Friday, June 29, 2007

(Science) Friday Catblogging:Kevin is on vacation edition

Just in case you had any doubt (hope?) that you were the one in control of your relationship with your cat - you can toss that silly notion right now - the science is on the cats-picked-people side of that "debate."

It turns out that domesticated cats all over the world are genetically related to the wildcats found today on the Asian steppes. You know - where agriculture arose. (Using a loose definition of 'agriculture' I'm convinced.)

Here is the Cliffs Notes version...When human beings started harvesting and storing grain, rodents moved in and feasted. Cats, always willing to exploit an easy meal, came out of the woods and exploited this fantastic new niche in their habitat.

The gatherers/farmers benefited twofold from the cats keeping the rodents (and birds) out of the grain hoppers. They did not lose a substantial amount of their grain stores to the rodents, and the rodents didn't contaminate their grain with their droppings.

The cats that were willing to put aside their disgust with the hairless monkeys and get close to the humans found there were benefits to being able to tamp down their revulsion with the lesser beings who unfairly possessed thumbs. Benefits like sleeping on the hearth, the occasional saucer of milk, or perhaps bit of fish.

But always they were prone to the occasional night out tomcattin' - even when we "fix" 'em.

See what I mean? This is what my cats looked like yesterday morning, after getting out the back door when I went down the outside staircase to the laundry room the night before. (Buddy Impeachment is above, Charlie is below.)

Now. Lets go back to the interesting part. The fact that a domesticated feline anywhere in the world is related to those wild critters from the Mongolian Steppes more closely than they are to the wild critters that live in proximity to them is pretty amazing when you stop to think about it.

That is because cats, unlike all other domesticated animals, have only made the leap once. As agriculture evolved and spread, the cats that were tolerant of humans followed the grain as agriculture traversed the globe.

When your cat acts all high and mighty around the dog, and looks at you with disdain, maybe it's because he knows something the mutt doesn't. Remember that what you always suspected was true - they tolerate us - and if they could work the can opener and get at their own damned tuna, they would likely never speak to us again.

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