Cats are elegant, meat eating mammals and the cat family as a whole is made up of about 40 different species surviving today.
In this article we are going to delve into the world of one of those species – domestic cats.
You will learn about the history of domestic cats, find information about some common cat breeds, and be presented with some fun and interesting cat facts.
Table Of Contents
History of domesticated cats
Cats and humans have enjoyed a mutually beneficial relationship for thousands of years.
But how did this come to be?Research suggests that the relationship between humans and cats began 12,000 years ago.
This began in the geographic region known as the Fertile Crescent, which today we would call the Middle East (Israel, Turkey regions etc).
Around this time, humans started cultivating and storing large amounts of crops. Mice and rats were drawn to these grain stores.
A cat loves rodents and it is thought that wild cats followed this new abundance of prey!
It’s reasonable to presume that people saw the benefits of this free pest control and allowed the cats to stay, thus the symbiotic relationship was born.
But, would most cats agree with that?
While humans may well have ‘allowed’ the cats to stay, any cat lover would surely agree with the notion that people actually had very little choice in the matter and cats domesticated themselves.
Cats and humans bond
Scientific evidence strongly suggests that all modern day domestic cats (Felis catus) have the same basic genetic makeup and descend from one ancestor – the Near Eastern Wild Cat, Felis sylvestris.
Seen as expert mice catchers, these wild cats were taken aboard merchant ships and found their way to other parts of the world.
Any guesses as to where cats and humans might have first become ‘friends’?
Fossils of a cat buried alongside a human at a site in Cyprus show what is thought to be proof of the oldest cat and human companionship.
These fossils provide the first archaeological evidence of domestication as cats must have been brought to the island by humans.
That’s cute, but these guys took it to another level…
Famously, cats were revered by ancient Egyptians as magical and divine. So much so that the Egyptians would worship and even mummify them. It is likely that the African cat had developed a sociable and tame ‘personality’ that made her appealing to the Egyptians.
In China, people consider cats to be lucky and about 3000 ago years began domesticating the western wildcat as much for pets as that of pest controllers.
Cats were introduced to Europe by the Romans after Egypt was made a province of Rome, becoming widespread by the fourth century AD. Like the ancient Egyptians, Romans viewed cats as being sacred and let them roam freely.
Cats have a strong spirit
Sadly, cats were not treated as well in Europe during the middle ages with some cultures associating them with witchcraft. Many cats were killed.
But, they endured and ultimately prospered…
Fortunately, cats were once again taken aboard ships as rodent control and found a new home in the Americas where they became popular with the new settlers.
In modern America, people love cats.
It is estimated that there are close to 100 million household cats with 45 million households choosing a feline friend for a pet as of 2022.
This makes house cats the second most popular pet after dogs, which are found in about 69 million US households.
So what are cats like and why do some humans like them so much?
Many people, including us here at IFTA, would admit to finding cats totally irresistible.
Both their own cats and other cats too.
If they see a cat in the street, most cat lovers get this uncontrollable urge to pursue it and make attempts to cajole it into noticing them.
And then accept or attune themselves to whatever overtures the cat is willing to offer them.
It can be the same with your own cat at home.
A Cat’s life
Though they may rely on humans for easy food and shelter, house cats still spend most of the time living life on their own terms.
And those terms are many and varied!
- Some cats are cuddly and purry, making soft chirruping sounds to indicate pleasure.
- Some are growly and unwelcoming, putting you in your place and showing you what they think of you.
- Some are biddable, others are mutinous.
- Some are intelligent, others are rather dim.
- Some are funny and playful, others are a bit stodgy.
Like dogs, they all have different characters and personalities, but perhaps even more so than with dogs, those qualities have to be discovered, deciphered, anticipated, accepted.
With a few exceptions, cats are not willing to be trained, to be part of a pack, to obey orders.
And that is perhaps what cat people like about them – that cats are independent, self-sufficient (usually!), discerning, their own master.
If you want to be part of a cat’s life, you must woo it, love it, allow it to be itself and hopefully form a close bond with you on that basis.
Common Breeds Of House Cat
So, which breeds of the world’s felines are the most sought-after?
Here are the 12 most popular breeds people go for when choosing a pet cat:
- Maine Coon
- Domestic shorthair and longhair
- British shorthair
- American shorthair
- Scottish fold
- Devon Rex
Please see our article on Common Cat Breeds to find out more information.
We mentioned before about how cat lovers will often follow random cats around. Well there are plenty to be found…
It is estimated that there could be as many feral cats as registered domesticated cats in the USA. Anywhere from 50-120 million.
That means, potentially, more than half of all felines in the USA are feral.
There are some countries – like Turkey for example – where feral cats are much loved and respected.
They rule the streets, and men (whose lives are lived in the street) adore them and spoil them and care for them.
In other countries where pets are often either pampered or cruelly neglected, these animals are regarded differently.
Some places, like Australia see both feral and house cats as a threat – a pest endangering native wildlife.
And certainly cats are hunters, cruel in the way they go about prey stalking and taunting their prey; upsetting to watch and off putting to many humans.
But cats are also lovely to watch : playing, washing, communicating, sleeping. They are graceful and clean, soft and sensuous.
And above all – they are beautiful !
Now we have a good understanding of what cats are, lets take a look at just how cool your feline friend is with some fascinating cat facts.
- Cats are not actually nocturnal, and like humans, can’t see in total darkness. They are crepuscular. This means they are most active in low-light conditions at dawn and dusk – the same time as most of their prey.
- Did you know that your cat had scent glands on her paws? I didn’t. I guess that’s another reason for all that scratching! A cat will also mark scent using glands on the cheeks, tail, forehead, and sides as well as with urine marking.
- Sniffing the rectums of other felines is a way of greeting and confirming identity.
- Did you assume that your cat had a sweet tooth because they always try and eat your breakfast cereal? I certainly did. However, it seems a cat is possibly the only mammal that cannot perceive sweet flavor taste scents.
- A cat detects taste scents on her lips as well as in her mouth, and has a special organ, called the vomeronasal organ, in the roof of the mouth for analyzing pheromones.
- A cat’s nose is incredibly sensitive and their sense of smell is 14 times better than that of a human.
- Every cat lover knows catnip lulls felines and citrus disgusts them. But, did you know that your cat also loathes the smell of banana?
- If you need your cat out a room for a while, just leave a banana peel around, and voila! Later, to make it up to them, you can perhaps indulge their catnip sensitivity and treat them to a sock full of the stuff 🙂
Curious color transformations
- All Ragdoll kittens are born white but develop a variety of colors as they age due to a genetic mutation causing an enzyme to react strangely to body temperature. So, your young white cat could go from a vanilla kitten to a chocolate adult.
- Research suggests that some cats purr when they are hungry or want something and kittens purr to tell their mother that they are ok.
- Male unneutered cats may spray inside your home, become aggressive or even wander off never to return, so it is a good idea to neuter them early enough.
- Scratching helps cats look after the claws on both their front paws and back paws. Cats also do it to relax and destress.
- Usually, a cat approaches prey and toys by stalking in a crouched position.
- Cats love napping and adult cats spend an average of 15 hours a day sleeping with 40% of cats sleeping for more than 18 hours a day. Some might sleep up to 20 hours in a day!
- At 38 years and 3 days, Creme Puff is considered to be the oldest cat that ever lived. Creme Puff was a female tabby cat mix from Austin, Texas.
- Currently, there is a cat called Willow living in the White house having been adopted by President Biden when she was 2 years old.
- The musical cats was inspired by the poet T.S. Eliot’s book entitled ‘Old Possum’s Book Of Practical Cats’. Taylor Swift’s cat supposedly has an earned fortune of $97 million, making it the world’s wealthiest cat.
- According to the Guinness world records, the wealthiest cat by inheritance, Blackie, was willed $12.5 in 1988.
Bonus cat facts
You can never tire of cat facts, so here are some extra facts about cats that we found fascinating:
- Cat claws are retractable because cats walk on their toes.
- Some cats can grow extra toes so they end up with more than the standard 18. This is due to a genetic defect and these cats are known as polydactyl cats.
- A female cat in heat is called a queen and spayed females are called mollies.
- Unneutered male cats are called Toms and a neutered males are known as gibs.
- A cat doesn’t lap up water, they pull up water. A cat’s tongue is covered in tiny spines and water sticks to them. After about 3-4 ‘lifts’ a cat will swallow the water that has collected in their mouth.
- Like humans, cats have a favored foot with male cats more likely to lean on their left feet and female cats their right.