Cats have an interesting love-hate relationship with humans. Over their history they have been both revered and reviled by different societies.
Cats are descended from the Middle Eastern wildcat Felis silvestris, which means “cat of the woods,” and were domesticated about 12,000 years ago in the Near East.
As people developed agriculturally, they started storing extra crops in preparation for less productive growing seasons. However, this attracted unwelcome guests: rodents. When people noticed that wildcats would eat these rodents, they allowed cats to live closer to their homes as a form of pest control. This mutually beneficial relationship resulted in the domesticated cats we know today.
In ancient Egypt, cats were revered as gods, often decorating the tombs of the pharaohs with images and statues of cats. They were still respected in ancient Rome, but the European Middle Ages demonized them as servants of witches and the devil.
Cats today usually live in people’s homes as companions and, occasionally, pest control. They are mostly carnivorous, preferring raw meat and bones. They also sometimes eat vegetables and grass, depending on their dietary needs. Cat owners need to remember that when they cook meat for their cat, they need to make sure that no bones are being cooked with it, as cooked bones release compounds toxic to cats.
Cats living with people are less likely to receive their food from wild kills as their ancestors did, but their wild roots are still seen when they drop a dead bird or rat on the doorstep of their not-so-appreciative owner.
Through the Jr. Animal Scientist magazine and special online resources, kids can learn about pets, farm animals and zoo animals. Scientific information is tailored for kids ages 5 to 9 (K-3rd grades). Eye-catching photos and exciting animal activities add to the fun! Plus, all Jr. Animal Scientists get special prizes just for joining.