Cat Domestication Isn’t Complete, Study Suggests

Melissa Stusinski - Author

Sep. 8 2013, Updated 9:16 p.m. ET

Your cat may not be as domesticated as you think, at least if you believe British anthrozoologist John Bradshaw. In his book Cat Sense, Bradshaw suggests that our furry felines are actually stuck between wildness and domestication.

The theory could explain why our furry feline friends are the world’s cutest, most gruesome serial killers. It could also explain why Fluffy just can’t stop chasing that red dot.

Bradshaw explained his theory to NBC News, saying, “Their ability to be social… is only a few thousand years old.” He added, “The cat’s domestication is incomplete, in terms of its need to continue to hunting and also in terms of its ability to socialize.”

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That’s why, despite staring into kitty’s eyes for hours, you may never know what they are thinking. Bradshaw explains that cats have “a rather unexpressive face” because of domestication.

The cat-human relationship has only been around for a few thousand years. It was apparently intended initially to protect granaries from mice and rats. Wild cats were likely captured ant tethered to keep watch over the grain.

And even small kittens still exhibit traces of their wild ancestors, notes Medical Daily. While it’s adorable to see your domestic cat stalk and attack a piece of string or a laser light, it’s still incredibly similar to what they would do in the wild.

And Bradshaw points out that the domestication of cats isn’t likely to go further — at least not how we are currently treating them. The Humane Society of the United States has said that 88 percent of house cats are spayed or neutered. As a result, free-roaming cats, including ferals and strays, produce about 80 percent of the kittens that enter the world each year.

Rather than selecting friendly, docile house cats for breeding, we have been allowing cats that are more wary of humans, and in tune with their wild instincts, to further their species. Bradshaw contends, “The longer that continues, the more likely it is that the cat’s average temperament will become less amenable. We’re pushing domestication back.”

So, next time you see your kitty’s death glare, or think it’s cute they are pouncing on your toes, remember your fuzzy feline isn’t completely domesticated — yet.

[Image via ShutterStock]


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