More like “wary coexistence”


Annalee Newitz writes about the domestication history of house cats. They’re odd in that they haven’t been bred away from the standard wildcat, so the idea is that they’ve only recently been domesticated, and haven’t yet undergone extensive genetic selection. Interesting, but I must disagree with her closing statement.

Or maybe cats will continue to defy domestication. They could carve out a place as one of the only animals to befriend humans without ever falling completely under our control.

“Befriend”? She hasn’t met my cat.

The Face of Evil

Comments

  1. FossilFishy (NOBODY, and proud of it!) says

    Presented without comment:

    The Cat Piano; Morose Delectation and Music
    https://youtu.be/3I1pEbiYSCw

    Okay, one comment: Adam Neely has some of the most interesting music nerd content on YouTube.

  2. jrkrideau says

    It will probably take some generations but cats will finally domesticate humans.

  3. cartomancer says

    My cats have been in charge of my breeding for years. They ensure I don’t.

  4. jrkrideau says

    Oh and for comets on cats see
    The Trainable Cat How to Make Life Happier for You and Your Cat
    John Bradshaw, Sarah Ellis

    Bradshaw is excellent on instinctive behaviour and Elllis is great on actual cat coaching particularly if you are behavourist.

  5. robro says

    I’ve lived with quite a few cats over the years…at one time 5 in our house. They’re ok, though I would prefer no pets. At least most cats will prey on the rats and mice. Since the last dog died so the last cat can come and go at will, the rats have disappeared from the house. Yeah!

    jrkrideau @ #4 — “It will probably take some generations but cats will finally domesticate humans.” I thought they had already achieved that.

  6. says

    I suspect that the relatively limited modification of domestic cats is because for most of the history of human-cat symbiosis, there wasn’t any reason to change them. The benefit of having them around was that they controlled the vermin who ate stored grain. They do that naturally. Dogs, in contrast, are put to all sorts of work that isn’t just being a wolf. Domesticated cats are neotenous, so they’re cuter and a bit friendlier than their wild relatives.

  7. blf says

    jrkrideau@6, “Oh and for comets on cats…”

    Comets on cats? Comets on cats?? Comets on cats???

    Comets, and cats, are certainly extraterrestrial†, but now that you’ve left both out of the bag, um, something

      † The mildly deranged penguin insists there is a reasonable probability some are not extra entirely extraterrestrial — some comets‡ that is…

      ‡ She also insists her comments are not entirely extraterrestrial… or deranged… or even hers§.

      § Rather like hair furor, except far more coherent. And humane. (Also penguinne.) And grounded in reality. Real reality. Some cheese — well, lots of cheese — is involved. No peas. Usually contains, is, or scares away, nuts.

  8. cartomancer says

    Also, people like to think that the Romans introduced cats throughout Europe. I like to think it was the other way round, with intrepid cat settlers bringing their tame Romans to build shelters and oppress any hostile native wildlife.

  9. davidnangle says

    cartomancer, good point. The clue, of course, is that they had their pets bring them Christians for play and lunch.

  10. What a Maroon, living up to the 'nym says

    According to the WashPost, cats accompanied the Vikings on their raids. Makes sense; Vikings were among the most cat-like peoples.

  11. whheydt says

    I am reminded of a cover on New Scientist, 30 some years ago (maybe longer). It showed a corral with domesticated animals inside and wild animals outside. The human is outside (IIRC) leaning on the fence. The cat is walking along the top rail of the fence.

    Back when I kept bees in the late 1970s, I came across some data on how the law treats various animals when there are–adverse–interactions with humans. There is a distinction between animals classed as “tame by nature”, e.g. dogs, where the owner can be held liable for damage done by the animal. The other classification is “wild by nature” where the owner can not be held liable. The “wild by nature” (ferae natura) group includes both cats and bees. (That is, you can’t be successfully sued because a bee from your hive stung somebody. And, indeed, at least at that time, the stingee wouldn’t be able to prove that it was even one of your bees.)

  12. brucegee1962 says

    I recommend the delightful book “Time Cat” by Lloyd Alexander (who also wrote “The Book of Three/Black Cauldron” series). Time Cat is all about a cat and his boy who go travelling through time and see the history of humans and cats, with chapters on Egypt, Rome, Britain, China, Germany (witchcraft), etc. They meet Leonardo da Vinci at one point.

  13. thirdmill says

    And that intelligent design is a fib — no intelligence would have designed them.

  14. davidnangle says

    I applaud that cat’s choice of white hairs within the ears, which sets up a lovely contrast, and allows members of its tribe to correctly identify body language clues at a great distance.

    Much like us, (and here comes some bait,) whose palm and sole skin stays distinctly different in shade, so that you can tell if the members of your tribe far ahead, just blobs in the heat haze of the savanna, are walking or running, and towards or away from you. This knowledge benefited your ancestors, and so you ended up with palms and soles that don’t tan.

  15. blf says

    Time Cat is all about a cat and his boy who go travelling through time […]. They meet Leonardo da Vinci at one point.

    Did they write “This is a fake” in modern ink on the wooden panel Leonardo then used for the Mona Lisa?

  16. Raucous Indignation says

    Look at her wee whittle nose! Look at it!! Look at the cuteness!!

  17. says

    blf @20

    Did they write “This is a fake” in modern ink on the wooden panel Leonardo then used for the Mona Lisa?

    I don’t know if they did that in Time Cat, but Tom Baker’s Doctor Who did that in one episode. As I recall, da Vinci was being forced to make several copies of the Mona Lisa so the villain could sell them in the future, and the Doctor wrote “this is a fake” or similar on the boards before they were painted.

  18. busterggi says

    Of course cats are our friends, if they weren’t they’d have killed us off long ago.

  19. blf says

    Of course cats are our friends, if they weren’t they’d have killed us off long ago.

    Who would open the cans then?

  20. says

    Cats are small furry police officers, some are really friendly and some would kill you if given opposable thumbs and a gun. Just don’t be late with the food.

  21. KG says

    I believe there’s a whole website for “cats that look like Hitler”. PZ’s cat may not have the toothbrush moustache, but it’s certainly got the glassy stare of insensate hatred down to a fine art!

  22. asclepias says

    Contrary to popular belief, cats can be trained–it just requires consistency. Years ago, when my family still had cats, my dad started saying, :Ooooh, kitty!” to whichever cat was lying on the bed at that time, and then threw the cat off. After a while, all he had to do was say, “Ooooh, kitty!”, and the cat would jump off the bed on its own.

  23. microraptor says

    What a Maroon:

    According to the WashPost, cats accompanied the Vikings on their raids. Makes sense; Vikings were among the most cat-like peoples.

    Vikings were easily distracted by bits of string?

  24. What a Maroon, living up to the 'nym says

    microraptor:

    Little known fact: the Viking marauding came to an end when their would-be victims developed an early precursor to the laser pointer.

  25. brett says

    I miss having my friend’s cat relatively nearby. He was so friendly, albeit kind of weird (he had a thing for sleeping around people’s heads when they were laying down).

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