We Have Big Cats Living with Us: Only a Diminutive Version

cats are wild cats inside

Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

Those of us who share our homes with cats are truly blessed. We are able to marvel not only at their beauty and grace, but at their uncanny resemblance to their bigger predatory cousins; the wild big cats. We are both enthralled and delighted while watching our miniature carnivores lying in wait and then start stalking sunbeams and little pieces of papers; their hind ends swaying ever so slowly, ears erect, whiskers bristling as they wait for the perfect opportunity to pounce on and capture them. Their predatory instincts and behavior are exactly like the hunting action of lions, tigers and other big cats.

According to an article recently published on the Animal Rescue Site, it was over 10 million years ago that the tiger deviated from what we all now recognize as our domesticated kitties.

Incredibly it’s only recent research which has proven that the only difference between our “tamed” housecats and the big wild cats, such as snow leopards, lions, tigers and jaguars, is a genetic mutation permitting these wild undomesticated felines to grow much larger in stature; permitting them to feast on bigger animals and allow snow leopards to adapt to the rigors of the high altitudes in which they reside.

Jong Bhak, a geneticist at the Personal Genomics Institute in South Korea said,

“In addition, several genes were altered in metabolic pathways associated with protein digestion and metabolism, or how the body uses fuel like food to power cells. Those changes, which evolved over tens of millions of years, likely enable the majestic felines to digest and rely solely on meat. Big cats also have several mutations that make for powerful, fast-acting muscles — a necessity when chasing down prey.”

The Tiger in the House” written by felineophile Carl Van Vechten was published in 1922 by A. A. Knopf. It is not only extraordinarily well written and filled with gorgeous photographs, it makes for a fascinating read. But what makes this book even more mysterious is its title is uncannily prophetic.

The reason I refer to this book as “prophetic” is that it wasn’t until April 1953 when James Watson and Francis Crick presented their scientific paper on the structure of the DNA-helix, (the molecule that carries genetic information from generation to generation was presented by James Watson and Francis Crick.

In 1962, nine years later, they both shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with another leading scientist, for solving one of the most important biological riddles.

But way back in 1922 before DNA was a household word, just the title of Van Vechten’s book demonstrated his keen observation of the domesticated kitty and his understanding of the species. Unfortunately many of these housecats are very unceremoniously and disrespectfully named “Fluffy”. I wonder what these cats would be named if their owners truly knew about their cat’s regal lineage.

Since our magnificent, charming, intelligent and affectionate diminutive big cats share 95% of their genes with their bigger brothers and sisters, we are indeed honored to have these remarkable animals allow us to share our homes and beds with them. After all is there anything more soothing and sleep inducing that a purring kitty curled up with us on a chilly winter’s night?

What do you think? Do tell us in a comment.


Photo credit (tiger): Flickr User RomanS

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Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

46 thoughts on “We Have Big Cats Living with Us: Only a Diminutive Version”

  1. No one should ever forget that they share their home with a mini carnivore. There are so many ways that the cats here show us their wild side.Our house is an older structure and mice do get in. Why mice would come into a home with cats in it baffles me. It never ends well. I watched one of our cats stalk and kill a mouse in the bathroom the other day. Fizz Gig was cool and calculating and each move well planned. The mouse never had a chance. Even when the cats are outside in their fully fenced and roofed enclosure they catch prey. The last victim was a chipmunk that had the audacity to walk through the wire fence right in front of the cat and scold the cat all the time he was doing it. I was right there and could not prevent the pounce and kill, it was that fast. Oh yes, I live with predators. I love it.

    1. Yes, it is wise to remind ourselves that we live with a carnivore who is close in character to a wild cat. I think some of the problems between person and cat care caused because the person does not do as you say: treat their cat as a hunter and carnivore at heart. Thanks for commenting.

    2. Our Marbles is like that. In the 17 years I have lived in this house, 2 mice and a garter snake have found their way inside. The two mice lived about 14 seconds. The snake, being more fun to play with, survived when I grabbed it and put it back outside where it belonged.

  2. Hi Michael, I don’t have any idea what you’re talking about clicking on to email you. I am technologically deficiant. LOL But I’m uploading another photo of CJ Sobol. Hopefully it works this time. 🙂

    1. Hi Reno, the photo is probably too large, more than 2 million bytes. You can email me if you like. Just click on the square orange advert in the RH column.

  3. Wonderful article, Jo. ANd I agree…..our kitties are very much like the big cats. I have always loved the big cats and would one day like to visit the Big Cat Sanctuary in Florida. I have been enthralled with them ever since I read your first blog about them. 🙂
    Here is my ginger tom. His name is CJ Sobol and there isn’t a cupboard or closet he won’t get into.

    1. Those are cool images, Dan. Esp. like that tiger calligraphy. Will you post your drawing(s)? I’ve often wondered what my Shrimp is thinking about while he uses his litter box… he looks so reflective. Outside he appears to be distracted by his environment while going. Am I the only one who wonders about such? Doubtful! 😉

  4. In my graphic art class I took three cat related photos, one comical, one of a tiger and one of a cat (see below)with a lure in its mouth. (An ad for a fishing lure company. Their gimmick is to use any animal but a fish to get your attention.) I noticed that both the tiger and the cat had the same basic shapes on their faces. The noses are two triangles (the tip upside-down, the other an implied triangle.) They have the same head shape and even similar striping. I realize the same thing, we do have little tigers in our homes!

  5. Naw, we’re just family 😉 Always have been, always will be. We take of one another and they rescue me more than I can ever say.
    Zack is one gorgeous hunk of feline 😉
    That must be terrible not being able to share life with cats. The times I’ve been unable to do so have been the least happy times in my life. My loved ones give me so many reasons to keep going and keep smiling every day. Couldn’t do it without them >^^<

  6. Having been born into a home graced “with cat,” I have always had the up-close opportunity to interact with, and observe, these most beautiful, agile, powerful and perfectly-designed small versions of the “King of Beasts” and cousins. Every day, I learn something new about them, about our relationship to them, and about how perfect they are. There’s never been a “Fluffy” in our family, either; each cat is unique and deserving of respect, and many “tell” us their names by displaying distinctive qualities all their own.

      1. *RESCUED* 😉 <3 Mainly domestic shorthaired, plus one domestic longhair and one Maine Coon. All RESCUED. From 9-19 years, ALL CHERISHED and ALL GORGEOUS <3

        1. You’re a professional cat caretaker 😉 I have never cared for a pedigree purebred cat. I have played with and been friends to a Maine Coon – Helmi Flick’s Zak. Totally gorgeous and I miss him when I think of him. He is not young anymore. Here’s a photo I took of him years ago:

          A Maine Coon cat

          I could have adopted many cats as they tend to turn up. I fed them but could not keep them because of circumstance.

  7. Ok- now there is a Cheetoh- a cat that has a genetic problem with the knee.. a problem which can be corrected with surgery. Like we need another cat breed with genetic problems? Sigh.. I can only imagine the price of one of these little big cats- I guess only the very rich can afford them and then have to put money aside to repair their knees.. Good grief..

    1. Ruth (Monty's Mom)

      One of the teachers where I work paid a thousand dollars for her dog, a pure bred German shepherd. I wanted to smack her, since for the same money she could have rescued a German shepherd from a shelter and donated the rest to help several shelter animals get needed food and vet care. Her dog is beautiful, of course, but what a waste.
      My cat was free. I went outside and picked him up.
      So what makes one animal worth so much and another is considered a stray and a nuisance by most people?

      1. Exactly!
        I have a serious problem with breeders and people who purchase from them when so many beautiful and loving cats need homes. And, as you say, look around you, folks, and just pick one up and take home. Here, a person doesn’t even have to go to a shelter to get a cat. They’re everywhere. I really never had the opportunity to rescue from a shelter. My cats just always “appeared” here, found in a parking lot, left abandoned by a neighbor (that makes my blood boil), etc.

        1. Sarah Hartwell said that cats for adoption just appear. You don’t need to buy or search for them. They are always there if you are a good cat caretaker.

          1. It is true. They do just show up. A cat just knows. When they are ‘chosen’, it might not be a good match. Lovely photo of Charlie Michael.

      2. So what makes one animal worth so much and another is considered a stray and a nuisance by most people?

        Answer: the distorted, arrogant, selfish attitude of humankind. It is just bad human thinking. Very unthinking.

  8. Ruth (Monty's Mom)

    I love the photo of a tiger with the photo of Charlie right beneath it. (I’m assuming that’s Charlie.) People always say Monty looks like a miniature panther. He really does.

    But so many people do just see cats as something fluffy and they don’t think beyond that. They do it with dogs too. Whoever thought it was a good idea to breed a poodle will have a lot to answer for. God nor nature never gave us the poodle. You can selectively breed wolves and get a poodle, but breed poodles to eternity and all you get are poodles. They are the bottom of the barrel genetically, a creature that could never have been wild, could never be wild, could never survive on its own and therefore, in an odd way isn’t really a dog. It’s something else, something we made, desiring a harmless dog but getting a helpless and vulnerable creature besides. My late husband put it this way in reference to his mother’s poodle Corky: “That’s not a dog, it’s a throw pillow.” Don’t get me wrong. I was fond of Corky. I petted him, snuggled with him, looked after him when his humans were away. But I never felt the deep admiration, even awe I feel, watching Monty in action climbing or stalking. I’ve seen demonstrations by the police department of their K-9 unit, all these gorgeous well trained German shepherds. Those dogs inspire a kind of awe and respect. A poodle? Please. What is wrong with human beings?

    God made the wolf and called it good. Humans saw the wolf and felt the need to breed it into the poodle. That fact right there sort of explains why humans feel the need to declaw cats and don’t care about the plight of the tiger. We claim to love nature, but we don’t. We say we are trying to do what’s right for animals, nature and the environment, but I don’t think as fallen beings we even know what that is.

    My guess is though, if most of the rest of the humans are fighting you on it and hate what you are saying, you’re probably on the right track. Many, many Americans think declawing is just fine, but those of us who oppose it are right, even if it were just a handful of us saying it, we still would be right to oppose it.

    1. Excellent and powerful statement, Ruth. All true.
      I see such a mish-mash each time I go into Petsmart, especially customers’ dogs. A cockapoo? Really?

    2. Lovely comment. That is Charlie as you say. Right now he wants his flesh, his meat! Dinner time. Do you think humankind thinks it is God? A lot of people who believe in God act as if they are God when they declaw cats and “create” new breeds and treat animals as objects and virgin forests as resources to use. They don’t seem to agree that what God created was good. They believe they can improve it or use it or abuse it. Isn’t that a challenge to God?

      Creating the Poodle was a distortion – a human, failed version – of what nature created.

  9. Another thing that I am personally not sure about is the desire to breed a cat that looks like a miniature tiger.

    The people who do it justify it as a way to highlight the plight of the tiger. But does it?

    Wouldn’t it be better if all our energies were put into protecting the real thing rather than trying to replicate it in miniature form? I am not sure but something has to change if we are to save the tiger.

    The photo is copyright Helmi Flick.

  10. Nice article Jo. It opens up tons of questions. One of them is our conflict over the cat.

    A high percentage of people love the domestic cat. They love the cat’s character, which is closely based on the wild cat as you state.

    Yet people in general stand by apathetically while wild cat species are being driven to extinction. The tiger is particularly vulnerable and will probably be extinct in the wild within 20-30 years.

    Then there is the anatomy. We love the tiger’s strength and courage etc. Yet a lot of people living in N. America declaw the cat and want a docile fluffy thing.

    People are happy to see the tiger in a cage where it is stifled and crushed yet people love seeing videos of tiger being themselves in the wild.

    I think we struggle in our relationship with cats, domestic and wild.

    1. Michael, I could not agree with you more. Just the thought of tigers going extinct in the wild makes my blood turn to ice. We need these large carnivores to keep our natural ecology in balance.

      The problem is that humans are destroying the habitat of these magnificent animals-which puts the whole environment out of kilter. It seems that these people don’t care about the balance of nature. Things are just going wonky.

      We had a black bear visit our front yart a few weeks ago- and since our community has done away with trees and wild- areas – to build strip malls and houses, these animals have no place in which they can forage. It is we who have encroached on them- not the opposite.

      As far as declawing is concerned- I received some very bad news this morning from a dear friend. She had a friend who wanted a cat- and my friend found a kitty for him who needed a home. My friend begged him not to declaw him and he promised he wouldn’t. But he decided that his precious furniture was more dear to him than the cat.

      Now this man’s doctor told him he had to get rid of the cat because his lungs are bad. Now we have a two year old declawed beautiful orange cat that needs a home.

      It just broke my heart- and I will try to help re-home him. Fortunately he is still using the litter box, and is an indoor only kitty. But he is overweight and I wonder if his paws are hurting him also. This just drives me up the wall.. I sobbed.. sign..

      1. Ruth (Monty's Mom)

        Every time a cat is adopted from The Cat Network I worry. Despite efforts to educate people, you know at least some of those cats are going to be declawed. It’s heart breaking.

  11. Hi Jo. Here is a more detailed explanation of the cat’s ancestry.. Notice the importance of Martelli’s wildcat (Felis Lunensis) in the development of our domestic cats and their close ancestors.

    The chart is very useful even though it is in German. Notice how Pallas’ cat (Felis Nanul) split off from the Felidae lineage a long time ago and has nothing to do with the Persian as some people would like to believe.


  12. I always admire my 2 cats for their resemblance to miniature “BIG CATS”, especially tomcat ‘Matata’. He resembles a miniature lion and is as ferocious, a freak of nature.He has to regularly “PROWL’ round my small flat to check if any “Cat Intruder” has invaded his private domain!Its hilarious watching him prowl and at times stalk his dam Matahari.Here is a candid photo of him doing what he likes best, lazying on the sofa.We have put a covering on the sofa to avoid damage from “Territory scratching”.

    1. Yes, domestic cats really are miniatures as I explain in my poem “Beloved Cat: Once Mortal Enemy, Now Immortal Friend” at

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