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How cats achieved world domination without trying

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From Ewen Callaway at Nature:

Thousands of years before cats came to dominate Internet culture, they swept through ancient Eurasia and Africa carried by early farmers, ancient mariners and even Vikings, finds the first large-scale look at ancient-cat DNA.

The study, presented at a conference on 15 September, sequenced DNA from more than 200 cats that lived between about 15,000 years ago and the eighteenth century ad. More.

There were even Viking cats—of course, given enough familiarity with the animal, you’ll believe that.

But then, with an apparently straight face, Callaway goes on to report that “experts” doubt whether the cat is truly a domestic animal (behaviour and anatomy are not “clearly distinct” from those of wild relatives).

That’s the point at which one wants to get clear of anyone with “evolutionary” in their job title.

“Domestic” is really a psychological thing and one must see it live in action. If you tried adopting a baby beaver, the animal would probably go along with you for a while but then, usually, it just wants to depart for a normal life of damming ponds with felled trees—without your interference. It’s no one’s fault that his interests and yours don’t intersect at all.

The cat, like the dog, can be raised to be part of a human environment because he actually wants what humans want, to the extent he can understand it. That is, you want to lie on the couch and watch Biography; he wants to lie on the couch and use you as a huge space heater while intermittently scanning the shadows for rodent activity. If you feed him, he won’t leave you. Why should he?

One cat psychologist has pointed out that kittens are usually moved to homes long before they are mature, with the result that a human simply becomes the cat’s “mommy.” It’s a lifetime arrangement, especially if the cat is neutered. The cat will never understand the human world anyway, and after a while, does not even try particularly. He just develops a way of living in it that seems to work for him.

That characteristic, rather than some special appearance, determines whether an animal can be a “domestic” animal.

See also: Keeping pets is unethical?


Study: Do people think pets go to heaven?

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2 Replies to “How cats achieved world domination without trying

  1. 1
    Dionisio says:

    That’s the point at which one wants to get clear of anyone with “evolutionary” in their job title.

    Shouldn’t we feel compassion for anyone found in such an unfortunate situation?

    About a year ago, a lady was reading a thick book in the doctor’s office waiting room. While observing her concentration, my curiosity grew to the point I couldn’t resist a strong desire to ask about the subject of the book. She was studying “evolutionary psychology” for an exam.
    To my question “what’s that about?” she quickly replied that it’s about many things. Then I thought to myself: “maybe about nothing too?”. At that point I felt compassion for that person and at the same time was thankful for not having to read such an apparently senseless book myself.

    However, I wasn’t always that fortunate. When I was in the university, I had to study dialectic materialism and all that kind of senseless “paraphernalia” in order to pass a required exam.
    Did anyone feel compassion for me back then?
    Yes, someone very special to me did.

    BTW, cats are very special. One of our children has a beautiful cat that hides away when they have guests in their home, except when my wife and I visit them.
    Still don’t know exactly why the cat makes such a distinction between people. The cat doesn’t show even to our child’s parents-in-law, who are very lovely people (definitely much nicer than I am). No one has been able to provide an explanation for the cat’s behavior.

    They also have a nice dog, living in harmony with the cat.
    The cat drinks water from the dog’s bowl, even though the cat has his own separate bowl of water. Go figure!

  2. 2
    Dionisio says:

    One cat psychologist has pointed out that kittens are usually moved to homes long before they are mature.

    cat psychology seems much more interesting than ‘evolutionary psychology’.
    At least ‘cat’ is a real testable concept that makes sense. Unlike that other stuff.

    We had a beautiful cat that was sweeter than honey. Unfortunately she got very sick and died. My wife hasn’t recovered from that loss. That’s very understandable: now she has only this boring man at home all the time. 🙁

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