Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Why Cats Are Not Dogs




Anyone who has ever owned or lived with both dogs and cats will certainly come to reckon why we say “A dog is a man’s best friend” and not a cat. They will experience for themselves a significant difference in the very essence of both animals. By that I mean, unlike dogs, cats seem to be more wild and only partially domesticated. 



The most basic example regarding this difference can be seen when you call your pet dog and cat. The former appears to derive some kind of special joy when they hear their name being called, especially by their owners; while the latter may often look at you and totally disregard your call or command — sometimes not even give you any kind attention. Obviously this isn’t the case with all dogs or all cats, but we’re talking here about the average pattern. Have you ever wondered why cats are not dogs? Having been sharing the house with my sister’s cat for the past few months, I was highly curious to know.


I have always loved all animals and dogs were a favourite. My experience with cats didn’t start too well. Even from before, the idea that my pet wouldn’t do what I, its master, tell him or her seemed absurd. I would selfishly ask myself: “What’s the point then?” Then, the first true encounter in my adult life was with my parents’ not-so-friendly cat who wouldn’t let anyone near her — except my father and mother but only when she feels like it. 



Once I was visiting their place along my late Cocker Spaniel, Caramella, and at some point and for no apparent reason the cat flew like Michael Jordan and scratched the sweet dog’s face. I despised her then and I think I even tried to spank her. Another time, she just materialised out of thin air from underneath the bed just like a ninja to attack my feet. It was small scratch but I did bleed. The question was always: Why the heck? This time I remember I retaliated and followed her to the bedroom where she hides under the bed and I took a slipper and threw it at her. Bull’s eye. Like a child, I felt slightly better.



After those two encounters the cat and I became enemies. I agreed with my parents that whenever I would be visiting with Caramella, I would have to tell them beforehand so they lock the cat until I leave. 



Then, something bizarre started to happen. Whenever she would be on heat, she would come closer to me out of all people, jump on my lap, then begin purring like a horny leopardess. I was utterly shocked the first time — and secretly enjoyed it — which made me freeze and go along with the moment. When the same happening was repeated several times I was reminded by an Arabic adage: (القط يحب خناقه) or “The cat likes its choker”. Amusingly, once the “heat” is gone so did the love and affection and we’re back to being fierce enemies. Well, perhaps not fierce. In actuality, this new connection between us made me dislike her less and less. I also recall that as she matured she stopped attacking me for no reason.

A couple of years ago the cat passed away, and, ironically, I was the one who went to the vet with my mother to give her that relieving shot she badly needed. In fact, my mother left the room and I was alone there with the vet during the procedure. After burying Chico, my African grey of 18 years as well as Caramella afterwards, my father told me that I’m becoming an expert in dealing with such sad loses, which made me volunteer and accompany my mother.

Poutsi Poutsi during her last Summer on the Northern Coast of Egypt

A little bit before, my sister had saved a cute kitty cat from the street of Cairo and adopted her. I would see her when I come visit Cairo and share the house with them. This was the first time I truly bond with a cat. I dare saying that it changed the way I look at those majestic creatures. Last year, for instance, I was inspired to know Why Cats Give Massages, so I wrote an article about it. 



Then with more purring and bonding, I was curious to know why they purr, so I checked that as well.



This year, as the four-year-old cat and I became even closer I came to observe yet another behaviour. Sometimes she would come near me and sneakingly stretch as a subtle way to show that she wants to be petted, yet she still wants to look as if she can keep her cool around me — as not that desperate. Apparently, this specific body language is called a “Greeting Stretch, which is a posture used only towards someone the pet likes and with whom they are comfortable.

Another Snapple Fact I’ve recently learned is that it is believed that cats produce the hissing sound as a warning to mimic that of a hissing snake in order to deter opponents. Seriously. How impressive if that is true.

On a parallel note, check Big Cat Hybrids to see what happens to their magnificent cousins, the Big Cats, when they happen to mingle.

Finally, I went deeper with my search to find out why cats are not dogs in the sense I mentioned earlier; why they appear to have stronger personalities and more of a character. What I found is equally fascinating.

Sister’s cat becomes my companion during those trips to Egypt
 
Dogs as we know them are all descendants of the grey wolf. They were the first animals to be domesticated by humans. It is estimated that it occurred about 12,000-15,000 years ago; other findings suggest it may have happened as far back as 35,000 years ago. That’s way before we began planting or herding. Scientists, though, still argue where exactly the domestication took place; some claim it was Europe, while others in the Middle East or East Asia.



Dogs Decoded is an informative PBS documentary raising the question of who domesticated who: Was it man who first approached wolves — possibly when they came across some pups which they raised — or did the opposite happen as a form of self-domestication?

As for modern felines, it was previously believed that they were domesticated in Ancient Egypt about 4,000 years ago. More evidence proposed that domesticated cats were bred there about 6,000 years ago. In 2004, however, a 9,500-year-old human burial in Cyprus which included cat bones has shown that the origin of feline domestication goes further back into history.

When the full cat genome was sequenced in 2014, it was found that their common ancestor is a species of wildcat called Felis silvestris. The split between wild cats and domesticated cats occurred about 9000 years ago. This was about the same time humans shifted to agriculture in the eastern Mediterranean region and Turkey; hence the existence of more rodents populations that were attracted to the grain stories and lived off the harvests. When farmers noticed how cats kept the rodents’ populations in check they probably encouraged them to stay by sharing their scrapes of food, which led to the domestic cat — as they did some thousand of years earlier with grey wolves, though for different reasons, which led to dogs.

According to genetic analysis, another few thousand years later cats spread around the world in a second wave when they went on board ships along sailors, merchants, and Vikings. Again, when those discovered the usefulness of cats in controlling rodents they kept them hanging around, generating more domestication.

What is remarkable is that when researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine compared between the genomes of wild cats and their domesticated brothers and sisters it was found that while some characteristics changed when the split occurred — hair colours, fur patterns, facial structure as well as docility — others features like their exceptional sense of smell and the carnivorous diet remained the same.

Another related find is that house cat shares about 95.6% of its DNA with tigers.


The cats that stuck around humans were the breeds with the genes that encouraged interaction with humans. Becoming accustomed to them for food rewards encouraged “Selection for docility” in cats, which, as researchers speculate, was most likely the major force that altered the first domesticated cat genomes. However, unlike canines, the genes of felines haven’t evolved to make cats dependent on humans for food, leaving them more untamed, one could say.

Cataclysmic — Neighbours’ cat in Venice Beach

The finding, which appeared in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: Early Edition, mean that the main reason why cats stick around us hoomans is simply because we feed them — getting rewards. As such, cats aren’t mean, selfish, jerks or assholes as they are often portrayed, especially when compared to other four-legged furry pets of ours like dogs. Their genes are simply wired in such a way, making them more wild, more independent, and less domesticated; consequently perhaps also less loyal. We can say that the changes which occurred in dogs’ genome regarding full domestication hasn’t yet occurred to cats.

That said, cats have not evolved to become domesticated enough to obey orders given by us humans. In another study published in the Animal Cognition Journal it was revealed that between fifty and seventy percent of cats can recognise their owners’ voices when they are being called by name — either by moving their heads or perking up their ears. However, and that’s the funny part, only a meager 10 percent actually responded to the call, by meowing or moving their tails.



Despite having a more intense response to their owners’ voice, said response rates were about the same whether the cat was being called by strangers or by an owner. Sorry for sounding a tad harsh, but in other words, your kitty cat can indeed hear you when you call it, but it doesn’t care enough to do something about it. And it’s all in their genes. Perhaps another few thousands years would do the trick and they would become more dog-like.


Interestingly, I can sense this wildness every night in bed whenever my sister’s cat comes lie on my belly, asking for a neck, head, & ear rub. She closes her eyes, starts purring, even drooling sometimes, for about four to six minutes, never more. Following this trance-like state, she opens her eyes, looking a little perplexed, before suddenly jumping away and keeping her distance. It is as if her wild instinct cannot believe she had submitted to me and went against her own solitary nature for those few minutes. This behaviour reminds me of a teenage girl playing hard to get with her boyfriend.

Oftentimes, right after the massage the disbelief makes her gently bite my hand before jumping away. She would stay away for a while before coming again for more petting and purring. On other occasions, she would make her unexpected escape much sooner, which would surprise me since it’s all dark and quite. And the thing is, you never know, because cats are mysterious like that. Although I learned that when she has had enough she begins wagging her tail, so at least I stopped getting surprised.   

Most dogs, on the other hand, completely surrender to your petting and never, ever, want you to stop. As mentioned earlier, though, not all cats or all dogs act in a similar way. For instance, kittens that grew up surrounded or raised by dogs will be more dog-like. Because, it’s nature and nurture — bearing in mind that Epigenetics work for animals, we now know that genes have the ability to change. I also play fetch with this one using a ball made of paper, which isn’t too cat-like if you ask around.

Still, the more I spend time with my travel companion, the more I’m finding that the Soul-II-Soul connection with both animals is not much different. Same Love. Also, the more I show her my wildness, the more she drops her guard. It’s actually interesting that after being a dog person almost all my life I’m learning how to be a cat person as well. They truly are lovely creatures, especially once you learn their language and get to bond and communicate with them. 

Amusingly, those past several years three women I know became legitimate cat ladies. One of my cousins has 22, her twin sister 17, and then a friend has 12. I’m not kitten meow, but visiting the latter at home feels like you’re stepping into hissterical catatonia. Fur real.




Now that we know that cats are genetically made up in such a way, making them wilder, all these differences between them and dogs make purrfect sense. The next time you call your kitty cat because you’re in dire need of some attention or trying to show off and you get ignored, do not take it personally. Remember it’s not you, it’s them. Well, mostly them. Equally remember that your cute little fluffy pet is 95% mighty tiger.


“Women and cats will do as they please, and men and dogs should relax
and get used to the idea.”
― Robert A. Heinlein
Zen


ALSO VIEW:

Why Do Cats Give Massages?

Big Cat Hybrids

A Diew Caramella 

Animals Getting High: Weird Nature ― Peculiar Potions [Documentary]

Dog Lovers: Reflections On Training a Gentle Giant

When Lady Ran Away

The Most Loyal Dogs in History

Animals That Are Not To Be Confused 

What Nomad Lions Can Teach Us About Growing Through Life 

Things I Wish All Dog Owners Would Understand

Extinction

Why Flamingos Are Pinkish-Orange

Animalism: Animal Photography

 
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