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If you’ve ever wondered what exactly defines a domestic cat, you’re not alone. The term “domestic cat” can be a bit confusing because not all domestic cats are necessarily house cats. They can be purebred cats, hybrid cats, feral cats or even feral cats. Domestic cats have a fascinating history that dates back thousands of years when they were selectively bred to remove “wild” traits from their DNA. Today, domestic cats come in all shapes, sizes and coat types, reflecting the endless variety that can be found in this beloved animal. Whether purebred or mixed breed, domestic cats bring joy and companionship to countless households around the world. Follow Beaconpet for more.
What Is a Domestic Cat?
A domestic cat, by definition, is a cat that resides in a domicile. However, not all domestic cats are house cats. They can be purebred, mixed breed, live in a house or farm with humans, or reside in a neighborhood as a stray or feral cat. Domestic cats have a long and fascinating history, dating back thousands of years through selective breeding.
Millennia in the Making
Selective Breeding of Domestic Cats
Domestic cats, or domesticated cats, were bred to have the “wild” characteristics removed from their DNA. This process of selective breeding has been going on for thousands of years, resulting in the domestic cats we know today. Formerly wild cats and big cats were the ancestors of domestic cats.
Artificial selection, a term coined by biologist Charles Darwin, is a process used by humans to develop new organisms with desirable characteristics. In the case of domestic cats, breeders select two parents that have beneficial traits to reproduce, yielding offspring with those desired traits. Over time, this artificial selection has led to the development of specific cat breeds.
Origin of Domestic Cats
All cats today descend from those original cats that were found in Africa, the Mediterranean, and Middle East regions. Cats were domesticated thousands of years ago and have since spread throughout the world. They have adapted to various environments and have become an integral part of many cultures and societies.
Definition of a Mixed-Breed Cat
A mixed-breed cat is any cat of unknown origin with various body types, coats, and color patterns. These cats may have markings similar to specific breeds, but unless there is a long line of genealogy records and pedigree registration, they are considered mixed breeds.
Characteristics of Mixed-Breed Cats
Mixed-breed cats come in all shapes and sizes. They often exhibit a combination of different traits from various breeds. These cats can have unique and unpredictable appearances and personalities. While they may not possess the distinct characteristics of purebred cats, they are still beloved pets and companions.
Definition of a Purebred Cat
A purebred cat is a cat that has a known and documented pedigree. These cats are bred to meet specific breed standards and preserve certain physical and behavioral traits. Purebred cats often have higher price tags and are sought after by those who want a cat with specific qualities.
Main Registering Body for Pedigreed Cat Breeds
The Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA) is the main registering body for pedigreed cat breeds in the United States. They ensure that breeders adhere to strict guidelines and maintain the integrity of each breed.
Recognized Cat Breeds
The CFA recognizes 42 different cat breeds, including well-known breeds like Siamese, Persian, Maine Coon, and Bengal. Each breed has its own distinct characteristics, appearance, and temperament.
Breed Standards for Purebred Cats
The CFA and other organizations set specific breed standards for each cat breed. These standards outline the ideal physical and behavioral traits that a cat of that breed should possess. Breeders strive to produce cats that meet these standards and are judged accordingly in cat shows.
Infinite Variety of Domestic Cats
Sizes and Shapes of Domestic Cats
Domestic cats come in all sizes and shapes, from tiny teacup cats to large and majestic breeds like Maine Coons. Some cats are sleek and athletic, while others are round and cuddly. Each cat has its own unique body type.
Coat Lengths and Color Patterns
Domestic cats have a wide range of coat lengths and patterns. Some have short, smooth fur, while others have long and fluffy coats. Coat colors and patterns can vary greatly, from solid colors to tabby stripes, tortoiseshell patterns, and everything in between.
Descriptive Names for Domestic Cats
Domestic cats are known by various descriptive names, such as “house cats,” “alley cats,” or “moggies” (in the U.K.). These names highlight their status as beloved pets and companions, regardless of their breed or pedigree.
Domestic Cats in Cat Shows
In cat shows, there is usually a class called “Household Pets” that allows domestic, mixed-breed cats to participate. These cats showcase their unique and diverse appearances and compete alongside purebred cats. It is a celebration of the infinite variety of domestic cats.
Origin of New Cat Breeds
Most new cat breeds in the past 50 years have been the result of careful breeding programs by experts in feline genetics. Occasionally, a litter born to a domestic cat may contain one or two kittens that have completely unusual characteristics. These kittens may be used as the foundation of a new breed if their traits are desirable.
The American Bobtail is a breed that originated in the late 1960s. Legend has it that it was the result of a domestic cat mixing with a bobcat on an Indian reservation in the Southwest U.S. These cats are known for their distinctive bobbed tails and can have a wide range of coat patterns and colors.
The American Curl breed came about through a serendipitous genetic accident. The first American Curl kittens were born to a longhaired black stray with unusual ears in Lakewood, California, in 1981. These cats have uniquely curled ears and come in both longhaired and shorthaired varieties.
The Cornish Rex is the oldest of the three Rex cat breeds. It originated around 1950 as a spontaneous mutation in a litter of barn cats in Cornwall, England. These cats have curly and soft fur, giving them a unique and distinctive appearance.
Although short-legged cats have been observed for a long time, the munchkin breed of short-legged cats did not become classified as its own category until 1983 in Louisiana. These cats have naturally short legs and come in a variety of colors and coat patterns.
The Pixiebob breed was officially recognized by the International Cat Association as a breed in 1994. It is believed to be a mix between a bobcat and a barn cat. Pixiebobs are known for their wild appearance, muscular build, and polydactyl paws.
Selective Breeding of Domestic Cats
Removing “Wild” Characteristics
Selective breeding of domestic cats involved removing the “wild” characteristics from their DNA. The goal was to create cats that were better suited to living with humans. Over time, domestic cats have become more docile and adapted to human environments.
Through selective breeding, breeders aimed to enhance certain desirable traits in domestic cats. These traits include specific coat patterns, body types, and temperaments. Breeders carefully select parents with these traits to produce offspring that exhibit them.
Selection of Parents
Breeders carefully select the parents of each litter to ensure that desirable traits are passed down to the kittens. This process involves genetic testing, pedigree analysis, and evaluating the physical and behavioral characteristics of the potential parents.
Term Coined by Biologist Charles Darwin
Biologist Charles Darwin coined the term “artificial selection” to describe the process used by humans to develop new organisms with desirable traits. This process involves intentionally breeding individuals with specific characteristics to produce offspring that inherit those traits.
Use in Developing New Organisms with Desirable Traits
Artificial selection has been widely used in developing new cat breeds with specific and desirable traits. Breeders carefully select parents with desired characteristics and breed them to produce kittens with those traits. This process allows for the creation of breeds with unique appearances and temperaments.
Origin of Domestic Cats
Origins in Africa, the Mediterranean, and Middle East Regions
Domestic cats have their origins in Africa, the Mediterranean, and Middle East regions. Cats were first domesticated in these areas thousands of years ago and have since spread throughout the world. They were initially valued for their ability to hunt pests and provide companionship.
Descendants of Original Cats
All modern domestic cats are descendants of those original cats found in Africa, the Mediterranean, and Middle East regions. These cats have undergone changes and adaptations over the centuries to suit different environments and human needs. They continue to be cherished pets and play important roles in the lives of many people.
Official Recognition as a Breed
The Pixiebob breed was officially recognized by the International Cat Association as a breed in 1994. This recognition acknowledges the unique characteristics and traits of the breed.
Believed Mix of Bobcat and Barn Cat
The Pixiebob is believed to be a mix between a bobcat and a barn cat. These cats have a muscular build, tufted ears, and a wild appearance. While they may resemble bobcats, Pixiebobs are domestic cats and make loving companions.
Appearance and Traits
Pixiebobs have a distinctive wild appearance with bold markings and a robust build. They often have polydactyl paws, meaning they possess extra toes. These cats are known for their friendly and affectionate nature, making them great companions for families and individuals alike.
In conclusion, domestic cats come in various shapes, sizes, and breeds. They have a rich history that spans thousands of years and have been selectively bred to exhibit specific traits. Whether they are mixed breeds or purebreds, domestic cats are beloved pets that bring joy and companionship to millions of people around the world.