On my reckoning, there are only 10 countries where the domestic cat is a native species or a non-invasive species. In all the other countries of the world the domestic cat could be described as an invasive species. So, what is an invasive species and where are these countries?
Well, an invasive species is a species which is not native to a country or place 😉. In other words, it is the opposite to a native species. A native species is one which originates in a certain place. It means that the species evolved at that location from the very beginning and was not imported into that place by people. That’s my definition.
Based on this definition I think we can say with some certainty that the 10 countries where the domestic cat is a native species are:
- Egypt (northern);
- Kuwait (northern region);
- Turkey (southeastern region) and
These are all countries within an area called the Fertile Crescent. And it is within the Fertile Crescent that the near Eastern African wildcat a.k.a. the North African wildcat was first domesticated around 10,000 years ago. That is the argument. We don’t know exactly in which country the very first wildcats were domesticated. The experts have decided that it occurred in quite a broad crescent-shaped area made fertile by the rivers which encouraged settlements and farming which in turn resulted in rodents and which led to the mutual benefit of an association between wildcats and farmers in order to curb those rodents.
The North African wildcat is predisposed to being domesticated which is exactly what happened. Some small wildcats are not predisposed like this. One classic example is the Asiatic leopard cat. This is a small wildcat which is ‘the wild half’ of the Bengal cat which is a wildcat hybrid. The leopard cat is unsuited to domestication which makes it surprising that Jean Mill, the person who founded the Bengal cat, decided to pick on this small wildcat and from it create a hybrid. She chose it because of the high contrast coat and because the cats were available for breeding.
I am digressing. I think I’m correct in saying that the above countries are where the domestic cat is native. There are 194 (195?) countries in the world and therefore the domestic cat is only native in around 5% of the world’s countries. The domestic cat is an invasive species in America as it was imported into that country by settlers hundreds of years ago. It still qualifies as invasive.
There is one last point to make which is that Cyprus might be within this special block of countries. This would make 11 countries that qualify to be those where the domestic cat is native. This is because the evidence for the first domestication of the wildcat was discovered in a grave on Cyprus where the remains of a man and a tame wildcat were unearthed. It is thought though that this person and his cat had travelled by ship from the mainland to the east which is now Israel. If that is the case then that particular domesticated cat was non-native.