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Kickin it old school

Thursday, 20 November 2008 19:56

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Okay, so now I am officially obsessed.  My little cat AJAX has stolen my heart and become chief ambassador of his entire species.  I wanted to learn more about cats because I know that they have been pets for a LONG time.  I found a pretty interesting site that breaks down the history of our loving companions!

It turns out that most of our lovely little critters are descendants of the African Wildcat (see pics).  The funny thing is that this cat is like the most common cat that there is!   My little AJAX obviously has some of those cute little stripes.   Strong genes huh?


Cat’s were domesticated over 5,000 years ago.   This took place in the valley of the Nile, in what is now Sudan but was then Upper Egypt. The actual mechanics of domestication are remarkably simple--in fact, it has recurred many times throughout Africa and southwestern Asia over the millennia.

The people of the area had given up the nomadic lifestyle of their ancestors, learned to till the soil, and settled into agrarian communities. Since these communities depended for their very existence upon their crops, which could only be harvested once or twice a year, a means of storing them between harvests had to be found. Early on, this consisted merely of keeping grain in baskets. This attracted mice, rats, and other vermin, who quickly learned to adapt to man's ways in order to get a free meal. An abundance of vermin attracted the local lesser cat, the African Wildcat, who could also appreciate an easy meal.

It didn't take much observation to see that the vermin ate the grain, which was undesirable, and the cats ate the vermin, which was desirable. People started encouraging the cats to stick around by leaving out the odd fish-head or other scrap, a practice of which the cats were fond. Since they had a ready source of food (mice, rats and fish-heads), no threat from the people (nobody chased or yelled at cat, lest it leave and the vermin increase), and an absence of enemies (various cat-eating creatures stayed away because of the men), the cats moved in on a permanent basis.

Being a naturally calm species, the African Wildcat quickly adapted to people, allowing it to at first be approached, then petted, and eventually to be held. The cat is a passionate animal, and rewarded all that caressing and holding with love and affection in kind.

In addition to demonstrating its love by snuggling and acting endearingly (do not even dogs do so?) a cat purred. Purring is a unique and amazing phenomenon; both in its inception and in the reactions it produces. A farmer could work all day in the fields and come home tired to the bone. The cat would jump onto his lap and proceed to snuggle and purr, which would promptly drive the fatigue out of his soul. We're talking direct massage of the psyche here! Let a cat snuggle and purr before bedtime and you'll sleep twice as deeply.

The cat sleeps in short periods throughout the day, rather than a single long period like people and dogs, and awakens quickly. It is thus ready to do its job around the clock.

It is also especially alert and active at night, when the mice are awake and the dogs are asleep. It often assisted the family dog by alerting it to any strange thing than may go bump in the night. It sees and hears far better than the dog, especially at night, and does get along and co-operate with its canine companion.

Unlike the dog the cat is clean. It buries its wastes outside, away from its den (the people's house), so as not to attract predators or other cats.

All these desirable features and factors have caused the cat to become a permanent member of human society as both a helpmate and companion. The cat is here to stay.


More links on the African Wildcat:





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