Tuesday, July 03, 2007

All Domestic Cats traced to Middle East



Felines in my Jerusalem neighborhood have chutzpah that I have not encountered elsewhere. Typically, they spurn the great outdoors and the entire Hinom Valley just to use my potted plants as a private catbox. Forget bamboo spikes, aversion spray, chile peppers, and a campaign of stalking them with power squirt guns and tossed flip flops expressly to make them feel unwelcome. Each cat inevitably comes back. Their caterwauling drowns out the peal of churchbells, calls to prayer, and even the blowing of shofars-- or ram's horns--which my Christian Zionists neighbors are so keen on, as are devout Jews. Litters of itty bitty kitties have been emerging from dumpsters everywhere. Now it transpires that these feral cats of Israel are the real deal, clinging to the branches of the original family tree of Felis sylvestris catus .

Scientists say the DNA of all domestic cats can be traced to the first furry Fertile Crescent creatures,the wild Near Eastern Felis sylvestris lybica, who curled up to be stroked by human beings in Israel, Lebanon, Cyprus, Iraq, and Syria. Long before those cat-worshipping Egyptians came on the scene, these felines chose to rub up against people who had the bright idea to raise grain instead of gathering it. This practice had attracted fat field rats, and the cats sought access to happy hunting grounds, so they apparently tamed themselves! Maybe this news should not be so startling. Alongside the word's oldest profession, a cat house would have been indispensable. With such a long pedigree, no wonder cats act so aloof. A BBC science report says:


Progenitors of today's cats split from their wild counterparts more than 100,000 years ago - much earlier than once thought.
At least five female ancestors from the region gave rise to all the domestic cats alive today, scientists believe.

An op-ed piece in the International Herald Tribune ponders how cats who came in from the wild eventually prospered, but any who spurned human contact eventually fell upon hard times. Without wildness, it muses, we have no way of knowing who we are.
Let us prey.

4 comments:

KitKat said...

purrfect, Izzy Bee.
That explains why we speak of dogs of war, but Fat cats indicate good times.

But I won't be catty about doglovers.
The Prophet had a thing for cats, they say.

Red Bull said...

Where would Jerusalem be without its cats?
Full of rats! Better having a cat crapping in your flower pot than rats in your larder.

Carson Park Ranger said...

Don't feed those cats, and they'll become good mousers.

Izzy Bee said...

there are 50,000 strays acc to animal rights activist, Duchess Hamilton, in today's Jeru Post