Categories: first domestic cat

How can cats be so loving yet vicious?

Comparing African wildcat and domestic tabby cat appearance

How can cats be so loving yet vicious? We are obviously referring to domestic cats. You can answer the question in a sentence. Domestic cats can be both loving (a lot) and vicious (rarely) because they are barely domesticated North African wildcats, a top predator and killer, living in an interspecies friendship with humans in a normally loving human environment.

However, when the circumstances are right a switch is flicked in their heads and they become a wild cat. They are wild at heart. Ten thousand years of domestication has turned the North African wildcat into a fairly sociable, relatively amiable animal companion to humans but treat him badly and trigger the inner instincts of this top predator and you’ll see the vicious side.

It rarely happens in households where the caretaker is knowledgeable and sensible but even then there might be moments.

The important point is that we admire the domestic cat for her heritage. It’s amazing to live with a wonderful predator and it’s one of their attractions. It’s great to live with an animal who is friendly and loving towards us and depends on us. We are privileged to have the responsibly of looking after our domestic cats. However, there has to be respect for the domestic cat; respect for her wild side and her 10,000 year ancestry. We must never forget it.

The typical slender tabby cat is very similar in appearance to the North Africa wildcat. And when she is wandering around outside, momentarily distanced and disconnected from her human family she might revert to what is hard wired into her DNA: the wild cat in the desert landscape of North Africa and the Middle East.

Give it another 10,000 years of domestication and the question in the title might be redundant.

P.S. Unsocialised domestic cats show their wild side almost all the time and will be scared and therefore possibly vicious towards humans. It’s defensive behavior.

P.P.S. Humans can also be loving and vicious. In fact humans have a greater propensity for viciousness than cats but in a human way.

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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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