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Thread: The domestication of Cats!

  1. #1 The domestication of Cats! 
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    Please share your opinion on this...

    Cats are the only pets that humans didn't deliberately domesticate... they joined us on their own terms. Rats would follow humans wherever we went because we are a large source of food. Unfortunately rats carry deadly diseases (such as the bubonic plague).

    Luckily to save the day, here come cats... They would hang around humans and feed off of these rats that followed us. It became a symbiotic relationship... cats get rid of disease carrying rats for us and we provided them with food. Over time we just became friends...

    This may account for cats' somewhat snobbish, independent attitude. In contrasts to dogs, which were specifically bred for various tasks and have an undying loyalty to humans.

    In any case, I'm wondering....

    Since we didn't deliberately seek to domesticate cats, are there many out there that come from a lineage that never grew accustomed to humans?

    If so, how would they behave?

    Should they act differently from their domesticated counterparts? Should (generationally) feral cats be distrusting of humans?

    What are your thoughts? Please share.


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    Scottish Wildcat

    "Although wildcats look similar to domestic cats, these are no feral or farm cats run wild; they're Britain's only remaining large wild predator and have walked this land for millions of years before mankind arrived or domestic cats appeared."
    Last edited by RedPanda; December 23rd, 2013 at 07:50 AM.
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    Did we intentionally domesticate dogs? I was under the impression that wolves sort of domesticated themselves as they found food sources within human-populated areas.

    As for cats, they are quick to go feral. I'm not sure if that has anything to do with domestication or if that is just their instinct. I would imagine any outliers that missed human domestication would behave in much the same way.
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    Did we intentionally domesticate dogs? I was under the impression that wolves sort of domesticated themselves as they found food sources within human-populated areas.
    We more or less did that. The wolves were attracted to us for those reasons initially. We selected and encouraged wolves/dogs with the characteristics we found useful and discouraged or rejected those with undesirable characteristics. And finished up with breeds of guard dogs, shepherding dogs, hunting dogs, tracker dogs, sheepdogs, cattle dogs and eventually animals that are entirely suited as companion dogs, lap dogs, and as guide dogs or support dogs.
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    I understand how we began breeding dogs, but I am just of two minds about how we initially became mutualistic with one another. Did the wolves move into an ecological niche established by human food waste? It just seems unlikely to me that we sought out dogs for a purpose. If the initial process was one of self-domestication, do we establish the entire process as such? I know it was an extremely long and complex process.

    EDIT: I find the human/dog relationship fascinating. Same for cats.
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    Think it's quite likely chickens had a large role in domesticating themselves starting as wild game hanging around early grain storage sites taking the spilled seed much like the nuthatches in my backyard.
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    Well, i still can't explain how it is that wolves got friendly with people, instead of trying to take the humans food for themselves. Coyotes, raccoons and foxes have not domesticated themselves. So what makes wolves different?
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    All you need is cocaine and B.F. Skinner.

    And maybe early childhood too.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zwolver View Post
    Well, i still can't explain how it is that wolves got friendly with people, instead of trying to take the humans food for themselves. Coyotes, raccoons and foxes have not domesticated themselves. So what makes wolves different?
    Possibly because we don't see a use for the raccoon, so we haven't tried to form a relationship. Wolves may have presented a better opportunity to fill a niche WE felt was open in a wilder world (protection, assistance in the hunt) which is no longer required.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zwolver View Post
    Well, i still can't explain how it is that wolves got friendly with people, instead of trying to take the humans food for themselves. Coyotes, raccoons and foxes have not domesticated themselves. So what makes wolves different?
    Wolves are social animals who hunt in packs, like humans. They are naturally more compatible.
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    Like Harold states...Comparing cats and dogs is apples and oranges. One is a solitary hunter, one a social animal.

    History is fuzzy when it comes to anything before written history...even then it is fuzzy. Humans and dogs don't come in any one size fits all social groupings. Nomadic hunters, gatherers, etc. are as varied as the ecosystems they found themselves in. Any early relationship between animals and humans is educated speculation...interesting but not definitive. Paleo and archeological evidence is sketchy and incomplete.
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    I understand the domesticated "house" cat derived from the African wildcat about 4,000 years ago in North Africa, and that its European names (represented here as English cat) came through the Latin and Greek when it was introduced to Europe about 2,000 years ago, ultimately from North African languages, and was used instead of, for example, the more common Latin feles and its derivatives.

    I can't say that humans didn't deliberately domesticate cats. Certainly, for actual use in the house, the wilder ones must have been disfavored, and that's a form domestication, even if they were relegated to prowling the barns and fields. Many different breeds exist, which also indicates deliberate breeding, if not downright domestication. Certainly the size and behavior spectrums are much narrower than those for dogs, but perhaps that's the nature of the beasts. I mean, cats are mostly carnivores, and it has probably limited their size and behavior possibilities.
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    If we simply tamed any animal that hung around with us, then cats wouldn't never have been domesticated.
    Quote Originally Posted by Flick Montana View Post
    I understand how we began breeding dogs, but I am just of two minds about how we initially became mutualistic with one another. Did the wolves move into an ecological niche established by human food waste? It just seems unlikely to me that we sought out dogs for a purpose.
    I think that the 'purpose' is key.
    We only domesticated the animals which had a purpose. (Later on, we domesticated 'ornamental' animals, e.g. birds).
    I guess that the test would be: "Do we have any domesticated animals which have no significant purpose?".

    Cats seem to have the least purpose - but they also seem the least domesticated.
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    Cats seem to have the least purpose - but they also seem the least domesticated.
    I think that they're just less versatile than dogs. For farmers and merchants, their value was - and still is in many places - in controlling vermin, mice and rats, which can damage or entirely destroy stored grains and other foods. Even though cats themselves can't be trusted with chickens, keeping down the rats is a way to keep the maximum number of eggs safe in a henhouse or barn or even in the open. What use is a cat to a nomad or a hunter or a forager?

    You can use small breeds of terrier dogs to hunt out rats - but other dogs can do other things for you. Like waking the whole household when human strangers or unwanted animals approach the house/ barn/ field/ herd/ flock.
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    Quote Originally Posted by adelady View Post
    I think that they're just less versatile than dogs. For farmers and merchants, their value was - and still is in many places - in controlling vermin, mice and rats, which can damage or entirely destroy stored grains and other foods.
    They can also be used to measure how small a room is...
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    Quote Originally Posted by RedPanda View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by adelady View Post
    I think that they're just less versatile than dogs. For farmers and merchants, their value was - and still is in many places - in controlling vermin, mice and rats, which can damage or entirely destroy stored grains and other foods.
    They can also be used to measure how small a room is...
    Or to be both dead and alive inside a box. Until looked inside.
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  19. #18  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zwolver View Post
    Or to be both dead and alive inside a box. Until looked inside.
    Or



    From "101 Uses of a Dead Cat"
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  20. #19  
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    That's thinking out of the box 1-0-1. Would never thought of using a cat as a pencil sharpener. This makes a living cat only slightly more usefull than a dead one. If cats would taste good, we would have a tie.
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    Growing up, i marveled at star-trek's science, and ignored the perfect society. Now, i try to ignore their science, and marvel at the society.

    Imagine, being able to create matter out of thin air, and not coming up with using drones for boarding hostile ships. Or using drones to defend your own ship. Heck, using drones to block energy attacks, counterattack or for surveillance. Unless, of course, they are nano-machines in your blood, which is a billion times more complex..
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  21. #20  
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    Alpha6, cats were ubiquitous and appreciated in ancient Egypt since we began storing grain. So initially cats would have been attracted by the mice of permanent settlements, perhaps at night when humans aren't stomping about. After a few generations of cats born in close proximity to humans, and trained by their mothers to boldly snatch mice from granaries, cats would associate human settlements with food... like sea gulls associate fishing boats with food.

    The practice of directly feeding cats is new, and defeats the original relationship. A fed cat is a poor mouser. This probably explains why people didn't keep housecats thousands of years ago, though the Egyptians loved cats, and early civilizations recorded their vain efforts to domesticate all sorts of animals including lions and crocodiles.

    Dogs, we had better uses for them than eating animals around our settlements (in fact we'd rather they don't kill off the local geese and rabbits) so feeding dogs our unwanted scraps was a good arrangement.

    In Japan perhaps the majority of cats are semi-feral. They hide in parks and skulk around neighborhoods. Typically a person will open a tin of fish or cat food and place it outside, much like feeding birds. These cats timidly approach humans but won't dare enter a house. So apparently kindness isn't enough to domesticate a cat. They must be raised as kittens and remain kittens psychologically in their relationship to humans.
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    Given the relative amount of effort humans spend trying to please cats versus what cats spend trying to please humans I think it probably more accurate to say cats have domesticated humans.
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    Quote Originally Posted by danhanegan View Post
    Given the relative amount of effort humans spend trying to please cats versus what cats spend trying to please humans I think it probably more accurate to say cats have domesticated humans.
    You've mis-spelled "enslaved".

    I, for one, worship my feline overlords.
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    Firstly I think that cats are not fully domesticated. They seem that they have their own agenda or tasks they want to complete. I mean up until recently they started putting tracking devices on cats to see where they really go. They found that outdoor cats usually just circle a certain radius around the nearby streets. This is interesting because there seems to be some imaginary lines of where a cat will and will not go. It would seem that these cats are polite to not mingle in another cats territory. But what is interesting is that there was a cat that would disturb another cat not by fighting but by showing that he can and will hang out in the other cats territory. This caused frustration in the other cat. Cat definitely seem to have a personality and sometimes it seems that they are just opportunistic. This mentality of being opportunistic is what causes them to always come back for the most part. A dog would just get lost or be a nuisance. So there is so much I wonder about why cats are somewhat domesticated but yet still are independent as well as they seem to be able to take care of themselves. A house dog would most likely get lost if put outside which is weird because a wolf can survive outside. I have rarely seen where a dog can survive being outside when it has been a house dog. With cats they are just natural born hunters no matter if they are indoor or outdoor.
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