A look into how cats are domesticated and what that means for their owners.
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The Origins of Domestic Cats
Cats have been domesticated for thousands of years. It is thought that the first domesticated cats were from Egypt. Cats were domesticated because they were good at hunting rodents. They were also thought to be good luck charms. Today, cats are domesticated all over the world and are one of the most popular pets.
The Feline Family Tree
Cats are unique creatures that have captivated the hearts of humans for thousands of years. We’ve all heard stories about how cats were domesticated, but the truth is that the origins of our feline friends are shrouded in mystery.
The feline family tree can be traced back to two ancient lines: the African wildcat and the European wildcat. The African wildcat is the most likely candidate for being the direct ancestor of domestic cats, as they are most closely related to modern house cats. African wildcats were probably first domesticated in the Middle East, where they were revered as gods and goddesses.
The European wildcat is another possible ancestor of domestic cats, although they are not as closely related to house cats as African wildcats are. European wildcats were likely domesticated in Europe during the Renaissance, when they were prized as ratters and hunters.
While the exact origins of domestic cats may never be known for certain, we do know that they have been beloved companions of humans for centuries.
The First Domestic Cats
The first domestic cats may have been tamed in ancient Egypt, where they were revered for their ability to kill vermin and snakes. Cats eventually made their way to other parts of the world, including Europe and Asia.
In the Middle Ages, cats were often associated with witchcraft, and they were killed because it was believed that they could turn into witches’ familiars. It wasn’t until the 1500s that cats began to be accepted as pets in Europe.
Cats arrived in North America with the early settlers. They quickly became popular pets, and they also helped to control rodents on ships and in warehouses. Today, there are an estimated 96 million pet cats in the United States.
How Domestic Cats Are Bred
Over time, cats have become one of the most popular pets in the world. In the United States, there are an estimated 86 million pet cats.1 Domestic cats, Felis silvestris catus, are members of the Felidae, or cat, family. They are often referred to as house cats when kept as indoor pets. A house cat is any domesticated cat that does not have a job working with humans.
In the Wild
Cats have been domesticated for thousands of years, but the process by which they became our furry, purring house pets is a relatively recent one. In the wild, cats are free to mate with any other cat they choose, and their offspring will inherit a variety of traits from both parents. This random breeding results in a wide range of colors, patterns and personalities in the (feral) cat population.
Domestic cats, on the other hand, are bred by humans to produce specific desired traits. For example, a breeder might want to create a new cat breed that has the best features of both Siamese and Persian cats. To do this, they would carefully select two cats with the desired traits (long fur, blue eyes, etc.) and breed them together. The offspring of these two cats would then be bred with each other or with other carefully selected cats to produce even more consistent results.
Over time, this process of selective breeding can result in dramatic changes in a cat’s appearance and temperament. For example, the modern-day Siamese cat is significantly different from its wild ancestors in both appearance and personality.
In Captivity – Kittens are usually born in the spring. The gestation period lasts about 65 days. However, births can occur year-round in warm climates. The average litter size is four kittens, but litters of six to eight kittens are not unusual. The kittens are born blind and deaf and are totally dependent on their mother for survival.
The mother cat will usually begin weaning her litter at around six weeks of age. At this time, the kittens will start to eat solid food and gain independence. Kittens usually stay with their mothers until they are around nine months old, at which point they will leave to establish their own territories.
The Characteristics of Domestic Cats
Although different in many ways from their wild ancestors, domestic cats still retain many of the same physical characteristics. They are digitigrade carnivores of the Feliformia suborder and Felidae family, and have behaviors and physical traits that have been shaped by millennia of close association with humans. All of these characteristics make them one of the most popular pets in the world.
Domestic cats come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. The average house cat is usually between 8 and 10 inches tall at the shoulder and weigh between 8 and 10 pounds. However, some domesticated cats can weigh as much as 20 pounds or more. The largest domesticated cat on record was a male Maine Coon named Hercules who weighed in at over 28 pounds.
Cats come in a dizzying array of colors and patterns. The genetics of color in domestic cats is complex, and many variations are possible. The variations appear mainly due to the actions of two genes. One gene controls whether pigment is present in the cat’s fur at all; if this gene is turned off, the cat will be white. The other gene controls how much pigment is present; if this gene is turned off, the cat will be a light shade of the original color.
There are also a number of other genes that can affect color, including those that control patterns like stripes or spots. Most domestic cats are some shade of gray or brown, but there are also black, white, red, and cream-colored cats. Some cats have two colors (known as bi-color), while others have three or more (known as parti-color or multi-color). Patterns include pointed (also known as Siamese), tabby, calico, tortoiseshell, and Himalayan.
When thinking about whether or not they want a cat, many people consider temperament. After all, who wants a frisky feline terrorizing the home and furniture? The good news is that, in general, domestic cats are much calmer than their wild ancestors. However, there is still some variation among individual cats.
While all cats have the potential to show affection, some are more outgoing than others. Similarly, some cats will be more independent and aloof, while others will want to be involved in everything you do. If you’re looking for a lap cat that will always want to snuggle, you might want to choose a breed like the Ragdoll or Siamese. If you’d prefer a cat that is a little more independent, consider breeds like the Sphynx or Russian Blue.
Of course, even within breeds there can be variation in temperament, so it’s important to spend time with any potential cat before making a decision. The best way to get to know a cat’s personality is to visit a shelter or rescue organization and spend time with several different cats before choosing one to take home.
How Domestic Cats Differ from Wild Cats
First, let’s start with a brief history of how cats were domesticated. Cats were first domesticated in the Middle East about 9,000 years ago. They were brought to Europe in the Middle Ages and became popular in England in the 18th century. Nowadays, there are about 500 million domestic cats in the world. So, how do domestic cats differ from their wild ancestors?
All cats, domestic or otherwise, are members of the Felidae family. This means that they’re all closely related. A 2013 study published in the journal Nature found that the domestic cat is a descendant of the Near Eastern wildcat, which is a subspecies of the wildcat that inhabits parts of Europe, the Middle East and Central Asia. The Near Eastern wildcat is thought to have been domesticated between 10,000 and 8,000 BCE.
While all members of the Felidae family share certain physical characteristics — they’re all carnivores with sharp claws and teeth, for example — there are some notable differences between domestic cats and their wild ancestors. For one thing, domestic cats tend to be much smaller than wildcats. The average house cat weighs between 4 and 5 pounds (1.8 to 2.3 kilograms), while a tiger can weigh up to 660 pounds (300 kg).
Domestic cats also have shorter legs than wildcats — another adaptation that likely arose as a result of living in close proximity to humans. Their skulls are also slightly different, with rounder brains and shorter jaws. And while all cats have whiskers on their faces, those of domestic cats are usually shorter and less stiff than those of their wild counterparts.
The difference between domestic and wild cats is mostly one of behavior. Domestic cats have been bred for generations to be tame, trusting, and relatively easy to handle, while wild cats are generally shy around humans and difficult to train. However, there are some behavioral differences even between domestic cats of different breeds; for example, Siamese cats are known for being very social and affectionate, while Persian cats tend to be more independent.
In general, domestic cats are less active than their wild counterparts. They spend more time sleeping and less time prowling and hunting. This is likely due to a combination of factors, including a lessening of the need to hunt for food as well as the fact that many domestic cats are fed a diet that is higher in calories than what they would typically find in the wild.
Onebehavioral difference that is often seen between domestic and wild cats is in their interactions with other animals. Domestic cats are generally not aggressive toward other animals unless they feel threatened, while wildcats will often attack other animals even when they are not hungry. This difference is likely due to the fact that domestic cats have been bred to be trusting of humans, while wildcats have had no such interaction with humans and so see them as a potential threat.