Why was the cat domesticated? The advent of farming was the reason why the wild cat came to be domesticated. As Dr Morris says ‘there would have been no taming of the cat before the Agricultural Revolution’. This happened during the New Stone Age or Neolithic period – 10,200 BC to no later than 2,000 BC.
There was no use for the tamed cat before farming in contrast to the dog which was domesticated much earlier because they were useful as a hunting companion with their superior senses of smell and hearing.
Farming resulted in piles of stored grain which attracted a teaming population of rodents. A wild cat would have sauntered onto a farm and discovered a feast of easy-to-catch mice. There would have been no need to wait interminably before attacking prey. It was there on a plate.
The farmer, pressed to protect his grain store would have noticed the presence of the small African wildcat doing something he was struggling to do himself. He cultivated a relationship between human and cat which benefited both and which lead to the most popular companion animal on the planet with the dog.
Why was the cat domesticated? Answer: because it benefited both at a time when farming started during the New Stone Age. The cat has never looked back.
I would argue that the golden age of cat domestication has passed. It would have been early on. In the early days of cat domestication there was a natural order to the relationship with both cat and human benefiting. The value of the cat was prized and valued. In Egypt the cat rose to become a deity and worshipped (although this lead to cat abuse). There were little or no feral cats. The number of domestic cats was minuscule compared to today. Cat domestication worked.
Over the intervening 10,000 years humans have cocked up the domestication process. An irresponsible attitude to cat domestication has lead to an equal number of feral and domestic cats with the associated cries of ‘ecological disaster’ from some quarters of society. As concern for the environment becomes more pressing due to human population growth and careless activities there is increased pressure on exterminating the unwanted stray and feral cat. The value of the cat has plummeted to the point where mass extermination is foreseeable.
There should be no feral cats. The intention, if there ever was one, was not to allow the mass breeding of unwanted cats. This is a human catastrophe and the victim in this story is never the creator of the feral cat, it is the cat himself.