Video: How domesticated are domestic cats?
People love cats. Much more so than dogs, they’re an intriguing mix of a wild animal and a house pet. A dog adopts its human family as its pack, or looked at another way, dogs remain as “children” for the duration of their lives.
Cats can act like kids too. Like dogs, they know where they’re next meal is coming from. Yet in terms of hunting small game, keeping hidden and multiplying, cats win. They’re just more adaptable and better overall at surviving.
In Alan Weisman’s fascinating book “The World Without Us”, scientists propose that if humanity were simply to vanish, domestic dogs, outcompeted by wolves and other predators, would vanish with us. (I imagine that in places like Australia, where feral dogs and dingos are apex predators, that this would not be the case.) Cats on the other hand, would thrive.
Just look at feral cats now. Despite efforts to control them, the US alone is home to an estimated 60 million of them.
Cats have come a long way since being domesticated from African wild cats some 10,000 years ago. Humanity has spread cats to all corners of the world. They are believed to be the most popular pet on Earth. In terms of survival as a species, cats have no doubt benefitted greatly from human intervention. So have rats, which we don’t like nearly as much. And despite the ecological damage cats do in some places, we fight to protect their rights to kill as much as they like.
The law even recognizes the innate wildness of domestic cats. In the UK, unlike dogs and humans, cats can go where they like – trespassing, fouling and hunting – without their owners taking any responsibility. One might ask: are they really their owners then?
Check out the two following videos of domestic cats and their wild habits from National Geographic’s Wild Side of Cats series.