Cats seem to have been popular with the Ashanti people (from Ghana). An Ashanti legend tells that because the cat was so loyal and the dog so jealous and vindictive the Chief decreed that cats could sleep inside the tent and eat with the tribe while their dogs must sleep outside in the dust and live off scraps! Their poor dogs were ocassionally beaten and cursed while cats were treated as a member of the tribe.
The Babylonians believed that the souls of priests were escorted to paradise by a benevolent cat. The Babylonian Talmud (Talmud Bavli) lists the many positive attributes of cats, and encourages the breeding of cats to help keep the houses clean and free from pests. However, there is no mention of this in the Jewish Talmud (or the Jerusalem Talmud - Talmud Yerushalm).