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First Hard Evidence for the Process of Cat Domestication 144

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the mittens-will-eat-you-when-you-die dept.
sciencehabit writes "Cats have been part of human society for nearly 10,000 years, but they weren't always string-chasers and lap-sitters. Ancient felines hunted crop-destroying rats and mice for early farmers, and in return we provided food and protection. At least that's what scientists have long speculated. Now, they can back it up. Cat bones unearthed in a 5000-year-old Chinese farming village indicate that the animals consumed rodents and that some may have been cared for by humans. The findings provide the earliest hard evidence of this mutually beneficial relationship between man and cat."
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First Hard Evidence for the Process of Cat Domestication

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  • Backwards (Score:5, Funny)

    by AmiMoJo (196126) * <mojo@NOspAm.world3.net> on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @03:14AM (#45711921) Homepage

    These guys have it the wrong way around. Humans didn't domesticate cats, cats domesticated humans. Within about half an hour of yge first cat realizing it could get foods and grooming from a human just by looking cute and rubbing against their legs every nowand then it made the human its servant and lived a life of leisure. I bet it never bothered to kill anything that wasn't within a law's length of it again.

    • by AmiMoJo (196126) * <mojo@NOspAm.world3.net> on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @03:42AM (#45712005) Homepage

      I must apologize for the above post. I'd like to claim that a cat walked over my keyboard but the reality is that autocorrect did its usual amazing job.

    • Human domestication hasn't stopped 5000 years ago, but it is going on... Our persian cat just looks cute, she realized there is no need to rub agains our legs to get food. And the largest animal she chased in all these years was a dragonfly. I am really envyous of her lifestyle...
    • by Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @03:52AM (#45712029)

      You may be more right than you think: a scientist has proposed the theory that toxoplasmosis carried by cats affects everything we feel and do [go.com].

      • You've apparently read Bolo Strike, from Keith Laumer's universe, written by William H. Keith Jr. If not, you should check it out.

    • Re:Backwards (Score:5, Insightful)

      by reboot246 (623534) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @04:52AM (#45712193) Homepage
      Indeed. Cats don't have owners. They have staff.
    • by wjcofkc (964165)
      Maybe, maybe not. I've always suspected that what would become domestic cats were first brought into our lives for utility. A symbiotic relationship that naturally occurred simply because it made sense for the benefit of both species. Early cats that eventually became modern domestic cats were larger, had bigger brains, and were much more agile hunters. They were also probably not so easy to pick up and coddle (safely). Can you imagine a pack of modern house cat's successfully patrolling farmland? It's not
      • Can you imagine a pack of modern house cat's successfully patrolling farmland?

        Yes. Easily. As a child, I had a cat that was a holy terror to squirrels and birds. 3-4 dead critters a week and he wasn't even doing it for food. He never ate them - just left the bodies there. Our other cat ate them. I had no doubt that he could provide for himself in the absence of us.

        • by Reziac (43301) *

          Back about 1980 I had one that spent all day every day hunting gophers, and was so good at it that he completely exterminated them within about half a mile of my rural house, and so thoroughly that after the cat died, it was a good three years before I saw another gopher. (Prior to this cat, they'd been thick as plague.)

          Conversely, once I came home after being gone for a week, and here's three lazy cats in the house watching a mouse sitting in the middle of the floor, but none could be arsed to get off thei

      • by operagost (62405)
        You're not talking about the unselectively bred domestic cats. A field mouse sneaks in once or twice a year, but it doesn't make it out alive. One of them isn't exactly a lap cat, but both are quite friendly to humans.
      • by chaim79 (898507)

        Can you imagine a pack of modern house cat's successfully patrolling farmland?

        Easily, because it's a common sight out in farmland. Maybe not so much in the big corporate farms but smaller family farms will usually have anywhere from a dozen to fifty or so cats running around the farm taking care of rats, mice, keeping 'coons and foxes at bay, etc. In fact, two of the cats I now have indoors, were born to barn cats and taken in while still kittens.

      • by cusco (717999)

        You've never lived on a farm. Farm cats are bigger, tougher, more aggressive and disease resistant than the inbred apartment cat you probably know. Feral city cats tend to be smaller (since they're not competing with racoons), but are generally just plain nasty if they weren't handled extensively by humans in the first weeks of their lives. Modern breeds of cats, just like dogs, have nothing to do with evolution and everything to do with inbreeding and the Victorian fantasies of 'racial purity' that gave

    • Re:Backwards (Score:5, Interesting)

      by mcgrew (92797) * on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @01:10PM (#45716519) Homepage Journal

      Only weak humans are domesticated by their cats. My cats obey my orders; they come when called and a sharply worded "OUT!" makes them leave the room. I once taught a cat to play dead when I pointed my finger at him and said "bang". You simply have to understand cat psychology and their instincts and other motivations.

      As to hunting, a cat doesn't consider hunting a job. To a cat, chasing things is the funnest thing in the world, even a laser pointer. My cat has made it clear that she understands where the red dot comes from, but she still likes to chase it (the other one is elderly and no longer plays).

      • by Reziac (43301) *

        I once had a cat that was freakish smart (on a par with an average dog). This first became evident when one day I was hiding behind a box and using a 'fishing line' to play with the feral kittens. All but one chased the string in the usual way. The freak looked at the string, looked UP the string, then jumped over the box to grab my hand. (Which is exactly what average puppies will do.) This cat later became a house pet... which gave me opportunity to watch him with mirrors. The other cats thought something

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Are they sure the farmers werent farming the cats?
  • by tlambert (566799) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @03:21AM (#45711943)

    Not entirely mutually beneficial... Toxoplasma gondii parasites, anyone?

    http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/01/220113-sneaky-cat-parasite-takes-over-human-brains-science/ [nationalgeographic.com]

    And once infected, you are twice as likely to get in a car accident, among other negative effects.

    • by d3m0nCr4t (869332)

      And once infected, you are twice as likely to get in a car accident, among other negative effects.

      I'm sure car accidents weren't an issue 10.000 years ago. :)

    • with my 7 cats. Maybe thats why I like playing The Need For Speed on my 3DO

    • by mendax (114116)

      It has nothing to do with parasites. My beautiful black cat is living proof that some cats are possessed by Satan.
      She's a feisty beast and very evil. The fact that she's black only makes it more evident.

      • Give me evil over smart any day... My five year old giant mutant "Halloween" cat has figured out how doorknobs work. I am so screwed...

    • by bitt3n (941736)

      And once infected, you are twice as likely to get in a car accident, among other negative effects.

      How can they possibly know this? You'd have to know precisely when each person in the sample was infected, so you could compare accident rates before and afterward. (Otherwise it might just be the case that cat owners tend to be accident prone.) You'd need to set up an experiment where you infected half the people with it and then employed them all as taxi drivers.

      • by mdielmann (514750)

        Otherwise it might just be the case that cat owners tend to be accident prone

        An equal possibility is that cat owners have subconsciously lost the will to live and seek ways to die, no longer wishing to be the subjects of their capricious and mysteriously malevolent overlords.

        I'm a cat owner. And suddenly I have a desire to go for a drive. *yawn*

    • by Baby Duck (176251)
      There hasn't been a single case of toxoplasmosis in humans where they couldn't rule out the vector was tainted pork. Granted, cats do help spread it from pig to pig.
    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      Only one in ten Americans have that disease, where two in three Brazilians do. Wikipedia didn't give numbers for other countries, but I would imagine Europe and Australia have similar numbers to the US.

  • by baileydau (1037622) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @03:51AM (#45712023)

    BS.

    I've got one on my desk right now proving it certainly isn't domesticated. She's trying to eat everything in sight. Our other one has previously chewed right through my phone charging cable.

    The difference between cats and dogs:

    A dog thinks: You feed me, you house me, you look after me. You must be a god.

    A cat thinks: You feed me, you house me, you look after me. I must be a god.

    • by ThorGod (456163)

      My dad's cat was really misbehaving. But I've spent a lot of time with her and she's calmed down quite a bit. Playing with them regularly helps keep them in line. If they're properly entertained they seem, to me, to be all around easier on you/your things. There's other stuff, etc

      • by Opportunist (166417) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @04:48AM (#45712181)

        In other words, the cat trained you through negative reinforcement.

      • by gtall (79522)

        That, indeed, was the advice of a cat behaviorist in, where else, California. I was channel surfing one day and was amazed that a person could have that amount of metal stuff sticking into and out of his body. I presume he thought they complimented his tats. Anyhow, he visited a home with a cat that was tearing up the place. After observation, he concluded the cat felt unappreciated and stymied in its effort to express itself physically...errr...or something. Anyhow, he instituted daily walks (on a leash) a

        • by Woldry (928749)

          Wait, you mean most humans don't lick themselves already? Fascinating....

        • by GTRacer (234395)
          Was it "Cat from Hell" with Jackson Galaxy hosting and attempting to reeducate the kitties?
        • by cusco (717999)

          The same goes for most dog behavior problems. Beagles and other hounds have a bad reputation for howling, digging and general destructiveness. Two walks a day will take care of that in most cases. Letting a scent hound out in the yard to sniff around the same place he's sniffed the last ten days in a row frustrates him terribly.

    • I was thinking something similar. A friend once said that it's a telling aspect of humans that we keep ruthless predators as pets.
  • "Cats have been part of human society for nearly 10,000 years, but they weren't always string-chasers and lap-sitters.

    If you believe in evolution, this isn't exactly news.

    • Uh, if you believe in evolution, you understand that cats have been essentially the same species for 10,000 years.

      Now, if you believe in adaptive behavior through breeding, you believe in adaptive behavior through breeding. Which has nothing to do with evolution. Evolution involves species divergence, not merely 'change' of a single species.

  • Sensation! (Score:4, Funny)

    by nospam007 (722110) * on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @05:48AM (#45712347)

    "Cat bones unearthed in a 5000-year-old Chinese farming village indicate that the animals consumed rodents "

    Finally, that burning question "do cats eat mice?' can finally be laid to rest.

    Cats do eat mice!

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Cats do eat mice!

      I call bullshit. A quick study of my cats showed they only eat bacon, expensive cables and human toes. Given the a living mouse and they run away.

      • by gtall (79522)

        I'm in between Siamese terrorists. Of my last two, neither had any mousing instruction, I got them at 6 weeks old and unless the house was overrun with mice, there was never time for the Cat Mother to teach them. Ariel was a natural mouser, Tinkerbell not quite as good but she was the runt of the litter and deferred to Ariel when a mouse snuck into the house. My only complaint was they always left me the bottom half. After all that food and attention, I thought I deserved the top half every now and again.

        • Lol. Siamese are wonderful cats. IMHO, they actually bond with their pet humans, well, selectively bond. Seems like they can live an exceptionally long time as well. My family had a spectacular Siamese. She lived into her 20's. However, she preferred killing birds to eating mice. Never ate the birds. Instead, she'd leave them for us, placing them ever so conspicuously at the front door threshold.
          • Re:Sensation! (Score:4, Interesting)

            by gtall (79522) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @11:43AM (#45715337)

            Ya, I'd recommend Siamese to anyone, but I'm unsure what happens if you do not get them as kittens. Kittens will bond to you at 6-7 weeks. My Siamese wanted to be near me whenever I was at home, climbing on me, curling up, anything to get close. I guess they are more talkative than the average moggie. Mine lived to 17 years, and I was heartbroken when they went to the Great Food Bowl in the Sky.

            The oddest thing happened during their last days. Tinkerbell was on her last life and would curl up near my face at night with her head on my arm. Ariel slept down at the foot where they both usually slept until Tinkerbell got sick. The last night Tinkerbell was with us (I had planned to take her in for the final vet visit the following day, she was really near the end), Ariel came up and was inconsolable, stayed near Tinkerbell that whole night side by side. The following night, when Tinkerbell was no more, Ariel came up and cuddled up just like Tinkerbell had done.

    • Cats do eat mice!

      Mine likes chasing mice and bugs. Not killing them, mind you, just chasing them and certainly not eating them; Then looking at them menacingly while swishing its tail, daring them to make a run for it (again). My evidence shows that cats eat only Catnip, Chicken flavoured poultry & treats, and a special fowl flavoured cat-food formulated for urinary heath. Contrary to popular belief, cats do not enjoy bird chasing. Birds are for barking, silly human. [youtube.com]

    • by PPH (736903)

      TFW when searching the pet food aisle for Iams Mouse-flavored cat food.

    • A few years ago I moved to a new place and needed to line up a new home for a very sweet stray cat who had turned up on my doorstep. So he went to live with my Mom in the country.

      At first he was puzzled by his new surroundings, but eventually he figured things out. It took him about six weeks to go from playing with mice the other cat brought in, to catching his own and playing with them, to discovering they were edible. And much tastier than cat food. Crunch crunch crunch.

      ...laura

  • by dutchwhizzman (817898) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @07:02AM (#45712573)
    There is no proof we have actually been domesticating cats as petting animals for more than a few hundred years. Until the 19th century or so, these were just semi-wild animals that got access to our barns and homes to kill rodents, but they would claw you the moment you tried to touch them. It wasn't until we started breeding them for special looks that we got the "cute and friendly" animal we have now. Even that animal gets feral really quick, kittens born in the wild often act just like wild cats and aren't cute or attracted to humans at all. Domestication as in tolerating each other probably went on for a long time, but we haven't been petting them until we got the luxury of being able to breed them purely for their looks.
    • There is no proof we have actually been domesticating cats as petting animals for more than a few hundred years. Until the 19th century or so

      Quick now, Jeeves, fetch the net! I've spotted a rare young-earth Egyptianist. [wikipedia.org]

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Thousands of years ago in ancient Egypt, cats were worshipped treated as gods.

        Cats, have never forgotten this.

    • by nukenerd (172703)

      There is no proof we have actually been domesticating cats as petting animals for more than a few hundred years.

      The proof comes from ancient Egypt and (AFAIR) Mespotamia, where cat remains are found with collars round their necks. The collars cannot be for tethering as a tethered cat would be no use either for petting or hunting (ever tried tethering a cat?), the collars are for decoration and identifying ownership. Also, mummified cats are found in the tombs of kings, queens and other aristrocrats, who are unlikely to have concerned themselves with cats in the context of rat catching.

    • There is no proof we have actually been domesticating cats as petting animals for more than a few hundred years. Until the 19th century or so, these were just semi-wild animals that got access to our barns and homes to kill rodents, but they would claw you the moment you tried to touch them.

      Please mod this back down to oblivion. How about medieval paintings of young children holding their pet cats? How about egyptian art of cats at the feet of the kings or priests? Any cat that is cold will find someplace warm to sleep, which is why laps are often chosen. Cats chose the people, not the other way around.

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      Until the 19th century or so, these were just semi-wild animals that got access to our barns and homes to kill rodents, but they would claw you the moment you tried to touch them.

      Citation BADLY needed, wikipedia disagrees with you completely (it also says that this "news" is 14 years old).

      Traditionally, historians tended to think that ancient Egypt was the site of cat domestication, owing to the clear depictions of house cats in Egyptian paintings about 3,600 years old.[4] However, in 2004, a Neolithic grav

    • by Reziac (43301) *

      I don't doubt there have always been the occasional tamed and made-a-pet cat, more or fewer depending on the culture (as someone pointed out re ancient Egypt). But on the whole, you're right -- in fact it's only been the last 50 years or so in the American farming midwest that more than the occasional kitten was made into a pet. The vast majority worked for a living, in the barns and fields, and unless tamed young, yeah, they're NOT pets, nor can most be made into pets later.

      Conversely, most dogs that are n

  • by Anonymous Coward

    As many point out, the cats have it good in most homes. But I think dogs have it better. The stereotype is that dogs are dumb and cats are smart. Well, dogs are the ones who have an entourage (us) following them around and picking up their poop. Think about it. We pick up their POOP. We literally wait for them to finish pooping, then we (with a bag only a few hundredths of a millimeter thick) stoop to pick up their poop and we carry it until we get home to put in in our trash. Any other owner/pet rel

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Jerry Seinfeld had a joke that visiting aliens would think that dogs ruled the planet for that very reason.

  • by thogard (43403) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @09:00AM (#45713251) Homepage

    While I agree that competent users of vi or emacs can all do the same things, I feel that the major difference between the two is related to what happens when a cat walks on the keyboard.

  • teh Kittehs? I can has first kitteh post.
  • > Ancient felines hunted crop-destroying rats and mice for early farmers, and in return we provided food and protection.

    > In case city dwellers get the wrong idea, felines hut crop-destroying rats and mice for current farmers, also. Everyone works on a farm, including the pets.

  • Yep, he fetches. Drinks out of the toilet. Chases other cats.

    He's a dog in a cat suit, I think.
    Just waiting for his meow to come out as a bark, one day.

  • ... are just as companionable as dogs.

    My personally belief is that cats are not truly personable and domestic unless they are free to enter and leave the house on their own terms.

    Dogs typically are not allowed to do this as they will cause all kinds of problems in the neighborhood unless restricted. Dogs are cool with such restrictions as they MUST be trained to heel for basic civility.... They also require a lot more direct intervention from the host for their domesticity.

    Cats, on the other hand, only n

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