The domesticated housecat may seem innocuous, but deep inside that feline brain lurks an opportunistic genius. This is part of the reason why I love cats. Don’t get me wrong, dogs are nice, but I want a pet that isn’t afraid of eating my corpse if I die inside the house. And that’s exactly what a housecat would do. Of course, this is a broad generalization. Some cats are sweet little angels that would mourn the loss of their human forever while others, including my cat, will get hungry if their human is still for more than a minute.
The cat’s pragmatic nature probably explains why they are the most popular pet in the world (also, their small size makes them easier to hoard). It is believed that cats domesticated humans at least 9,500 years ago in the Fertile Crescent or Egypt. The African wildcat, or Felis silvestris lybica, is believed to be the ancestor of today’s housecat. Unlike the easily manipulated dog, cats have not undergone much physical or behavioral change after 9,000 years of human tinkering. Aside from a few color and coat changes, the housecat still looks (and acts) remarkably like its wild counterpart. Currently, there are two main theories as to how the cat left the wild and ended up in our house. Some believe that humans actively selected cats to hunt vermin. Others believe that humans gradually accepted the presence of cats as the felines hunted vermin in the increasingly infested human habitations. In other words, the relationship was symbiotic. I tend to agree with the latter theory. After all, who would actively try to “train” a cat to do anything? Cats don’t care what you want them to do. As Eric Cartman would say, they do what they want.
Fun Fact: Cats walk with a “pacing” gate. This means the legs on the same side of the body move at the same time. Camels and giraffe do this too. So do many standardbred harness horses.
Housecats have learned many new traits during their time with humans. They are much more vocal than their wild counterparts, exhibiting a wide range of vocalizations. A simple “meow” means “please feed me,” while a longer “meeeoowww” means either, “feed me now,” “it’s been literally minutes since I was last fed,” or “I’m in heat.” Some cats will make short “eep” sounds. These sounds roughly translate to “food?” A growl means “get the f*** back!” and a purr indicates happiness at having been fed. If a cat swishes its tail back and forth while making short “ack ack ack” noises, it probably wants to kill and devour something. Remove any delicious babies from the vicinity if the cat starts exhibiting this behavior.
Cats have played an important part in human mythology. The Egyptian goddess Bast is associated with felines, and is often depicted in cat form. Freyja, a Norse goddess, is also a “cat person.” In fact, her chariot is pulled by cats, which is hilarious. Even the Islamic prophet Muhammad was a fan of cats. His favorite cat was named Muezza. So let’s all love cats, shall we?
The cat depicted above is Lady Toes, Oracle of Irvine, Queen of the Galaxy, Commander of Fear, Keeper of Secrets Under the Mountain, Grand Poobah of Existence. Gaze in awe at her magnificence.