The original ancestor of today’s domestic cat (Felis catus) was the North African wildcat (Felis silvestris libyca). Since initial domestication (5000 years ago), cats have had an ambivalent relationship with human society. Worshiped in Egyptian antiquity as deities, domestic cats were jealously protected in those times and considered to be very special animal companions.
During the Middle Ages and in early modern times in Europe, domestic cats were (in stark contrast) frequently the victims of organised and unrestrained acts of animal cruelty. The tormenting and torturing of cats was often public, ritualised and encouraged by demented religious fanatics. Today, in modern western countries, cats are enjoying a resurgence of popularity as suitable pets. Australian people like keeping pets and more intensive housing arrangements are probably going to cause changes in the types of pets that are going to be appropriate. Cats can make very satisfactory pets. However, attitudes towards them in the community at large are still somewhat polarised.
In attempting to explain the bigoted kind of cat hating behaviour that surfaces in some elements of our society, Serpell (1988) highlighted a number of attitude influences including religious effects, misogynous associations, superstitions and ignorance. History clearly indicates how powerful(though no necessarily rational) such human behavioural forces can be. Sometimes it seems easy for people to behave more animals than the animals themselves.
Whilst some people respect and appreciate the independent attitude, the confidence, the athleticism and the phenomenal sensory ability of domestic cats, others find these kinds of capability spooky and unsettling… possibly even supernatural and /or malevolent. The fact that cats are notoriously unprepared to accept human domination and yet still seem pretty much able to get whatever they want from people, has also probably been a subtle though powerful source of antipathy down the ages. You have to be able to “give” a little to appreciate cats and some of us can’t do that very well.
It seems quite bizarre that people who live in suburbs where, in order to accommodate the process of land development for residential progress, every last vestige of functional natural habitat was bulldozed, burnt and buried for ever, should condemn the ownership of pet cats on the grounds that those cats might do some environmental harm. Proper surveys have convincingly shown that domestic pet cats do not really pose a significant ecological threat at all. Most domestic cats do not predate at all and those that do predate, mainly do a good job of keeping things like mice, grasshoppers and gekkos in check.
People are the greatest destroyers on earth and a good few too many choose to conveniently forget that fact. It is people that are overpopulating the earth and it is the “people plague” that is currently causing this the 6 th (possibly the final) episode of global species extinction. Cats really aren’t in it though it is all too convenient to make them the scapegoat for all our society’s (justifiable) ever mounting sense of ecological anxiety.
It would be nice to think that our society today has moved a little way ahead of the grim ignorance, the cruelty and the superstition of medieval times. It would be nice to think that we can manage important social issues such as pet management a little better in this day and age.
From a municipal pet management point of view, there is a great deal that can be said in favour of encouraging the “social acceptability” of keeping cats as pets. Some people have problems about cats. But there are others who see the picture differently. It is best to be open minded and work the cat control scene quietly towards a “middle ground” situation as we have with dogs, where people can enjoy the benefits of pet access without the activity of these animals getting up the noses of their neighbours.
While the degree of pet benefit and pet commitment may vary between individual cat owners, a powerful (though possibly subtle) sense of wellbeing is now recognised as being associated with living in the company of these animals. There’s no doubt that like people, cats vary from type to type and from individual to individual. Some cats are indeed nasty creatures. But most, when socialised properly and managed sensibly can be great little companion animals.
The thing you have to remember about cats is that in ancient times they were worshipped as gods and they have never forgotten this.
Rules for cats (contributed by Loris Kreuger)
Always accompany guests to the loo. It is not necessary to do anything. Just sit and stare.
Do not allow any closed doors in any room. To get the door open, stand on hind legs and hammer with forepaws. Once door is opened, it is not necessary to use it. After you have ordered and “outside” door opened, stand halfway in and out and think about several things. This is particularly important during very cold weather, rain, snow, or mosquito season.
Chairs and Rugs
If you have to throw up, get to a chair quickly. If you cannot manage in time, get to an oriental rug. If there is no oriental rug, shag pile is good. When throwing up on the carpet, make sure you back up so the puddle of vomit is as near as possible just about as long as a human’s bare foot.
If one of your humans is engaged in some activity, and the other is idle, stay with the busy one. This is called “helping”, otherwise known as “hampering”. Following are the rules for hampering:
A)…When supervising the cooking, sit just behind the left heel of the cook. You cannot be seen and thereby stand a better chance of being stepped on and then picked up and comforted.
B)…For book readers, get in close under the chin, between the eyes and book unless you can lie across the book itself.
C)…For paperwork, lie on the work in the most appropriate manner so as to obscure as much of the work as possible or at least pretend to doze, but every so often reach out and slap the pencil or pen.
D)…For people paying bills or working on income taxes or Christmas cards, keep in mind the aim: to hamper! First, sit on the paper being worked on. When dislodged, watch sadly from the side of the table. When activity proceeds nicely, roll around on the papers, scattering them to the best of your ability. After being removed for the second time, push pens, pencils, and erasers off the table, one at a time.
E)…When a human is holding the newspaper in front of him/her, be sure to jump on the back of the paper. Humans love to jump.
F)…When human is working at computer, jump up on desk, walk across keyboard, bat at mouse pointer on screen, and then lay in human’s lap across arms, hampering typing in progress.
As often as possible, dart quickly and as close as possible in front of the human, especially: on stairs, when they have something in their arms, in the dark, and when they first get up in the morning. This will help their coordination skills.
Always sleep on the human at night so he/she cannot move around.
When using the litter tray, be sure to kick as much litter out of the tray as possible. Humans love the feel of kitty litter between their toes.
Every now and then, hide in a place where the humans cannot find you. Do not come out for three to four hours under any circumstances. This will cause the humans to panic (which they love) thinking that you have run away or are lost. Once you do come out, the humans will cover you with love and kisses, and you will probably get a treat.