The Origins Of Cats

by catfood

The domestic cat is one of the Felidae family’s most recently developed creatures and and the origins of cats.


Within the Felidae family, three distinct genera have been recognized:

  • Panthera (cats that roar – lions, tigers, leopards, snow leopards, clouded leopards and jaguars)
  • Acinonyx (the Cheetah)
  • Felis (the rest of the “little” cats)

Felidae family categorization is difficult, in part because it is difficult to distinguish between species based on their phenotypic and morphological characteristics. For instance, distinguishing a lion’s skull from a tiger’s skull can be difficult, even for experts. More recent genetic analyses suggest that eight clusterings or lineages within the Felidae family will go extinct; this knowledge could be the basis for a future reclassification of the family.


Shared characteristics

All cats have evolved into predatory hunters with highly developed hearing, sight, and olfactory senses. According to anatomical characteristics such as the rounded head and skeletal structure, all 37 identified species within the Felidae family are assumed to have originated from a common ancestor, who most likely lived in Asia between 10 and 12 million years ago. With the exception of the Arctic, Antarctic, and Australia, the Felidae family has rapidly spread and diversified over the past 10 to 11 million years, and by 3 million years ago, cats were present in every continent but the Arctic, Antarctic, and Australia. Over many millennia, the rise and fall of sea levels helped to separate the development of species and to create conditions that permitted Felidae species to move about and occupy various geographic locations (when sea levels were low) (when sea levels were high). The requirement to follow the prey species they hunted on as well as the ancestor cats’ natural tendency to disperse and seek out their own territories probably made global migration easier.

Felidae have the most sophisticated carnivorous hunting strategies of any animal species. All other wild cats have developed as solitary animals, with the exception of lions, which are solitary animals that can hunt and survive on their own. Cats are scavengers that create their own hunting grounds. To mark out their territory, cats mostly use scent. They get together mostly to mate.

With the exception of lions, where the males have a distinctive mane, male and female cats appear to be relatively similar, despite the fact that male cats are normally a bit larger. Their back feet have four digits, compared to five on their front feet. When they are hunting, the pads that protect their digits also help to mute sound. Except for the cheetah, all cats have retractable claws.

Cats can be seen with a wide range of coat colors, which are adaptations that assist their lifestyle of hunting in the wild and allow them to fit in with their surroundings.


The evolution and adaptation of Felis catus

Although it was previously believed that these were wild cats, fossil evidence from the earliest human settlements demonstrates that cats and people coexisted. Initially, it was thought that Egypt was the place where true domestication—or, perhaps more accurately, “taming”—of cats started, some 3600 years ago. The primary ancestor of the current Felis catus has been determined to be the African wildcat known as Mau, whose skulls were found in Egyptian cat cemeteries (some literature also list it as Felis lybica). The primary source of the feline ancestor of the present Felis catus is now thought to have been this wild cat, which is currently found in Asia and North Africa. However, more recent studies suggest that the domestication of cats most likely occurred 10,000 years ago or more in the Middle East, in the Fertile Crescent region. Given that there were no wild cats on Cyprus, it is expected that domestication began earlier than this. A cat that was discovered purposely interred with its owner in a cemetery in Cyprus around 9500 years ago represents the oldest real evidence of domestication.

Living nearby other people

Israel produced the earliest evidence of human grain storage around 10,000 years ago, and it is now understood that the expansion of grain storage resulted in an accumulation and growth in the house mouse population. This rise in rodent populations is said to have attracted wild cats to live close to humans at first before later motivating their domestication. Self-selection may have helped in the domestication and taming of these wild animals because cats that are more tolerant of people would have been more likely to approach human settlements.

Cats were regularly seen in the Fertile Crescent in conjunction with human settlements about 3700 years ago (Israel and the neighboring nations). In the form of the goddess Bastet, cats were acknowledged as a “official divinity” in Egypt around 2900 years ago. Many cats were sacrificed to Bastet at that time and mummified, demonstrating the Egyptians’ active involvement in cat breeding. Increasing amounts of data show that by the year 2000, cats had spread throughout Europe.

Modern cats

Genetic research has revealed that Felis sylvestris lybica is the direct ancestor of domestic cats, with its DNA being almost identical to that of contemporary domestic cats worldwide. The DNA of other tiny cats forms distinct, unrelated clusters, including that of the European Wildcat (Felis sylvetris), Central Asian Wildcats (F s ornata), and Southern African Wildcats (F s cafra).

The extinct felis sylvestris lybica is a lone nocturnal hunter, despite having a little lighter (more sandy-colored) coat than domestic tabby cats. Because rodent prey is a rather scarce resource, members of this species are dispersed far across the savanna and have sizable territorial areas.

The criteria for defining a certain animal species are somewhat ambiguous. Generally speaking, it is impossible for distinct species to interbreed, and this is also true in nature. Although the offspring are normally infertile, several cat species, including lions and tigers, can interbreed when bred in captivity. However, due to its close resemblance to the wildcat, the domestic cat (Felis catus), still has the capacity to interbreed with this species and this does occur in the wild with fertile offspring (Felis sylvestris). The number of genetically distinct purebred wild cats is dwindling as a result of interbreeding between feral and stray cats and the native wildcat in some regions (e.g. in Scotland and Hungary).

The domestic cat should actually be regarded as a sub-species of the wildcat, i.e. Felis sylvestris catus, according to current study, despite the fact that this nomenclature is still widely used. In 1758, Carolus Linnaeus designated the domestic cat as Felis catus for the first time.


Domestication of felines

Felis catus is the name given to the species of wildcats that have a close relationship with humans. However, this shouldn’t be viewed as “domestication” in the same way that dogs and other animals are. Since they were originally domesticated, cats’ morphology and behavior have generally not changed all that much; they still share many traits with their wild cat ancestors. Even after being domesticated, they are still fully capable of surviving in the wild, and many of them do.

There are two main theories for how cats became domesticated: either the original wildcats (Felis sylvestris lybica) were deliberately domesticated and selected for friendliness, or they gradually diverged from their ‘wild’ relatives through natural selection and adaptation to hunting the vermin found around human settlements. The latter is more likely, at least in the early stages of taming, because other animals, such as ferrets and dogs, would actually have been far more successful and effective if human pest control had been the goal. In either case, a variety of cat traits, including their small size, gregarious nature, body language, love of play, high intelligence, and possibly an underlying tendency for tameness in all small felids, may have facilitated the domestication of cats.

Because most domestic animals, unlike cats, are descendants of herd or pack animals, their advantages to humans are noticeably more evident and palpable. The exception to this rule is cats! Most cats are not domesticated in the strictest sense of the word; domestication is the entire management of breeding, care, and reproduction by humans, resulting in a population that is isolated in terms of reproduction The only cats to which this actually applies are pedigree pets, which make up a very small portion of the total pet cat population.

Cats’ resemblance to their wild cousins in many respects and imitation of many of their habits, although being domesticated, is unquestionably one of the main reasons people today prefer to own cats. However, domestic cats still share a number of characteristics with their desert-dwelling ancestors, including the ability to survive on very little water intake because they produce pee that is more concentrated than that of dogs and relatively dry excrement, which prevents water loss. In contrast to humans, who start to feel uncomfortable when their skin temperature exceeds 44.5 degrees Celsius, animals can resist high temperatures, not showing signs of pain until their skin temperature reaches 52 degrees Celsius. Additionally, over the duration of a 24-hour period, the body temperature of a domestic cat does not change (as they tend to be active both during the day and at night).

READ NEXT: The Social Structure of Cat Life




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