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The Domestic Cat

Cats love human comfort and company, but despite that the domestic cat has a lot of the saDomesitc Catme characteristics as its wild relations. It shares the shape of its body, that is built for stalking and hunting. Some of the smaller wild cat species have at time left their natural habitat to live with humans. The boundaries here, between wild and domestic cat remain very flexible. And although the domestic cat seems to have a smaller brain than its wild relatives, it can easily revert to the independent life of a wild predator.

The Cats Origins

The members of the cat family vary greatly fCat Historyrom the lion and
tiger, to the small domestic cat. They are separated into different sub-families due to the difference in their anatomy. Which means members of the Pantera family can roar, while the small cats in the felis family cannot. The third family is for cheetahs because they have non-retractable caws.

In the 1900s there were more than 230 species but now there are less than 30. Many species became extinct because they were hunted by humans for their furs.

The link between wild and domestic cats is close, but its uncertain which of the felis family made the leap to domesticity. Wild cats vary considerably in appearance and habits. For example Northern cats have woolly coats while Southern cats have a fine coat.

Experts ended up with 3 cats that could have been the ancestor of the domestic cat: the European wild cat and itís African and Asian equivalents. Wild CatThe Europeans believed it was their wild cat (felis sylvestris sylvestris), which is still found in parts of Scotland. This was due to the catís colouring and the tabby markings that are common in non-pedigreed cats. However, these cats donít change their wild behaviour, even if reared by humans. This makes it unlikely that they inclined towards domestication.

However, the African wild cat (f. sylvestris libyca) which still lives in Africa, Asia and Europe, has the same number of chromosomes as the domestic cat and is relatively sociable. Both this species and the African desert cat (f. sylvestris onata) live on the outskirts of towns and are easily tamed.

Our ancestors may have killed these cats, for food and forDomestic Cat History their furs. As humans began to grow crops, rodents were attracted, so it is also possible that kittens were tamed and used to control pests. This would have kept the scavenger population under control.

In 1865, Francis Galton, a British scientist, defined the qualities of the early domestic animal. It would need to be useful, able to breed freely and have a liking for humans. There is also a theory, that the process of domestication was accelerated by genetic mutation.

Genes include patterns for behaviour, size and appearance. A fault in the genes could have created a temperamental cat that was not willing to leave a kittenish state. This along with the ready supply of food meant the advantages of domestication were explored.

The cat gained warmth, comfort and a nice environment to breed, and its offspring were valued as rodent exterminators.

The process may have been accelerated by the spread of the African wild cat from the warm regions and cross-mated with its Northern relations.

The domestication of the cat probably only occurred 5-800Egyptian Cat0 years ago. Evidence points to ancient Egypt as the first area in which the cat was given a higher role other than just killing rodents. Wall paintings in tombs built 1560-1080 AD show the cat as a part of daily Egyptian life. When a cat died the families mourned, shaving off their eyebrows as a sign of grief.

The domestic cat spread in the West with the spread of the Roman Empire. The Romans smuggled them out of Egypt and took them on their conquests to control rodents.

Monks travelling to the Far East took cats with them, where they would have bred with the Asia cats. The earliest domestic cat bone found in Britain dates back  to between 10AD Ė 43AD before the Roman conquest.

The cat was a symbol of liberty for the Romans. The cat lost popularity with the fall of the Roman Empire.

For around 700 years after the first millennium, the cat was associated with witches and evil. In the town of Metz in France, hundreds of cats were burned alive on the second Wednesday in Lent, as a ritual sacrifice of witches.

From 1600s the cat was favoured again as a domestic pet. The French Cardinal Richelieu had cats with him while he worked. A French harpist left a part of her fortune to her cats along with instructions that they were to be well cared for. By 1700s cats were featured in portraits as companions. Maine Coon CatThere was even a cat fair held in Winchester, England in 1598.

It was not until 1800s that real interest was taken. Fairs in the United States included exhibitions of Maine Coon cats from the 1860ís. The first British cat show was held at Londonís Crystal Palace in1871. The early shows were inspired by an interest in the glamorous pedigreed breeds. It was necessary for a registration body to record the parentage of the cats, to set a standard that would be desirable and undesirable trait for each breed. This was done by the National Cat Club, founded in the United Kingdom, in 1887.

Local clubs and breed clubs were soon formed. Today there are active clubs in most countries. At the early shows the main varieties were Persian longhairs, domestic shorthairs, Siamese, Russian Blue, Manx and Abyssinian.

During the 1900s enthusiast imported cats from other countries and breeds quickly spread from across the world.

From the late 1950s the knowledge of genetics grew, and many new breeds and colour varieties within breeds were developed.