If you’re lucky enough to share your life with a cat, you know it’s only because your cat has approved of the conditions. It’s not that they aren’t as loyal or affectionate as their canine counterparts, but domesticated cats are still, at their very core, quite wild. Humans have lived with dogs for 30 millennia; cats for only a third of that time. If they are nearly physically and genetically identical to their wild cousins, how is it that domesticated cats have successfully found their way into human communities?
The domesticated cats that people adopt today evolved from the North African/Southwest Asian wildcat, Felis silvestris lybica. After studying ancient feline DNA, experts concluded that domestication began in the Fertile Crescent and then picked up speed in ancient Egypt. Human and cat remains were discovered together in Cypress, dating back almost 10,000 years.
While their ancestors may have been attracted to ancient human settlements in order to hunt rodents, they stuck around for many other reasons. Friendship, security, warmth, and curiosity all helped to establish and form the most enduring human-animal bond.
The genetic differences between wild and domesticated cats influence their personality traits. Wild cats are aggressive hunters and highly territorial. Domesticated cats have evolved to form memories. They learn through rewards and, in turn, tolerate and even welcome human interaction. They also live among other animals, like dogs, something that wild cats would never stand for.
The Few Differences
Despite their significant intelligence, domesticated cats actually have smaller brains than wild cats. They also have vertical slit pupils, whereas wild cats have round pupils to accommodate their diurnal hunting lifestyles. Lastly, large wild cats cannot purr like domesticated felines. Their specialized anatomy allows them to roar instead.
Domesticated cats are still evolving, just like us. They share about 95% of their DNA with tigers, so it’s unsurprising that they have a great deal in common, such as:
- Wild and domesticated cats both sleep upwards of 20 hours every day.
- When they’re not sleeping, up to half of their waking life is spent self-grooming.
- They share sharp senses of smell, and use their open mouths to increase the sense.
- They are both obligate carnivores, meaning they only require the nutrients found in meat.
- Both wild and domesticated cats prefer to hunt in the hours surrounding dawn and dusk.
- They both enjoy food games.
- Both wild and domesticated cats use various sounds to communicate.
- They both mark their territory (including urine spraying, pheromone rubbing, or scratching)
Respecting Domesticated Cats
Regardless of where you sit on the cat-adoration spectrum, you have to hand it to them. They are one of the only species to have domesticated themselves. Considering how many cat species survive in the wild, that’s no small feat!
If you have any questions about the health, behaviors, or personalities of domesticated cats, please let us know. We’re always here for you at Godspeed Animal Care.