My personal thought is that domestication changes the domestic cat over time. It is a gradual process and other factors such as a cat being full-time indoors and selective breeding compound the process. The kind of changes I am thinking about are a reduction in problem solving abilities (intelligence essentially). The time frame I am thinking about is hundreds of years.
I don’t actually believe that this is a controversial thought. It is more about commonsense. Research indicates that the domestic dog is less intelligent than the wolf or the dingoe (domestic cats turned feral in Australia). If not less intelligent, then less able to problem solve. This was established in a test. Food was placed the other side of a fence. There was a door through the fence a distance away, which meant the dog had to go away from the food, pass through the door and then come back to the food. The wolf and dingo solved this in 20 seconds while the domestic dog just pawed at the ground and barked1!
Exercising the brain constantly is good for it. This applies to humans to. One way to put off dementia is to exercise the brain constantly with difficult problems.
The trouble with the domestic dog is that the human companion thinks for it. Of course the domesticated dog has become very good at communicating with its human companion. This is the beneficial trade off.
Back to cats. I made a short video that supports my argument (in a none scientific way!). It concerns the passive Exotic Shorthair and the more active Bengal cat. The latter is a wildcat hybrid albeit the wildcat element is distant in show cats. The Exotic SH is the classic over bred (in my view), indoor, “part of the furniture” cat. If a person declawed the Exotic Shorthair it would be one step nearer the fluffy creature that some people desire and one step further from the real cat that we admire.
I say that over generations of breeding and indoor living we will gradually end up with a domestic that is not the same animal as the one that existed hundreds of years ago. And I mention this because it begs the question whether this is a good thing.
I am of course mainly concerned with purebred cats as the breeding element is a factor and moggies are not selectively bred while purebreds very definitely are. I think it is also fair to say that selective breeding when carried out without care or knowledge and with a focus only on appearance can lead to reduced intelligence in the cat due to inbreeding. I have seen examples of this.
We love the cat for what he or she is, a beautifully agile predator with finely honed skills and animal intelligence. We are gradually going to end up with an animal that is similar to the fluffy toys you see in the high street toy shop. Cuddly and within our control but not the cat we know today.
This may sound extreme but in a thousand years time it probably won’t.