Sunday 23 June 2024

Cats are perfect in one way and cannot be improved

Cats - meaning all species of feline but perhaps particularly the domestic cat - are obviously not perfect in every sense. Nothing is perfect. Although it depends on how you define perfection.

Cats are perfect in one way and cannot be improved
Cats are perfectly evolved. Image: MikeB


In this instance I am defining 'perfect' by reference to evolution. The cat evolved over many millions of years and where we are today, all species of cat are extremely similar. Almost identical except for a variation in size and coat colour and pattern.

In terms of their character, behaviour, anatomy, athletic abilities and predation they are the same. The humble domestic cat is a tiger in his mind when he goes into the backyard for a spot of hunting.

Because all species of feline are the same we can conclude that the process of evolution has been completed. Evolution has completed its 20 million year task.

For that simple reason we can argue that the case that the cat is perfect.

Evolution designed them around predation. They are made to kill and eat meat. You don't get a finer predator.

If that theory is correct, over the next ten million years, the cat will change very little. 

The obstacle to the theory is that there might be more purebred cats in the future and these cats are created by the opposite to natural selection which governs evolution (see below). They are created through artificial selection by the human hand - the breeder.

This is why dog vary in appearance more than cats. There are far more purebred dogs in the world than purebred cats because historically dogs were used some 20,000 years ago for utilitarian reasons; to perform tasks for their owners.

The cat was also useful at one task in the early days of domestication - mousing. But they are harder to train and now the domestic cat is a companion. That is their task.

This is a cross-post and the idea for the perfect feline came from an evolutionary zoologist Anjali Goswami, who thinks that cats are perfect from a scientific standpoint; from an evolutionary standpoint. 

Also Dr Desmond Morris many years earlier espoused the same idea. He was perhaps the first to say that the anatomy of the cat is perfect for predation; refined over millions of years.

It is wrong for breeders to think they can do better than nature. They can't and they make some purebred cats that are very defective compared to the natural version. Many or most purebred cats inherit diseases and have shorter lives than they should have.

And the Persian's unnaturally shortened face is a disgrace and disrespectful of nature's evolution. Shame of the breeders. These extreme-bred purebred cats could not survive in the wild.


Natural selection summarised

Here's a summary of natural selection incorporating genetic variation:

  1. Variation: This is the foundation of natural selection. Individuals within a population have variations in their traits. These variations can arise from two main sources:

    • Genetic mutations: Changes in the genetic material (DNA) can introduce new traits or alter existing ones.
    • Sexual reproduction: The shuffling of genes during sexual reproduction creates new combinations of traits in offspring, even without mutations.
  2. Inheritance: These variations, whether caused by mutations or sexual reproduction, can be passed on from parents to offspring if they occur in the organism's reproductive cells (eggs or sperm).

  3. Competition: Organisms produce more offspring than the environment can support, leading to competition for resources like food, water, and shelter.

  4. Selection: Individuals with traits better suited to the environment are more likely to survive and reproduce. These beneficial traits could be anything that helps them avoid predators, find food more efficiently, or resist disease.

  5. Over Time: Over many generations, as beneficial traits are passed on more frequently, the population gradually changes. Individuals with these traits become more common, and the population becomes better adapted to its environment. This is how evolution occurs.

So, genetic mutations provide the raw material for variation, and natural selection acts on that variation, favouring traits that enhance survival and reproduction.

The evolution of the cat

The cat family's story stretches back millions of years, with twists and turns throughout:

  • Ancient Beginnings (10-15 million years ago): The cat family (Felidae) arose in Asia, with a panther-like ancestor.
  • Diversification (6-10 million years ago): DNA evidence suggests major branching within the Felidae family. Big cats like lions and tigers diverged from smaller cat lineages.
  • Global Adventures (9 million years ago onwards): Land bridges allowed cats to migrate across continents. Cats reached North America and even migrated back to Asia at times.
  • Ancestral Cats (around 10,000 years ago): The African wildcat (Felis silvestris lybica) is believed to be the ancestor of our domestic cats. These wildcats were drawn to human settlements by the abundance of rodents.
  • The Domestication Dance (around 10,000 years ago): A gradual process likely unfolded. Early humans and wildcats may have tolerated, or even benefited from, each other's presence. Over time, selection may have favored cats with traits that made them more comfortable around people.
  • From Partners to Pets: The exact timeline is fuzzy, but archaeological evidence suggests a close relationship between humans and cats by around 9,500 years ago. Cats transitioned from tolerated mousers to cherished companions.

This is a simplified version, but it captures the key points of the cat's evolutionary journey. From a common ancestor in Asia to our purring house cats, it's a story of adaptation, migration, and eventually, a unique partnership with humans.


P.S. please forgive the occasional typo. These articles are written at breakneck speed using Dragon Dictate. I have to prepare them in around 20 mins.

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