It may surprise cat owners to know that domestic cats imitate snakes in four ways and the reason why they do it is obvious. Predators have a great respect for venomous snakes. They pause long enough to allow the snake to escape.
The domestic cat has evolved from the African wild cat and inherited the ability to mimic, for protective purposes, the venomous snake. The domestic cat imitates the snake to give the enemy the impression that he or she is venomous and too dangerous to attack.
Everybody is well aware of this domestic cat feature. The quality of the domestic cat hiss is very similar to that of a snake. You will see it when a cat is threatened by a dog or some other predator and the cat reacts just as a snake would. This causes alarm during an attack giving the cat a momentary advantage which enhances survival. This is why the cat hiss has evolved.
Although less often encountered by cat caretakers, cats often add splitting to hissing. It is another way in which the cat resembles a snake because as we know snakes react to threats by spitting. The wild cat spit – such as made by the sand cat – is more dramatic.
Also, when cornered and threatened, the domestic cat might thrash or twitch his tail in a way which once again is reminiscent of the movements of the snake gearing up to attack or about to flee.
Tabby cat curled up
The wild cat ancestor of the domestic cat looks way similar to a tabby cat. The tabby cat coat is the most common among domestic cats. When a tabby cat is curled up sleeping, perhaps in a tree stump or on a rock, its coat color and pattern combined with the shape of the cat makes it look very similar to that of a coiled snake.
It has been suggested that the tabby markings have not evolved as simple camouflage to merge with the background landscape but to imitate the markings of a snake as a more effective means of protection. Predators to the relatively small African wildcat would think twice about attacking if the cat was sleeping and curled up as described.
These snake imitations are testament to the cat’s innate ability to observe and adapt. Domestic cats are very adaptable. Although cat owners should not abuse this trait.
Source: Michael Broad.