What does it mean to be fully domesticated? We know that dogs are domestic, but what about cats? They love us, we love them, and they share our homes and lives. They'll cuddle on our laps and play with fluffy toys. But they can quickly display wild behavior if neglected, and revert to a feral status if abandoned. So, are there truly any fully domesticated cat breeds? Or is it that cats have domesticated humans instead?
A Nine-Thousand Year Old Relationship
As recently as 2004 a human and cat were found in Cyprus, buried side by side. This companionable grave was nine-and-a-half thousand years old. It’s thought that ancient cats first approached humans because of agriculture; stored grains and crops attracted mice and rats, which attracted their predators, the cats. Humans figured out that if they fed and sheltered the cats, they suddenly had free and willing vermin control for their crops. Cats were quick to take advantage of this, and a mutually beneficial arrangement naturally blossomed between humans and felines that is still going strong today.
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Dependency on Humans
It’s easy to presume that cats hang around because they are dependent on us, the same as dogs and other pets. But is that really true? Cats are some of the most self-sufficient creatures on the planet, and adaptable to pretty much any situation. We’ve had a stray visiting us for a while now, and whilst he is the sweetest, most cuddly tabby tomcat I have ever met, he will pluck and shred a pigeon within seconds. And he is not wild; his owner moved away and sadly left him behind. He was brought up as a housecat. He’s simply adapted to living outside, and the interesting thing is, he hasn’t become what some might consider feral. He’s not aggressive towards humans, or even other cats. But his wild survival instincts seem fully intact. Could you imagine a French bulldog surviving like this if it was abandoned?
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Modern Fully Domesticated Cat Breeds
So, are there any fully domesticated cat breeds? The first Cat Fanciers’ Show was held less than 150 years ago, and it’s only really since the trend of breeding cats to ‘show’ standards began that we’ve interfered with the breeding of cats at all. This means most cats can be traced back to ancestors hundreds, if not thousands of years old. However, there are some breeds that we might consider fully domesticated simply because of how far breeders have taken them from their ancestral roots.
The modern Siamese is a prime example. From the 1960s onwards, breeders became obsessed with the idea of turning the traditional Siamese, a fairly stocky cat, into the svelte, streamlined creature that is so recognizable today. The Munchkin is another example of selective breeding, this time to preserve the feature of short legs. However, the short legs in the munchkin cat were a natural genetic mutation, whereas in the Siamese the long body and angular face were bred very deliberately over time. Any ‘purebred’ or pedigree breed could be considered fully domesticated, as these breeds simply wouldn’t exist without human intervention.
Cats and humans go back a long way, and we’ve come to adore their sometimes aloof, sometimes affectionate nature. Cats will always be a touch wild, but the fact that they aren’t truly dependent on us makes their relationship with us even more special. They love us because they want to, not because they have to. What do you think?