Domesticated cats wandered into the homes of Neolithic man as far back as 10,000 years ago.  They’ve been wandering ever since.

A cat was found buried alongside a human in a 9500 year-old Cyprus grave according to an article published by the National Geographic.  The grave included seashells, decorative artifacts and polished stones.  According to the article, the proximity of the cat to the human (just 16 inches away), the relatively good condition of the remains, and the fact that the cat had no signs of butchering were all indicators that the cat had been deliberately buried with the human and that the cat was important to the human in some way.

brookfield ceracal

The Caracal

Cats Domesticated People

It is unclear when cats and humans first came together as companions, but images of cats appear on Neolithic pottery dating as far back as 10,000 BC.  Researchers do not believe that humans captured wild cats, brought them into their homes, and domesticated them.  Rather, they believe that cats, like rats, mice, sparrows and dogs, were commensal domesticates; that is, that they learned that if you hung out with humans, you were more likely to eat and to be protected. Early cats were thought to be favored by man for their excellent mousing abilities and skill at keeping grain fields and stores free of vermin.  Cats were not dragged into our homes.  Like today’s cats, they probably just walked right in.

First Cat Breeders Had Egyptian Area Codes

Egyptians and other Fertile Crescent inhabitants probably started purposeful cat breeding programs around 2000 BC. Cat genes indicate that as many as five different lineages of wild cats contributed to today’s purring companion, but it is believed that the closest relative is the African Wild cat.

brookfield wildcat

Domestic or wild? Hard to tell them apart, right? Like the cover photo, this is an African Wild Cat photographed in a national African park.

Still Wild At Heart

The African Wild Cat and today’s domesticated cat share many similarities in terms of appearance, nocturnal hunting tendencies, and lightening-fast reflexes.  Some species of wild cats are known to burrow.  A typical African Wildcat litter is three kittens, all of which are born blind and dependent on their mother for 6 weeks.  Another important similarity is their intense curiosity and urge to stray.  Interestingly, some breeds of African Wildcats almost never drink water.  Instead, nearly all of their water intake comes from the moisture they extract from their wild kill.  Cats’ natural tendency to ‘eat’ their water is behind the theory that wet food is better for cats than dry food, but remember that cats that eat dry food or that live in the wild are chewing on a crunchy substance (like the bones of mice) that help clean their teeth.  If you choose to feed only wet food, keep in mind that your cat is especially at risk for dental disease.

Roamers at Heart

As you may be aware, stray cats are not a good thing.  While most can live outside the care of humans, it is not the  life of Riley.  Stray cats are burdened with worms, fleas and malnutrition.  Litters of innocent kittens fall prey to permanently damaging or fatal diseases like feline distemper (correctly known as feline panleukopenia) that can leave them with life-long blindness or neurological issues.  All cats can contract rabies making them a threat to other animals and to humans.  They wreck local ecosystems by preying on young birds, small mammals and amphibians.  Domesticated cats, that arrived at Hawaii on ships, have ruined many populations of the island’s original, unique species.

brookfield cat in snow for web

Pretty picture, but miserable life. This is a real stray.  Looking noble, but struggling to live in the outside elements.

Protect Your Cat

Because of their intense interest in roaming, all cats should be microchipped, vaccinated annually, and treated with a topical flea and worm medication year-round.  Comfortably fitting identification collars can assist others in reuniting you with your cat should it ever be lost.

Brookfield animal shelters are typically burgeoning with stray cats.  At some rescue organizations, these lovely creatures that originally sought out a mutually beneficial relationship with man are euthanized regularly simply because pet owners fail to take easy steps to neuter and identify their pets.  If you don’t know how to start, give us a CALL so that we can help.