Cats Have Their Ways
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Cats Have Their Ways

There is little doubt that the cat is one of the favorite domestic companions and one of only a handful of animals that typically are found within houses and living areas. The mystery that surrounds the cat has as much to do with myths and superstitions about the feline as it does with the independent and sometimes difficult to understand personality of the cat.


Early Domestication

The cat, unlike any other domestic animal, actually chose to be involved with people on its own, it was not selectively domesticated by humans. The first cats were likely drawn to villages and human camps from their forest homes due to the number of rodents and other small prey animals that were attracted to human dwellings. These wild cats would gradually become more relaxed and calm around humans, and kittens born in the villages would be normalized to human contact or at least to human presence. Once people understood how cats controlled the rodents, they were here to stay.

There are many different archeological indications that the human-cat relationship has been ongoing for thousands of years. In remote burial sites in the Mediterranean Islands there have been skeletons of cats, mice and humans all found in the same area, and while the mice may have got to the island by hiding in food and supply packages, the only way the cats would have been on the island is if they were brought there by the sailors and settlers. It is highly likely that the remote islands would have quickly been over run with mice and rodents if not for the imported cats.

The first culture to domesticate and move the cat indoors to the position of companion was the Egyptians. This process began roughly 4000 years ago, with the Egyptian farmers and merchants actually feeding cats to keep them close by, controlling the rodent population in food storage areas. From this humble start the cat soon reached a peak of importance in the Egyptian culture, actually been worshiped as the representation of gods and goddesses of the hunt and of fertility.

Cats had free movement through the residences and there was even a sacred burial site, the Temple at Bubastis, where cats were mummified and preserved as per the custom at the time. The death of a cat in a family sent the whole household into mourning. Laws forbidding the killing of cats by punishment of death were in place for many hundreds of years in Egyptian cities. African cats were also domesticated and were treated with reverence and respect as symbols of fertility and as of a hunter.

Cats were used as items of trade between different cultures and were originally only found as pets and companions of only the wealthiest of merchants. Due to the reproductive ability of cats, this didn't continue for long as the number of cats simply increased in many port and inland cities until they became a nuisance to the human population. Even today most cities worldwide have an ongoing problem with huge populations of wild or feral cats that live within the city limits.

Selective breeding of cats to produce different, recognizable breeds became popular in more modern times, however the great majority of the domestic cats on earth are not purebreds, only about 5% of the total domestic population is a recognized breed. All other domestic and feral cats are generally lumped into two categories, domestic shorthair and domestic longhair for general identification.


The Cat Personality

There have been poems, books, plays, short stories and even research papers completed on the personality of the cat. There are also many different expressions with regards to the cats personality such as "the cat's meow", being "catty", or even the old "cat people should only marry cat people and dog people should only marry dog people" expression. While cats do have a different and unique personality, they also have general traits that are common within the species.

Just like dogs or other pets, cats tend to have more similarities to their breed than differences. However, each cat is a unique individual and even kittens from the same litter may grow and develop into very different individuals. As a general rule most cats are affectionate and loving with people they know, and barely tolerate people they don't. Of course some cats are also very social and outgoing and are welcoming to new people in their environment. In addition cats may be very accepting of other pets such as dogs or may get along very well with children and other cats. Female cats, especially when they are spayed at a young age tend to get along better with other cats and intact toms (males) tend to be the most aggressive.

A lot of the cat's personality has to do with the type of socialization and interaction they have with people when they are kittens. The more attention they have and the more comfortable they are with people at a young age, the more likely they will be the same when they mature.

Generally the cat personality is defined as aloof, which may be a bit negative in connotation. In reality cats are just more independent than dogs and other pets, however they do enjoy spending time with people, it just occurs when the cat wants it to.


Cat-Human Relationships

There are people that are very drawn to cats and their personality traits, just like there are some people that are more attracted to dogs, birds or even more unusual pets. Regardless if you are cat person or not, it is hard to not admire their stealthy way of getting around, their uncanny athletic ability as well as their beauty and grace.

The cat-human or human-cat relationship has been going on for literally centuries. Currently domestic cats are the most popular pet around the world and they are found in almost any part of the globe that you visit. It is estimated by the United States Department of Agriculture that are over 100 million cats in the country, mostly in feral populations that live in small and large urban centers. Study in 2005 by the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association reported that approximately 63 percent of all households own pets, with cats making up about 90 million pets in the survey, dogs coming in a distant second at 73 million total.

As more and more exotic cats are developed and selective breeding for specific characteristics, coat colors and even temperaments are developed through breeding programs the trend towards cats as pets continues to increase. In addition the smaller size of the cat and their easy of maintenance continues to make them a popular pet for both apartments and homes in both the city as well as in the country.

On the next page we are going to talk about some Myths About Cats.


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