By Linda Cole
Scientists are still debating where in the world wolves were first domesticated. Some believe it happened in the Middle East, while others say Eastern Asia. It’s even been suggested that the Americas could have been one region of domestication. So far, the exact area (or areas) where dogs became “man’s best friend” remains elusive.
The origin of cats, however, is known. A study done five years ago traced cats back to where they were first domesticated. Based on DNA evidence, the Fertile Crescent is the most likely birthplace of felines. Researchers have even been able to trace feline DNA back to the wildcat that started the process of domestication.
The Fertile Crescent is an area in the Middle East that spreads out from Turkey to northern Africa and east to Iraq and Iran. The ancestor of modern day cats began their domestication when humans gave up their nomadic life and settled down to raise crops and livestock. DNA mapping of the feline genome traces cats back to a single wild maternal ancestor, the Near Eastern wildcat that still lives in the remote deserts of the Middle East.
Like the wolves that discovered it was in their best interest to hitch themselves to humans, the Near Eastern wildcat did the same thing. The process of feline domestication occurred around 10,000 years ago. This was originally thought to be about the same time wolves were “transforming” themselves, but new research and evidence has found the domestication of dogs may have actually began much earlier – from 19,000 to 32,000 years ago.
By Julia Williams
Ok, first things first —“Why do cats eat grass” is the million dollar question. Several theories have been bandied about, but the reality is that no one knows for sure. It’s not like we can ask our cats why grass is so appealing to them even though 95% of the time it comes right back up. Oh, we can ask them alright, but I’m not even sure they know the answer.
So…do cats eat grass because they have a dietary deficiency? Do they munch on the green stuff to induce yakking because they’re not feeling well? Do they just like the way grass tastes? Is the predisposition to eat grass something cats inherited from their wild feline ancestors? Is grass beneficial for cats? Could it be harmful?
Those are all great questions, but so far, only the last one has a definitive answer (more on that later). Let’s explore some of the theories on why cats eat grass.
The Juices in Grass Contain Folic Acid
Folic acid is an essential vitamin for a cat’s bodily functions. Folic acid also aids the production of hemoglobin, the protein that moves oxygen in the blood. A folic acid deficiency could lead to anemia and stunted growth. So the theory is that cats might instinctively know they’re deficient in folic acid and they eat grass to correct the situation.
By Julia Williams
The sand cat might just be the cutest of all wild cats, and it’s also one of the smallest. Don’t let that sweet face and tiny body fool you, though – this desert wild cat is tough as nails! Well yeah…it would have to be, to survive the harsh conditions where it lives.
Found in both sandy and stony deserts, the habitat of the sand cat (Felis margarita) ranges from North Africa’s Sahara Desert through the Middle East into Central Asia. Although “sand cat” might seem to be a nickname related to its habitat, it is the cat’s actual name. Also called the sand dune cat, these plucky felines have adapted to the extreme temperatures and dry conditions in the desert. Their feet are thickly padded with fur to insulate them from the hot sand. They have large ears which help them hear their prey, and they are excellent hunters – a small rodent like a mouse does not stand a chance against a sand cat!
This hardy feline can survive in temperatures ranging from 23° F to 126° F. During extreme heat, the sand cat stays cool by retreating to an underground burrow. They use abandoned fox or porcupine burrows, but are also good at digging and will enlarge the small burrows of gerbils or other rodents.
Perhaps most impressive of all is that sand cats do not need to drink a lot of water. Although they do drink water when it’s available, if necessary they can get the moisture they need from their prey. This allows them to live comfortably in areas that are far from a water source.
By Langley Cornwell
Often mistaken for the Ocelot, the Margay is a smaller breed of wild cat that shares the same territory. In fact, the Margay is also known as a tree Ocelot. There are many differences between the two breeds, however. Sadly, these differences have led the Margay breed to become endangered, which is why it’s so important to learn about this fascinating cat. Below, you’ll find information about the Margay’s habitat, some unique facts about this rare breed, and the reason that this special wild cat is endangered.
The Margay has a beautiful black-spotted golden brown coat along with a white chest. Their spots usually feature a lighter colored center and appear to have a darker ring around the edge. The Margays are one of the smallest wild cats; fully grown, they measure 17-25 inches and weigh between four and nine pounds. In the wild, Margays can live up to 10 years, but do much better in captivity with lifespans reaching 20 years. Their diet in the wild consists of reptiles, birds and small mammals. Sexually mature at the age of one year, gestation for the Margay lasts around 3 months and results in a small litter of one or two offspring.
While the Margay shares the same habitat as the Ocelot, the breed stays in the forest and prefers to lounge in the trees. During the day, Margays rest in caves or other dark areas. At night they spend their time jumping from branch to branch and tree to tree, hunting for their evening meal. Margays are independent cats; they prefer to live alone and usually stake out their territory by marking their scent. This may be done with urine, feces or scent glands. The Margay breed has scent glands located between their toes, and males have more scent glands than females. While territories may overlap, the Margay maintains a solitary lifestyle.