The Domestication of Felis catus
For centuries, humans have been fascinated by cats. Their sleek yet powerful bodies, the unbelievable softness and exotic patterns of their fur, and how a creature dubbed one of nature’s most accurate and deadly predators can just as easily snuggle up next to you in calm serenity.
When we think of cats and humans, we typically think of the ancient Egyptians, known for their reverence and near worship of these creatures. But felines and humans have been working in harmony since before and long after.
However, in 2004, an archaeological dig revealed a Neolithic grave with a human lovingly buried with their cat.
This significantly moves the previously estimated timeline where cats were thought to have been domesticated in China 5,300 years ago to more than 9,500 years ago.
From Ancient Egypt…
To Buddhist Monks…
To Medieval Farmers…
And Pirates to Navy Soldiers…
We have evolved alongside cats as much as they evolved with us.
Buddhist monks in the high mountains of the Hymilayas, unable to take the life of any creature, welcomed cats into their monasteries to keep rodents from nibbling at their scrolls and manuscripts.
Medieval farms noticed their food stores were healthier and less preyed upon by mice and rats when a stray cat or two adopted their residence.
And it became taboo not to keep a cat on board a ship as they not only helped kill any vermin that snuck on board at harbor, but also made great companions for the crew during their long voyages at sea.
Predator AND Prey
Every decision a cat makes is based on one thought: How Will I Survive Today.
In the wild, cats are both predators and prey. They are prey to large dogs, coyotes, bears, and any number of large carnivores all across the globe.
As a Predator, survival means finding food efficiently.
As Prey, survival means avoiding other predators.
When approaching any training situation with your cat, remember:
Dogs Live to Please. Cats Live to Survive.
When you ask your cat to do something, always remember that there must be something in it for them.
All Maine Coons have an “M” on their forehead.
FALSE: An ‘M’ shape on the forehead is derived from a cat’s pattern, not their breed. Specifically, this comes from the Tabby gene. Many breeds exist that exhibit the Tabby gene, and Maine Coons come in a variety of colors, not just the tabby pattern.
All gray cats are descendants of/are Russian Blues.
FALSE: Coat color does not denote a breed. The Russian Blue is only one breed of cat known for it’s solid blue color.
Chartreux, Nebelung, and Korat are all pure-gray (or blue) cat breeds!
Cats are nocturnal
Mostly True: In the wild, the prey felines typically hunt is active from dusk to dawn. Small rodents, sleepy birds coming to roost or just waking, some insects.
However, in situations where a cat is no longer dependent on themselves to catch their own food (i.e. pets), cats will adjust their sleeping patterns to yours over time.
Cats are untrainable
FALSE: Cats are totally trainable! Many cats are leash and harness trained, as well as clicker trained!
Training a cat is a bit different from training a dog, and starting young is key.
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Milk is good for cats
FALSE: Cats are mammals, and are born with the ability to digest their mother’s milk through an enzyme called LACTASE. But when a kitten is weaned (around 8 weeks), their body stops producing this enzyme. Just like humans, cats can be lactose intolerant, especially after this weaning phase. And consuming the milk from another species is not the same as milk from another cat.
Some cats can enjoy a teaspoon or two of milk as a treat every once in awhile, but even this small amount can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach upset. It’s best not to risk it.
Cats are loners
Mostly False: Just like humans, some cats do prefer to be alone, but most actually appreciate companionship! This may come in the form of another feline, or even a rabbit, dog, etc.
It is highly recommended when adopting a new kitten to adopt kittens in pairs. They will keep each other company and mentally engaged.