What Does “Domesticated Cat” Really Mean?

December 01, 2017
A domestic animal is one that has been suited to survive in the company of human beings. Its behavior, life cycle, or physiology has been altered as a result of breeding and living conditions under human control for multiple generations. Domestication happens because humans them to help with work, to produce food or commodities, and for companionship.  The first recorded date for cat domestication was 3500 BC to 7500 BC in Egypt or Cyprus where they were held sacred for their ability to kill rodents.

According to US Census information, there are 60 million domesticated cats in America. Domesticated cats still have their innate hunting instinct to capture birds, rodents, and small mammals. The National Audobon Society has recorded a significant decrease or extinction of several bird species due to the cat population. Cats evolved from being non-social carnivores to parasites of civilization before being domesticated.

Today’s housecat is very similar to it ancestor, the African Wildcat. It has retained its superb eyesight and keen hearing that has helped it survive in the wild.

According to physiologist Jared Diamond, animal species must meet six criteria in order to be considered for domestication:
Flexible diet— Creatures that are willing to consume a wide variety of food sources and can live off less cumulative food from the food pyramid are less expensive to keep in captivity. Most carnivores can only be fed meat, which requires the expenditure of many herbivores.
Reasonably fast growth rate— Fast maturity rate compared to the human life span allows breeding intervention and makes the animal useful within an acceptable duration of caretaking. Large animals such as elephants require many years before they reach a useful size.
Ability to be bred in captivity — Creatures that are reluctant to breed when kept in captivity do not produce useful offspring, and instead are limited to capture in their wild state. Creatures such as the panda and cheetah are difficult to breed in captivity.
Pleasant disposition — Large creatures that are aggressive toward humans are dangerous to keep in captivity. The African buffalo has an unpredictable nature and is highly dangerous to humans.
Temperament which makes it unlikely to panic — A creature with a nervous disposition is difficult to keep in captivity as they will attempt to flee whenever they are startled. The gazelle is very flighty and it has a powerful leap that allows it to escape an enclosed pen.
Modifiable social hierarchy— Social creatures that recognize a hierarchy of dominance can be raised to recognize a human as its pack leader. A herding instinct arguably aids in domesticating animals: tame one and others will follow, regardless of chiefdom.

Cats can learn how to use a litter box, remember its name, and recognize its owner. Many cats know what a doorknob is and how to use it. Cats know that a toilet bowl is a toilet without messing or drinking from it. Cats make contact with humans with their voices and “dance” after making a hunt or kill. The “dance” is a happy dance and signals joy. Domesticated cats have gradually changed coat patterns and color since they have no need to camouflage in the wild. Domestic cat’s brain size has been reduced in size by 30% since they can rely on humans.

The biggest difference between pet cats and other domesticated animals is that pet cats are maintaining their instincts from the wild. In spite of such a fact, cats still have comfortable lives living with humans. Humans often consider owning cats the same as owning other animals, but perhaps human environment is part of cats’ wild, and different from other animals. For other domesticated animals, human environment is a human environment. Living with humans is just another wild environment, which humans determine as wild, but easier for cats to live in. Then it is easier to understand why cats have not had to lose their instincts living with humans

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