On this International Day of the Cat, it seems an opportune time to clear up some misconceptions about the relationship between cats and humans.
From the human standpoint the relationship seems frustrating. We can’t train our cat to do anything, she won’t even come when we call.
From the cat’s standpoint, the relationship is working out well. We open the door for her when she wants to go in or out; we provide the kind of food she likes; we give her a warm place to stay when it’s cold outside, and all the other amenities for a good life.
You see, we humans tend to understand this relationship all backwards: humans have never domesticated cats, they have domesticated us.
It goes back thousands of years to when our human ancestors in the fertile crescent began to plant crops and build houses. The ancestors of our cats lived there too and soon realized the opportunities these human innovations provided for them. Mice and rats foraged in the fields and especially loved the places where grain was stored. And when humans stayed in one place for any length of time their dwelling places became magnets for mice and rats. Wherever humans lived there was a constant supply of food for cats.
During this time, a Wise Old Mother Cat gathered the many generations of her offspring together and began to teach them how to make the best of this opportunity.
“These two-legged creatures are taking notice of the way you reduce the number of mice and rats that eat their food and trouble their homes. If you act wisely, they will become your friends and protectors.
“Be wary of them at first, all are not kind. But if one of them acts kindly toward you, show your appreciation by purring. They love that sound. Don’t use your claws and teeth to protect yourself unless your life is in danger. They will learn that you intend them no harm and will begin to trust you.
“When that happens, don’t be afraid to enter into their homes and show that you trust them in return. It will take many years, but in time they will become your friends. If you act affectionately to them, they will do the same to you. Little by little, over time, you will be able to train them to provide everything you need for your comfort and happiness.”
OK, I admit it, the Wise Old Mother Cat is a legend (created by yours truly). But can anyone deny that something much like this has happened?