Why are domestic cats an invasive species?

Domestic cats are not an invasive species in every country. Domestic cats are native to certain countries and in those countries they are not an invasive species. A species of animal is only “invasive” if they are not native or indigenous to a certain place. For cats this means that they were brought to that place by humans and when they reside in that place long enough, they do damage to the ecology and ecosystems of that place. Everything I say about domestic cats on this page also applies to feral and stray cats.

But the point is that the first domestic cats on the planet existed in what the experts agree is called The Fertile Crescent. This is a sweeping arch of relatively lush and fertile farmland where farmers settled. And because they settled there, they decided to have a mutually beneficial relationship with the North African wildcat which, as a consequence, became semi-domesticated and then eventually over thousands of years fully domesticated.

The Fertile Crescent where the domestic cat first occurred compared to a map of the same are 2021
The Fertile Crescent where the domestic cat first occurred compared to a map of the same are 2021. Image: MikeB. Maps in public domain.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles:- Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

So where is The Fertile Crescent in relation to modern day countries? Well, above are two maps side-by-side: one shows the area that is known as The Fertile Crescent and the other is a map of the area concerned. You can see that Syria is within the Fertile Crescent and therefore domestic cats are native to that country. In my estimation, when crosschecking these two maps, I can see that the domestic cat is native to the following countries: Egypt, Israel, Lebanon, perhaps Jordan, Iraq, and Iran.

I am being a little bit imprecise because I’m not superimposing the map of The Fertile Crescent on the map showing these countries but the countries stated are a very good starting point.

In all other countries of the planet of which there are arguably 195, the domestic cat is an invasive species technically or actually. It depends upon your viewpoint. I think we have to inject a little bit of leeway into the strict definition of native and non-native species. If the domestic cat has been in a place for thousands of years, might it not be fair to argue that they become native to that place through the passage of time?

There is another issue. It is generally agreed that the domestic cat is a domesticated North African wildcat, as mentioned. This is also known as the African-Asian wildcat. But scientific knowledge about the first wildcats to be domesticated is not fixed in concrete. The specialists are still learning about it.

And therefore, it might be arguable that the domestic cat is native also in the UK. The wildcat has populated Great Britain for thousands of years. Might it not be possible that the wildcat was domesticated on that island at the same time as it was domesticated in The Fertile Crescent? The general consensus is that domestic cats were imported into Great Britain with the Romans at about 200 A.D. however, I don’t think that that is absolutely certain but perhaps somebody might want to criticise me and correct me on that statement.

But the point I am making is that the science on the domestication of the cat is ongoing and as such we can’t be too confident as to where the domestic cat is native.

However, currently, if you interpret the phrase “invasive species” strictly then the domestic cat is invasive in all of the world’s countries except for those mentioned above.


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