Friday, June 29, 2007

Cats rule our world

One of my wife's uncles has a yearly quip about cats and dogs that the science has proven to be true:

"Dogs have owners. Cats have staff"

The Washington Post is reporting that cats domesticated themselves in order to take advantage of an environmental-cultural symbiosis opportunity.

Your cat decided to live with you, not the other way around.....

The findings, drawn from an analysis of nearly 1,000 cats around the world, suggest that the ancestors of today's tabbies, Persians and Siamese wandered into Near Eastern settlements at the dawn of agriculture. They were looking for food, not friendship.

They found what they were seeking in the form of rodents feeding on stored grain. They stayed for 12 millennia, although not without wandering off now and again to consort with their wild cousins.

The story is quite different from that of other domesticated animals....

Both fingerprints showed that domesticated cats around the world are most closely related to the wildcat subspecies (called lybica) that lives in the Near East.

The story further goes on to explain the mechanism of symbiosis. Early Mesopotamian humans started agriculture and therefore accumulated large stores of grain. Mice and other small rodents flocked to this new food source, and wildcats went after their natural prey. Some of the wildcats over time started to lose their fear of humans, and natural variation and selection started to select for cats that could stand humans.

And that is about as far as feline evolution has gotten -- cats that can stand humans while still maintaining their indoor/outdoor schizophrenia. My two cats spend hours getting ready to pounce on wrinkled receipts, each other and random dust particles, and then they jump in our laps until all of a sudden other things are more diverting.

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