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Felis Catus – A History of the Domestic Cat

The scientific name, Felis catus was recommended by Swedish botanist, zoologist, taxonomist, and physician, Carl Linnaeus in 1758, and refers to the domestic cat. It has been said by many individuals in various ways, that the term, domestic cat is an oxymoron because, as expressed by author Ellen Perry Berkeley, “every cat owner knows, nobody owns a cat”. Still, have you ever gazed into those mysterious cat eyes as they peer back at you and wondered, “where did you come from?”

An archeological discovery in 2001, of an adult human and cat entombed on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, gave scientists reason to believe that our close relationship with cats began some 9,500 years ago. Contents of the grave which included offerings of seashells, stones, and tools, in addition to the close placement of the human and cat, suggested that the cat was buried alongside the human intentionally as a companion to bring into the afterlife. Further genetic analysis and scientific research over the past two decades has since revealed that the domestication of cats may date back nearly 3,000 years before the date of the Cyprus tomb's cat.

Still wondering where your pet cat came from and how it is that she became less of a wild, carnivorous mammal and more of a curious, cuddly companion? The most logical conclusion researchers have found is that as wild mice became attracted to human homes for easily accessible food sources such as grain, so too cats began to go where the food was. However, in the case of cats, the house mouse was their source of food. Seeing that these cats were disposing of the less favourable critters; mice, rats, even snakes, researchers speculate that humans probably didn’t mind having cats around. Also considering their cute facial features; large eyes, curled up mouths that resemble a human smile, add to that their tendency to elicit affection from humans, researchers believe that cats warmed their way into human hearts and in essence, domesticated themselves.

Through the centuries cats evolved from wild animals to more docile, affectionate, and trained house pets. Cats have been revered as gods, companions, and today are viewed as fur-mily; furry members of your family. While it may be true that nobody owns a cat, you may find comfort in feeling that although you do not own your cat, he chooses to stay with you.

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