Research indicates that about 5,500 years ago the leopard cat was domesticated in China. Approximately 4,500 years before that, in the Middle East, the North African wildcat was domesticated.
The domestication of the North African wildcat led to the domestic cat that we know and love today whereas the domestication of the leopard cat fizzled out not long, I suspect, after the wild species was first domesticated.
The reason why the domestication of the leopard cat was a failure is because this particular small wild cat species is highly independent-minded and unsuited to be domesticated. I have that on first hand experience from an American who has his own miniature exotic zoo of leopard cats, otherwise called the Asiatic leopard cat.
The North African wildcat (aka African Asian wildcat) is a similarly sized small wild cat species to the Asiatic leopard cat but it is a species which is far more amenable to being domesticated which is why the process stuck and which is why there are approximately 500,000,000 domestic and stray cats on the planet today.
Because the leopard cat is such an independent-minded animal it is rather surprising that cat breeders in America created the well-known Bengal Cat from this wild cat species. We know that the Bengal Cat is a wild cat hybrid and the founding wildcat element of this breed is the leopard cat.
The only sort of Bengal Cat that is suited to being a pet is the fifth generation (fifth filial) version of this cat (and lower). Perhaps that is being a little bit harsh but the higher filial versions become less and less acceptable as companion animals. A first filial Bengal cat is extremely difficult to manage as a pet as evidenced by this woman and this woman who both wrote an article about this hybrid some years ago.
I have one more rather mean point to make. It is this: the Chinese have barely progressed with respect to the domestication of the cat over the intervening 5,500 years. They have no animal welfare laws and they like to eat the domestic cat in certain parts of the country but the worst part about this practice is that they kill the cat brutally and they treat them in the most horrendous manner. It could be argued that they have gone backwards rather than progressed in respect of their relationship with the domestic cat. That of course is not to say that there are many Chinese in China who like and respect the domestic cat.
I almost forgot: the Chinese slaughtered 230,000 leopard cats for their skin in 1963 – not a good track record vis-à-vis the human/cat relationship.
It is the authorities who set a very bad example. For example, during the Olympic Games in Beijing they rounded up all the stray cats and killed them brutally to clean up the streets. The same happened with respect to dogs.
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