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  1. #1
    Oberon
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    Default Did Mice Domesticate the House Cat?

    I'd like to think so.

    Click HERE for the Discover article.

  2. #2
    Lallygag Moderator Geoff's Avatar
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    Certainly makes sense.. and also partly why cats have retained a limited amount of independence from their owners.. errr.. staff, whatever it is that cats have.

    If humans had domesticated them, they'd be subservient. They actually just deign to share living space because it is easier to have someone open a can than it is to find mice...

    Maybe cats also helped domesticate humans

    -Geoff

  3. #3
    Feline Member kelric's Avatar
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    I think it's a good explanation - it's certainly as plausible as any other hypothesis I could come up with. Sure, modern domesticated cats are cute, occasionally cuddly and fun to play with, but back in the early days of civilization those traits were unlikely to make them favored companions. Keeping vermin (oops, sorry ) out of the grain stores, however, would have been a major benefit. The large population of prey around grain stores is probably what gave cats the incentive to become closely associated with humans, and it seems reasonable that those cat populations that were closest to humans would be selected for behaviors such as companionship, etc. I wonder if that also might explain why cats will often catch a rodent/bird/etc. and then carry it back to their humans before eating it - "showing off the catch" ("see? You really do need me around here").

    Another question to ask is "why else would humans associate closely with cats?" As far as I know, cats and dogs are the longest-tenured and certainly most popular human "pets" (I could be wrong on the tenure). Dogs would have had use to early humans because they make great hunting companions. Cats don't. Cats *do* control rodent populations, though.

  4. #4
    Senior Member alcea rosea's Avatar
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    Did Mice Domesticate the House Cat?

    We have that situation currently in our house. The cats are still small so the mice run the show still. The new question is do the dogs dominate the whole thing? Will the cats and dogs get along? Will the mice survive?

    Related picture from the far side:

  5. #5
    Mamma said knock you out Mempy's Avatar
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    Wow, that is such an interesting article. *hugs her kitty* I'll believe it. Nice explanation.

    Haha, Al. The far side rocks sometimes. Cats I think are actually smarter than dogs. Hehe, "fud." My cat, small as she is, definitely owns my doberman, who is ten or fifteen times her size. The doberman is actually tickled by my cat and wants to play with her whenever she can, but my cat will have none of it. Aww, makes me feel bad for the dobie.

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  6. #6
    Protocol Droid Athenian200's Avatar
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    Interesting. It's possible that they did, but then why are cats so much friendlier now that they'll let you hold them, and jump up on your lap or wake you up in the morning? Just being tolerant enough of humans to get to the mice wouldn't seem to require that.

    My guess is that mice helped originally, but that they've slowly been bred to be even more human-friendly over time.

  7. #7
    Lallygag Moderator Geoff's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by athenian200 View Post
    Interesting. It's possible that they did, but then why are cats so much friendlier now that they'll let you hold them, and jump up on your lap or wake you up in the morning? Just being tolerant enough of humans to get to the mice wouldn't seem to require that.

    My guess is that mice helped originally, but that they've slowly been bred to be even more human-friendly over time.
    Right! They are slowly being domesticated by endless contact. Hopefully they never give up the last vestiges of independence (and especially, practiced disdain) that make them so delightful.

  8. #8
    Large Member Ender's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by athenian200 View Post
    Interesting. It's possible that they did, but then why are cats so much friendlier now that they'll let you hold them, and jump up on your lap or wake you up in the morning? Just being tolerant enough of humans to get to the mice wouldn't seem to require that.

    My guess is that mice helped originally, but that they've slowly been bred to be even more human-friendly over time.
    While being around humans for so many years may have helped. Pretty much all it takes for a cat to become feral is to be born in the wild without human interaction. The chances of taming a feral cat are low and usually you have to get them within the first 2 months or so of their lives if you want them to be anything like a normal house cat, even then depending on age they may never be "tame" towards anyone but the one who's trying to domesticate them. A lot of different animals can be view the same. Get anything young enough and it can more or less act domesticated. Even other species can get along if they're introduced to each other at the right time.

    The main reason theres not a lot of taming of other species I suspect could be do to the issue of size when full grown. Cats are generally harmless to humans, they're just to small that even when they try their worst, they can't really do all that much damage, my cat for example will get in his moods where he doesn't want to be touched and if I do, he attacks me. Try as he might, the wounds he can inflict on me are superficial, and sometimes I'll just get annoyed and bug him even more for it
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  9. #9
    にゃん runvardh's Avatar
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  10. #10
    Senior Member Snowey1210's Avatar
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    I think that the level of 'usefulness' each species had in relation to the other would be the important determinent in the domestication of the cat. When you think about the tasks that a cat would be helpful for, catching mice is really the only role that comes to mind. It'd be interesting to know if more cats were domesticated to combat diseases eg. the black plague (spread by rats).

    They are too small to be of use for manual labour, and too disobedient to use for hunting (something that could have been developed over time of course, but dogs are pretty much ready made). So mouse catching was probably how a cat was useful to humans in the past.

    But today with the advent of the mousetrap, cats may now have taken on a new role simply as a companion. This could be a very important position in a more globalised yet more impersonal era.

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