Cats are the second most popular companion animal, but how did they become domesticated? Read on to find out!
Cats are immensely popular; there's no denying that. They are the kings and queens of the internet. Cat cafes exist around the world and at one point in history, humans even worshipped cats. But you also hear "cats are evil" and the mean cat or grumpy cat memes are legendary, to say the least. Cats have also been credited with millions of birds each year.. for fun. So what's the scoop here? Why is the human-cat relationship so paradoxical? How did cats become one of the most popular animals to bring home? And while we're asking questions, how's this doozy? If all domesticated animals were domesticated for a purpose - for milk, fur, meat or in the case of dogs for protection... Why did we domesticate cats?
Turns out, cats were domesticated accidentally, and they might have had a lot more to do with it than us humans did! As human settlements grew, our garbage did, too. Animals like badgers, foxes, and wildcats snuck in to steal what they thought of as a reliable dinner spot. With time, the large round eyes, and short jaws, cats were endearing to humans, reminding us of babies. In fact, cats even developed meowing to endear themselves to humans even more. Their meows - terrible, but an adorable attempt at sounding like a crying baby made it easier for them to gain favour with humans and easy access to all that delicious food.
Findings also seem to show that our growing settlements and agricultural activities had brought new problems with it. Rats and mice would damage grains, while cats would hunt the vermin (Pest control!)! And just like that, cats had invited themselves to the party that was human civilization and decided to stay. With time, the more docile cats were favoured, and we got the house cats we have today.
Interestingly, when compared to dogs, cats have only ever been bred for their appearance while dogs have been bred for various traits to give us the different breeds we have today. One of the first patterns to show up domesticated cats which distinctly separated them from their wild counterparts was the tabby pattern. And while you get dogs of all kinds of appearances and propensities for certain traits, with cats - you’ll get all kinds of appearances, but traits? Well, those remain the same.
With cats, we didn't seek to domesticate them and we certainly weren't looking for companion animals. As with dogs, human relationships with cats became centred around food. Our modern-day relationship with cats is simply the result of a chain reaction caused by humans' unintentional interaction with the world around them. They reacted to our growing settlements; we didn't chase them away; they stayed. You could say that humans take all responsibility for the domestication of animals, it could also simply be the evolution of how things were meant to be. Intentional or not, cats have found human laps to purr on and it doesn't look like the kings and queens of the internet are going anywhere, anytime soon.