From Sarah Zhang at the Atlantic:
Sometime around the invention of agriculture, the cats came crawling. It was mice and rats, probably, that attracted the wild felines. The rats came because of stores of grain, made possible by human agriculture. And so cats and humans began their millennia-long coexistence.
This relationship has been good for us of course—formerly because cats caught the disease-carrying pests stealing our food and presently because cleaning up their hairballs somehow gives purpose to our modern lives. But this relationship has been great for cats as species, too. From their native home in the Middle East, the first tamed cats followed humans out on ships and expeditions to take over the world—settling on six continents with even the occasional foray to Antarctica. Domestication has been a fantastically successful evolutionary strategy for cats. More.
One useful way to understand domestication is, can a human being stand in for a role that the animal expects? Domestic cats are neither herd nor pack animals but, when introduced to humans early in life, they readily decide that the humans are MommyCatTM, whose job in life is to look after them. That is a relationship the cat readily understands because he would not even be alive otherwise.
So cats have stumbled on the ultimate survival strategy: Parasitize the immaterial human mind and you’ve got it all.
Let mere rodents scrabble for stale crumbs among the baited rodent traps in the kitchen.
Meanwhile, those humans are out buying little tins of Fancy Feast for their kitties on credit…
All cats know that that is the correct order of nature! Fool with it at your peril!
Note: This post was co-written by editorial assistants Tom, Dick, and Harry, late of the Three Mile Island Vet Rescue Clinic on Lake Huron somewhere in Canada.
See also: New Zealand tries to get rid of cats Cats are apparently more popular than dogs on an increasingly urbanized planet.