Self Domestication

Picture A: Chihuahua skull
Picture B: Bulldog skull
Source: Bone Clones

Picture A: Chihuahua skull Picture B: Bulldog skull Source: Bone Clones

Maxwell Zbytowski, Reporter

A new theory has branched off the question: “how did cats become domesticated?” creating “are we domesticated?” and from there: “how did we become domesticated?” Unlike dogs, cats weren’t domesticated through selective breeding by people; until only in recent times were they bred to create several different variants of feline, despite, from an anatomical perspective, that they are the same skeletal-wise. 

When cat skeletons are compared to the vast variety of old world and modern breeds of domestic dog, they’re almost exactly the same. In comparison, dogs almost look nothing alike. If a future existed where dogs went extinct, the intelligent beings of that era might assume a chihuahua (example A) and a bulldog (example B) to be different species under the genus Canis.

As humans began the agricultural revolution some 10,00 years ago, the containment of grains attracted rodents, who in turn attracted the modern cat’s ancestors, Felis lybica, otherwise known as the African Wildcat and its subspecies. The domestication has happened at least three times throughout the 10,000 year period. Humans simply allowed the cats to stay, creating a mutualistic relationship between the two. The cat gets a meal, and the human’s food is kept safe.

Human domestication is different from the idea of animal domestication, partly because humans weren’t domesticating these animals for hundreds of millions of years. The idea of animal domestication is through human-made efforts.

We, as the genus Homo, along with our other ancestors, started self-domestication approximately 600,000 years ago, when modern humans first emerged. Along with Denisovans and Neanderthals, other human species interbred with us until their population disappeared into our own; some traits we have today can be traced back to them. 

Though larger brain size doesn’t indicate intelligence level (look at other apes), ours evolved enough to allow us to be the most self-aware and intelligent species to date. Our complex minds are the basal specimen used to compare against the intelligence of other animals. Some traits that indicate domestication include: diverse appetite, docility and strong nerves. Humans are known omnivores, meaning we eat things from both plants and animals; our diet is very vast and different depending on culture. We are also known social animals. We need other human interaction, which is why families are so close knit. Humans have an extremely hard time living in isolation, long periods of which can cause symptoms of insanity. In relation to strong nerves, humans aren’t easily startled when compared to other animals like horses,cattle, and domestic animals, which have bad depth perception and may get spooked by a plastic bag or shadow, thinking it’s a hole in the ground through which they may fall. 

To conclude, though animal and human evolution is different, we are still just animals after all. Just because something isn’t human doesn’t mean it doesn’t feel; it just experiences feelings differently. We are a domestic species, at least based on traits shown by other domestic and partially domesticated animals. Thanks to our evolution, we are who we are today. Maybe your cat Mittens and you aren’t so different after all…