Why cats are tame and not domesticated - THECHOWANIECS.COM

Why cats are tame and not domesticated

This article is taken from the monthly Sciences et Avenir – La Recherche n°907, dated September 2022.

Genre Felis is not scientifically established and estimates vary on the number of subspecies descended from a common ancestor only 200,000 years old. Five interfertile branches are generally counted. Besides the European Forest Cat (F. silvestris)researchers distinguish the African forest or gloved cat (F.s. lybica)the so-called ornate Asian forest cat (F.s. adorned ), the South African forest cat (F.s. kaffir) and the China Desert Cat (F.s. bieti).

Where does our companion come from? Felis catus ? In 2020, ancient DNA specialists Eva-Maria Geigl and Thierry Grange of the Jacques-Monod Institute (CNRS / Paris-Diderot University) analyzed the genome of 230 cats, -10,000 years old, for the oldest remains , until today. And their conclusions are clear: the domestic cat descends from F. lybica, that of Africa. The result confirms the hypotheses coming from archaeological discoveries, in particular that of a cat skeleton unearthed in the tomb of a child on the island of Cyprus, dating from -7500 years ago. “With the agriculture invented in the Middle East, humans accumulate grains which attract rats, themselves followed by cats which also feed on poisonous snakes and scorpions, says Eva-Maria Geigl. It is an exchange of services. “In the Neolithic period, human migrations to Europe across the Mediterranean basin therefore took place in the company of cats.

“Human selection pressure on this feline is low”

A second wave occurs during Antiquity, due to the enthusiasm of the Greeks and Romans for the Egyptian cat from F. lybica, which is even the subject of breeding to be mummified during religious ceremonies of the Ptolemaic era, between 350 and 30 BC and the Roman conquest. Difficult to say, however, if it was the cat that followed the human or the human who took it with him. “The selection pressure of humans on this feline is weak because it asks little of it, continues Eva-Maria Geigl. You don’t teach a cat to hunt mice.

This is why the term domestication, which implies a long process to obtain from an animal food (flesh, milk, egg) or a service as for the dog, is perhaps not applicable for the cat which would only be tamed. This explains that Felis catus return so easily to the wild life. “Especially since they have been living side by side for 2000 years, F silvestris and F. lybica have had many opportunities to hybridize. There is a significant amount of wildness in your domestic cat “, laughs Eva-Maria Geigl.

Leave a Comment