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postheadericon Cats are unlike any other domesticated animal in that they have retained an independent streak despite centuries of living with humans

Cats are unlike any other domesticated animal in that they have retained an independent streak despite centuries of living with humans. In fact, the history of feline domestication is thought to go back as far as the Ancient Egyptians in the third millennia B.C.

It is clear that the Egyptians had a fascination with cats that can be seen in pictures, art and artifacts. However, it is almost impossible to tell whether these were domesticated or wild animals. Nevertheless, by 1600 B.C. the volume of cats featured in Egyptian art has led historian to believe that cats were, at least to some extent, domesticated by this time.

Why Did Cats Begin to Live with Humans?

In most cases of domestication, humans instigated the relationship with the animal for their own gains. However, with cats, the story is slightly different. It is thought that cats were drawn to humans for warmth, security and food. You may have noticed in your own cat that felines tend to take the path of least resistance and the offer a free meal and a cozy fire seems to have been too much to resist.

It was then that humans realized that cats came with benefits – a reduction in mice and rats. So, understandably, people tried to encourage the cats to stay. As the relationship was just as beneficial for them, they did.

Why Did Cats Retain Their Independence?

Whether you are a cat lover or not, you will be aware of the huge difference between cats and other domesticated animals. Sometimes known as the most domesticated wild animal, the vast majority of cats look upon humans with disinterest and, at times, utter disdain. There can be no question, cats live with us, but, as has always been the case, very much on their own terms.

So, why are cats so different to other domestic animals? Well, there are two principal reasons. First, is the way that a cat would live in the wild. Cats are solitary creatures (with the exception of lions and cheetah), therefore they do not live in a pack or herd that has a defined leader. In other words, a wild cat is a law unto itself. Consequently, when it comes to training or domesticating these animals, it is almost impossible, because humans cannot assert themselves as surrogate leaders.

Moreover, the domestication of cats did not involve any kind of selective breeding until the late part of the 1800s. Subsequently, unlike dogs, horses, goats, sheep and other domestic animals, the feline breeding program is centuries behind. Obviously, the aim of selective breeding is to select the character traits that are most suited to a life lived with humans. Due to religious and superstitious reasons, cats were seen as handy assets, but not pets. Therefore, human intervention over breeding was not considered necessary.

Recent Changes in Domesticated Cats

Now, of course, there are many pedigree breeds of cat and it is thought that this can make all the difference in terms of personality and willingness to be around humans. The longest standing pedigrees, in other words, those that have been selectively bred for the longest period of time, are thought to behave very differently to non-pedigree felines. It should be said that there has been no official research to ascertain this, but cat breeders and fanciers have noted behavioral inconsistencies, which indicate that cats will become more domesticated as time goes on.

Of course, so little is known about early humans and their relationship with animals. It certainly seems as though cats and humans have had a mysterious relationship for millennia. Quite why they continue to live with us is also a bit of a mystery, but maybe that is the attraction.

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