History of Domestic Cats
Archeological evidence shows that the first tame cats appeared in the Fertile Crescent just as humans began settling there.
In Ancient Egypt, cats were worshiped. Bast, a goddess of love and fertility, was depicted with the body of a woman and the head of a cat.
Cats have played an important role in art and literature, from Japanese paintings and sculptures to the story of Puss in Boots.
The cat is a member of the order Carnivora, which also includes such animals as dogs, bears, hyenas, raccoons, ferrets, seals and walruses.
All cats, from the largest tiger to the smallest housecat, belong to the family Felidae.
Cats are meat eaters and require an unusually high level of protein in their diets. Therefore, they are sometimes known as hypercarnivores. Cats must obtain all the nutrients in their diet from meat; they are obligate carnivores.
Because they rely so heavily on meat for their survival, cats have evolved to be extremely efficient predators.
Cats are agile and fast. They have graceful bodies with flexible spines. They walk on their toes. This posture, which is known as digitigrade, enables them to move very quickly.
The cat is built for power as well as agility and speed. Cats have powerful jaw muscles with strong canine teeth.
Their limbs are strong. The front paws have long claws. A cat can rotate its front legs in order to strike. A cat can retract its claws so they do not interfere when it is walking.
Cats have powerful senses. A cat has a very strong sense of smell. It can hear sounds much higher than a human can hear. They have well-developed binocular vision that allows them to judge distances. Cats can see in almost complete darkness.
A cat’s whiskers are sensitive to touch. They help the cat to hunt at night.
Most cats have spots, stripes or blotches. These color patterns act as camouflage.
A cat needs the ability to remain hidden in order to sneak up on prey, and, if it is a small cat or a cub or kitten, in order to avoid being attacked by predators.
Cats that live in forests tend to be darker, with color patterns that make them hard to see in dappled sunlight.
In the mountains, cats often have light-colored or grayish coats, to help them blend with rocky terrain and snow.
Desert cats are usually light and sandy-colored.
The domestic tabby cat has stripes because its ancestor, the North African Wildcat, is a striped cat.
Because domestic cats do not need to be camouflaged in order to survive, they can have many different coat colors.
Time to Get a Cat
There are a number of things to think about once you have decided to get a cat.
Where you are going to find your cat? Are you looking for a pedigreed cat from a breeder? A non-pedigreed cat will also make a fine pet. Perhaps you will buy a cat from a pet store, take in a stray or get a cat from a shelter.
Buying a cat from a pet store or taking in a stray can mean that you do not know much about the cat’s history and any medical conditions that it may have.
A shelter will provide you with information about the cat’s health, give the cat its necessary vaccinations and neuter it.
There is also the psychological feeling of satisfaction that you get from the knowledge that you have “rescued” an animal.
Many shelter cats will be older cats, rather than kittens.
If you adopt an older cat, make sure that it is used to living with humans. If you adopt an adult feral cat, be prepared to have a cat that will eat the food you give it, but that will not like being around people very much.
When you purchase a cat from a reputable breeder, you will be provided with a full medical history of the cat. You should be able to get an idea of the temperament of a purebred cat.
A top show cat will be very expensive; but a purebred cat that is not suitable for showing or breeding will be less expensive and make a great pet.
Make sure the cat does not have any hereditary illnesses.
Another issue to consider is how much time you will be able to spend with the cat. Are you away from home for a large part of the day? Some cats enjoy being left alone for long periods, while others need lots of attention. It is not a good idea to leave a very young kitten on its own for more than a few hours at a time. If you want a kitten but will have to leave it alone, consider getting two kittens, so they can play with each other and keep each other company.
You should make sure that everyone in your family is involved in your decisions. How will tasks like feeding, grooming and cleaning the litter tray be apportioned among family members?
Is anyone in your family allergic to cats? People who are allergic to cats are actually allergic to a protein in the cat’s saliva. Sometimes this allergy can be alleviated by bathing the cat or wiping it down with a damp sponge. Allergy medications are also available. However, if the cat allergy is extremely severe, it might be best not to get a cat.
If you have children, they need to understand how to treat the cat. A very small child will have to be supervised around the cat until the cat and the child are used to each other.
Do you have other pets? Think about how they will react to the cat. A dog will usually accept a cat, but be careful when you introduce them and give them a chance to get used to each other.
Make sure that your cat doesn’t have a chance to get to your birds, fish, mice, hamsters or gerbils.
If you get a new cat and do not have its full medical history, be sure to have a veterinarian see the cat as soon as possible. The vet can also give your cat any necessary vaccinations and have it neutered.
Your cat should have identification. This can be a tag on the collar or a more sophisticated microchip under the skin.
These organizations represent some of the many groups that educate people about responsible pet ownership and can be contacted tor more information: