“My Cat owns me!“- Every Cat owner has probably thought to him/herself at least once in a relationship with their Cat. Who is the pet here and who is the owner?
I know I have for sure- always trying to please their Highness/es, working hard to get their approval , trying to catch their glance or a loving purr. They come and go to and from you as they please, impose their will, are relentless until things are arranged to their liking. If it was any other animal or, heavens forbid, human, we would probably write them of our social contact list. Lets be honest, Cats can be jerks and they get away with it:)
So we ask ourselves why? Well, first of all, they have unbelievable charm . It is also something else- love they give under their own terms somehow feels so much more valuable coming from a being that is so independent and self-sustainable that we feel honored and special to be a part of that relationship, even if we are mostly at the giving and not the receiving end. Well, there is of course a historic/scientific story behind this dynamic also ..
Cats are admirable animals and are one of the few domestic species not entirely tamed by humans (for what they’ve earned my utmost respect). Sometimes I like to think it was the other way around,that Cats tamed humans, but the official term is that they are self-domesticated. What is even more interesting is that , as recent studies show, cats are only semi-domesticated.
Common belief until recently was that ancient Egyptians were the first people to welcome cats into their homes about four thousand years ago. In 2004, however, a team of French researchers working in Cyprus unearthed the ninety-five-hundred-year-old remains of a human and a cat buried side by side. But there may have been instances of domestication as early as the Neolithic from around 9,500 years ago (7,500 BC). A study found that leopard cats were undergoing domestication independently in China around 5,500 BC, though this line of partially domesticated cats leaves no trace in the domesticated populations of today. It seems that with development of agriculture, wildcats in the Near East and Asia very likely began to congregate near farms and grain stores, where mice and rats were abundant. At first, the cat was yet another opportunistic creature that evolved to take advantage of civilization. Somewhere along the line, people shifted from tolerating cats to welcoming them, providing extra food and a warm place to sleep.
Humans have also been slow to diversify cat breeds which started happening only about 150 years ago. Many dog, horse, and cattle breeds are more than five hundred years old, but the first documented cat fanciers’ show didn’t take place until 1871, at the Crystal Palace, in London, and the most modern cat breeds emerged only within the past fifty years.
A team led by St. Petersburg State University researchers reported the whole genome of the domestic cat (Felis silvestris catus) based on a female Abyssinian named Cinnamon who lives in Columbia, Missouri.
To better understand the process of evolution and domestication of, as we know today, domestic Cat (Felis silvestris catus ) scientists at Washington University compared Cinnamon’s genome with the genome assemblies of 22 purebreds from six other domestic cat breeds – the Egyptian Mau, Maine Coon, Norwegian Forest, Birman, Japanese Bobtail, and Turkish Van – and four wild cats belonging to two species, European wildcat (F. s. silvestris) and Near Eastern wildcat (F. s. lybica). Finally, to get a more complete cat biology picture, they also looked at four other mammals: tigers, dogs, cows, and humans which revealed some stunning facts.
Geneticist Wesley Warren and his colleagues from Washington University confirmed that, genetically, cats have diverged much less from their wildcat ancestors than dogs have from wolves, and that the cat genome has much more modest signatures of artificial selection. Because cats also retain sharper hunting skills than dogs, abandoned felines are more likely to survive without any human help. In some countries, feral cats routinely breed with their wildcat cousins. “There’s still a lot of genetic mixing,” Warren said. “You don’t have the true differentiation you see between wolf and dog. Using the dog as the best comparison, the modern cat is not what I would call fully domesticated.”
Of course not all scientists agree and there is still a lot of debate going on on interpretation of found facts regarding Cats domestication in comparison to other domestic animals as for example Dr. Melinda Zeder archeologist from Smithsonian Institution says: “Cats are domesticated,but I think what confuses people about cats is that they still carry some of the more aloof behaviors of their solitary wild progenitors. Sometimes they don’t give a damn about you, but they are very much part of your niche. Cats have us do everything for them. We clean their litter, stroke them, admire them, but unlike dogs they do not have to constantly please and satisfy our needs. They are probably the ultimate domesticate.”