DAVIS, Calif. — IT’S commonplace to call our cats “pets.” But anyone sharing a cat’s household can tell you that, much as we might like to choose when they eat in the morning, or when they come inside for the night, cats are only partly domesticated.
The likely ancestors of the domestic dog date from more than 30,000 years ago. But domestic cats’ forebears join us in the skeletal record onlyabout 9,500 years ago. This difference fits our intuition about their comparative degrees of domestication: Dogs want to be “man’s best friend”; cats, not so much./.../
Many of us conceive of our relationship to our pets as analogous to that between a parent and child. But the natural history tells a more pragmatic tale. Cats emerged in the context of profound ecological changes to the post-ice-age landscape wrought by humans.
We were the authors of those changes, but in the process of telling that story, we became protagonists within it. One of the essential steps in knowing ourselves, and seeing where we are going, is to look around and take note of how we’ve reshaped those nearest to us, and they us.