Feral cats will have less fur, longer legs and tails and larger ears due to climate change

It is an interesting if slightly bizarre thought. The theory is that over a period of say 500 years (my estimate) feral and stray cats will shape-shift to have greater surface to volume ratios which will allow for the dissipation of body heat in animals which maintain a constant temperature (homeothermic). Climate change will and is placing demands on animals who thermoregulate a constant body temperature.

Genes and chromosomes
Genes and chromosomes. Image in the public domain.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

In order to increase surface area to volume ratios cats’ appendages such as legs will grow. The theory is based on Allen’s rule, a scientific principle from the 1870s which states that animals in warmer climates tend to have larger appendages relative to their body size.

I understand this to mean that in order to dissipate heat from their bodies, evolution gave them large appendages which in turn means the surface area to volume ratio increases.

The larger ears also allow heat to be released from the body. It is why a cat’s ears are warm. The blood vessels are near the surface. This allows internal body heat in the blood to be released to the exterior.

It has been suggested that some animals will develop ‘Dumbo-like’ ears. Researchers have found that species are evolving to allow for heat dissipation due to a warmer planet. Wood mice in Europe have developed larger ears. Galapagos finches have larger beaks.

I have stated that the evolutionary change may affect feral and stray cats for the simple reason that they are outside all the time. Over the forthcoming years domestic cats will be kept inside more often. There will be no evolutionary change as temperatures inside homes are far more stable.

The study is published in the journal Trends in Ecology and Evolution. The research was carried out at Deakin and Brock Universities and the Australian National University.

Australian feral cat described as 'enormous'
Australian feral cat described as ‘enormous’. This cat is not enormous but a large feral cat weighing an estimated 23 pounds.

It is said that the feral cats of Australia are larger than normal. Perhaps they have very slightly bigger appendages too in relation to overall body size! They have been on the Australian continent for getting on for 200 years so perhaps they might be an example of evolutionary change due to a warming climate as these were European cats. 200+ years in the blistering heat of Australia has made them rangier. Someone should do a scientific study on the shape-shifting Aussie feral cat.


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