Only a Whisker Away From Wild

Published 9:17 am Monday, February 19, 2024

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

Earlier in the month, we discovered the origin of the dog and last week we learned how to love on a parakeet. Therefore, today, we will concentrate on the cat. We will learn about their beginning and their journey through history. Not only are cats and dogs different animals, their history is very different, too. We will also try to figure out the most unusual personality of felines.

We now know that cats are a whole lot friendlier than originally thought. Most cats are quite eager to accept some furry love, however mostly on their own terms. They can be trained too. Now, there are Cat Olympics and Cat Football as well as Cat Basketball. They have even entered into training to become therapy pets.

Cats are as cute and cuddly as ever, but sometimes they can be just one whisker away from being feral. Therefore, we will try to figure out their most unusual personality. If you have a kitty, you may want to share this with your furry friend. So, grab your pet and put it on your lap, get a coffee and a slice of red velvet cake and we’ll start on our journey.

Email newsletter signup

How cats have come to occupy a cozy relationship with humans is an interesting story, especially since cats are not known to be social butterflies. However, the real surprise is that although, unlike dogs, cats have been around for thousands of years, their appearance has not changed very much throughout the centuries. Actually, the selective breeding of cats is relatively new considering their long history. The fact that they can be rather private is, in part, the reason. Still, even though one cat might have a rounder or leaner face than another, or that one can have folded ears and another straight ones or fur that might be shorter or longer, the physical differences between cats are minor, especially when you compare them to dogs, which can range from a tiny two pounder to the heavy weight breeds.

In order to find the earliest proof of a cat having anything to do with a human, you have to travel back to about 7500 BC, to the island of Cyprus, which is in the Mediterranean Sea, lying in a region referred to as the Near East. It was here, that archeologists found a complete skeleton of a cat buried with a human. Prior to this, only pieces of cat bones had been found in archeological sites.

Because there were no indigenous cats on Cyprus and no cat would have swum to the island, this cat would have had to have been carried over by folks who were traveling by raft or ship. They most likely came from areas in northern Syria. Findings found in other ancient data and archeological evidence suggests that these were popular locations where cats and humans began to form a relationship.

As folks began to store grain and cereal, naturally a problem came up and that was – rats. To solve this, there almost always were cats around somewhere. However, the felines that lived in this region, were wild cats that came from north Africa and southwest Asia. These kitties were large and possessed large teeth. They also had sharp instincts. As soon as they caught wind of the rats, they began moving into the villages. However, this was unusual because these cats were solitary by nature and tended to dislike other animals and distrust humans. Plus, they were territorial. However, these wild cats were able to overcome their fear of humans and even tolerated other cats as they came into the villages, where life would have been better than out in the wild.

Thinking back on this, folks now realized that this relationship benefitted them as well as the cats. They got a steady rodent-based food supply and even began hunting scorpions and snakes, which were also becoming a problem for the humans. Meanwhile, the farmers received free pest and disease control.

How different the domestication of cats was to that of the dogs. For instance, it seems like dogs chose to be domesticated by selecting this type of life for themselves. They would approach a campfire for the food scraps that the hunters left behind. Now, they thrived, had puppies and became braver. Then folks got involved and began breeding dogs specifically for friendliness.

However, cats were not selected for bravery or friendliness. Cats began to tolerate humans and started to enjoy our company all on their own. They began following folks and eventually they became regular passengers on ships, where they did what they do best, keep the rat population down. This was very important because the rats would eat the good food meant for the passengers and also contaminate what they didn’t eat. Once in port, the cats would leave the ship and mate with local cats. From the DNA at archeological sites, it shows that these cats spread into Europe and on to the shores all around the Mediterranean Sea.

Meanwhile, the Egyptians were domesticating their local cats. Proof of this came from another very important archaeological find. Six cat skeletons, four of which were kittens, were excavated from a burial site in Egypt, that dated back to around 3700 BC. The study suggests that these cats had been pets. The story of the Egyptian cats unfolded like the story from the Mediterranean. .

Cats didn’t arrive in our world until after Christopher Columbus. Their ticket to these new lands was also via ships. Today, most of the cats of North America can trace their roots back to those from Western Europe. Also, none of the cats that were indigenous to North and South America could have been domesticated for they were extremely wild.

The cats that did arrive in North America were genetically different from the other cats. This is because they developed over time by adapting to their natural and cultural environment.

By the 1800s, folks were getting excited about the idea that cats were more than just pest control and in 1871, the first cat show was held. It was a new and slightly unusual one as there were not any specific breeds but rather a hodgepodge of different looking cats. Some had long hair, some short, and another an all-blue cat like the Russian Blue. Also, there were cats with tails like the Manz, and an Abyssinian, all of whom went on to become breeds. All this sparked what became known as the “cat fancy”, and folks began keeping the different breeds separated. So much so that in 1906, the Cat Fanciers Association, came into being in the United States.

However, too much in-breeding had caused physical problems for the cats, just like when certain diseases are hereditary in humans. Most of this meant a short life and lots of pain for the animal. Fortunately, the in breeding was stopped. Now, unlike dog breeds, cat breeds have traditionally been selected for appearance and not behavior.

Humans have become close to the cat and have evolved a whole group of expressions based on these furry friends. You will hear folks say things like: “You look like something the cat drug in.” When you get upset you can be told: You are high as a cat’s back.” Have you ever been asked if the cat has got your tongue or someone thinks that they are a fat cat?

Perhaps the behavior that cats are best known for is expressed in this saying: “Curiosity killed the cat but satisfaction brought him back.” Then there are those who believe that cats have nine lives.

Let me share with you some stories of a cat’s curiosity getting them in trouble. Sometimes, the help of local firemen are needed.

Did you ever wonder what your cat does when it is home alone? This is what happened one day to Doodles. The next-door neighbor kept hearing Doodles screeching and the vacuum cleaner running for hours. Wondering if the feline next door was in serious trouble, he called 911. When the fire fighters arrived, they found that the frightened cat was quite safe and guessed that it had accidentally turned on the vacuum cleaner, which it obviously did not like!

Then there was Oscar, who somehow managed to open the refrigerator door. Being named after the hot dogs, he was very fond of them. When his human arrived home, he found the cat laying on a shelf and indulging in his favorite food, hot dogs.

In an effort to rescue her cat from being stuck in a tree, Annalee found that she had climbed up too high to get back down. Much to her embarrassment, her family had to call the fire department which used a ladder on the truck to free her and her cat. The firemen’s advice to her was when a cat appears stuck up in a tree, nine times out of ten, it will find its own way down.

Usually, it is the dogs that chase the cats. However, at a park in Atlanta, a cat was the boss, even though it was much smaller than the dog. Bitsy had gotten control of the canine when she grabbed its leash. She began to pull on it and the dog began to follow. If the dog would stop, Bitsy meowed and kept pulling on the leash to keep it moving. Bitsy led the dog, meowing and tugging the whole way, as she took him home to his humans.

You would think that a black bear would not be afraid of a cat. However, this was not the case with the cat, Diesel, when a black bear wandered into its yard and came face to face with this very territorial tabby. Deisel chased the bear all around the yard and then up a tree. Now, the bear kept clinging to the tree branches for about 15 minutes. This is when Deisel’s owner came out and picked up the furry watch cat and took him inside. Now, the bear was able to climb down and run off, back into the safety of the woods.

Our felines love to help us when we are very busy. They seem to think that the mouse that goes along with computers is a chew toy for them to enjoy. They also seem to think that all of the paper work that we have placed all around us is also something for them to play with.

A friend of mine has fond memories of her barn cat, Shotgun, who always wanted all of her attention, especially when she was doing paper work. This is when he would lie on top of the them and then pretend to fall asleep but every so often reach out and push the pencil from her hand.

If he still didn’t get the attention he wanted, Shotgun would lay down and cover up as many of the papers as possible. If this didn’t, he would pull out all the stops by looking so very sad and push the pens and pencils all off the table as he jumped down. This was no accident!

Of course, reading a book and not paying to him, Shotgun would set between the book and her chin or just lie across the book.

Then there was Dusty, a cat that had stolen so many things from the neighbors that his owners staged a reverse garage sale. They invited folks to come and reclaim their stolen goods. Dusty was very thorough. When he stole a tennis shoe, he would return to grab its partner. One day, he made two trips to collect both pieces of a bikini. It was suggested by their veterinarian that Dusty was suffering from a form of “obsessive-compulsive” disorder. Or maybe, he just loves to shop for what he perceives as toys!

My finale story is one in which I know the owner, Kim, and the cat, Baby Cakes, personally. Kim lives on a plantation and is surrounded by cats, some tame, some feral. She knows that on chilly mornings the warmest place for cat is curled around the engine of a vehicle. Therefore, every morning before she starts her car to go to work, she checks to make sure that all is clear.

One very cold day, when she went back to her car to get her lunch, she noticed a kitten lying on top of the hood. It looked remarkably like Baby Cakes, a feral cat that didn’t know she was not supposed to love humans.

Kim grabbed her and rubbed on her and Baby Cakes’ motor revved up. Kim grabbed her water bottle and gave the kitty a drink. All the while Kim is talking to the kitten, she is wondering where the kitten had stowed away. While holding her, Baby Cakes fell sound asleep from whatever her ordeal had been. Making her a bed on the front floor of her car, Kim then began to investigate. This is when she realized that the kitten had ridden inside the car’s front bumper the whole way from Enon Plantation to Auburn! Kim thanked God for watching over this tiny life for she could have fallen out at any time and been killed.

He truly watches out for all His creatures!