this line of partially domesticated cats leaves no trace in the domestic cat populations of today.[15][16]