It is sad and telling of modern life that the famous place where the first wildcats were domesticated by farmers, the Fertile Crescent, which encompasses Syria and the Euphrates and Tigris rivers, is now a place where there are no farmers tilling the fields because the river, which was once swollen with floodwaters, has now disappeared.
There is no water in the area and therefore there are no farmers. If this catastrophic situation had occurred 10,000 years ago, there would have been no domestic cats. I have pinpointed the area where it is reported that the floor of the Khabur Valley in north-eastern Syria has turned a uniform brown. And it is said that as far as the horizon you can’t see a single farmer working (report: The Times Nov. 11, 2021).
The Fertile Crescent was the birthplace of the domestic cat because it was fantastic farming country. It was a landscape fed by the Euphrates and Tigris and its tributaries. The Khabur Valley is a tributary of the Euphrates. It is an area, Mesopotamia, which is said to be the cradle of civilisation and which is facing a water crisis. It is being reduced to a desert by global warming, overuse of what little water there is and human conflict.
This sort of situation is what triggers mass migration northwards. There will be more human migration towards Europe. Just today in the newspapers there is the story of an escalating humanitarian crisis on the EU’s eastern flank where thousands of migrants from the Middle East, Asia and Africa have congregated to cross the border from Belarus to Poland. Migrants are being used as a weapon according to some politicians. It is a plausible argument and true in my opinion.
But this is about comparing the human map in relation to the domestication of the cat from 10,000 years ago to today. It’s a good marker to show us how the world has in some respects deteriorated quite sharply.
When the first wildcat was domesticated, a nice symbiotic relationship was formed between the farmer and the cat. In that single moment there was one domestic cat in the world and one cat caregiver, a Syrian farmer. Ten thousand years later there are an estimated quarter of a billion (250,000,000) unowned and unwanted cats in the world, a testament to the failure of cat domestication because of human carelessness and self-indulgence. A human screwup of gargantuan proportions.
Every day in the online newspapers there are reports of the conflict between feral cats and people. It goes on and on. It’s our fault but the cat is victimised as being the cause of the problem.
It is said that the unfolding water crisis at the place where there was once a lush fertile crescent, but is now a desert, “will soon become an unprecedented catastrophe, pushing more into displacement” according to Carsten Hansen, regional director for the Norwegian Refugee Council.
One farmer in the region said they had grown no wheat at all this year and therefore there will be no bread. He said “That is a catastrophe. No wheat-no bread.”
If this was 10,000 years ago you could add that there would have been no domestic cats either.