National “Semi-Domesticated” Cat Day

STEFANIE LAM

Cats were thought to have been ‘domesticated’ when a semi-mutual relationship of sorts developed in ancient farming villages where cats helped catch rodents. But the question remains, are they really domesticated? Unlike a dog, cats are often ambivalent towards their owners. Example: when you are trying to work, they may decided to climb onto your computer keyboard and meow at you.

Cats have been by our sides for a long time now. It has been said that the ancient Egyptians were the first people to develop a relationship with cats as they helped protect grains from rodents when agriculture became prevalent among ancient civilizations. As people tolerated the wild cats, the cats themselves slowly became more attuned to being around hu- mans.

Curious scientists have recently revealed that through comparative analysis of the domestic cat genome that cats are ‘semi-domesticated,’ as opposed to dogs, which are considered fully domesticated. According to one of the authors, Wes Warren, cats have only recently split off from wild cats and because they can still breed with wild cats, it is surprising to have found DNA evidence of domestication.

You may wonder, what sort of evidence has DNA presented? Researchers have found a relationship between the genome of a domesticated cat and those of gene knockout models “affecting memory, fear-conditioning behavior, and stimulus-reward learning.” The genomic studies have proved that there are “genomic differences between domestic cats and wildcats.” Sadly, although cats are considered semi-domesticated, it is still difficult for them to survive on the streets and there are currently seventy million stray cats without homes.

That is why Colleen Paige, an animal welfare advocate, established National Cat Day. It takes place on October 29 every year in the United States. The goal behind this celebration is to raise awareness of the number of cats that need to be rescued each year, as well as to encourage adoption. Moreover, the holiday serves as a reminder to appreciate the un- conditional love and companionship that cats offer us. This day is supported by the American Society for the Prevention of  Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).

The ASPCA was the first humane society to be established in North America. It was founded by Henry Bergh in 1866, who believed that “animals are entitled to kind and respectful treatment at the hands of humans, and must be protected under law.” Similar to our country’s founding fathers, Bergh convinced many dignitaries to sign his ‘Declaration of the Rights of Animals.’ ASPCA aims to enforce anti-cruelty towards animals, cats included. This national organization has developed many policies in regards to the appropriate treatment of animals such as pet-keeping policies, service animal policies, and policies on pet overpopula- tion issues.

The process to adopt a cat is relatively simple.

Step 1: There are several online adoption listing databases online to choose from.

Step 2: Once you have chosen a cat that you are interested in, you should contact the staff at the shelter and visit the cat in person. This is just to ensure that the cat is compatible with everyone in the family

Step 3: Then there is an interview process to ensure that the cat is going to a good and com- patible home. This is where fees and the medical history of  the cat are presented. The staff can also recommend potential products that your cat may need if you are new to owning a cat.

Step 4: Congratulations! You can now bring your cat home. The shelters should offer online services that teach you how to train your cat and other events with other cat owners.

Therefore, in remembrance of National Cat day, you should always try to adopt a cat and aid in efforts towards reducing the number of destitute cats living on the streets. Some tips on being a good cat owner include: feeding, grooming, handling, housing, identification, litter box, scratching, medications, neutering, and vaccinations. It is recommended that cat owners purchase high-quality, brand-name kitten or cat food. The exact amount of food to feed your cat may vary depending on the age, activity level, and health of your cat. You should prove fresh water at all times, brush your cat regularly to cut down on hairballs, provide a soft blanket indoors for your cat, place a safety collar on your cat, change the litter box daily, and provide a sturdy scratching post for your cat. These are just the essentials, but now you are one step closer to acquiring a furry companion of your own.

Interview with Abby Stewart, senior math major
SL: Do you think the stereotype of cat lovers has changed?
AS: I think a lot of the personality traits associated with being a cat lover have stayed the same over the years, but that type of personality is more accepted than it used to be. I know a lot of the stereotypes are true of me. A little introverted, a little weird, probably an old person (at least on the inside), but I embrace it and most people accept me for it.
SL: I heard that each cat has his/her own personality. If you could choose a TV character whose person- ality best emulates your cat, who would it be?
AS: Mr. Fredericksen from Up, because [my cat] is introverted and kind of a grump, but once she finally decides she likes you she’s really sweet.
SL: What is the cutest quirk your cat has?
Her tail has a mind of its own. If you pet her, it will just curl and go all over the place, and sometimes she chases it like a dog.
Interview with Marybeth Hampe, senior , microbiology and cell science major
SL: Do you think the stereotype of cat lovers has changed?
MH: Yes, because of the boom of cat videos on the internet, it’s now more normal to be a cat lover. It’s still generally considered weird, though.
SL: When did you realize you were a cat person?
MH: Since before I can remember. My mom played an old VHS where I saw myself when I was three or four coming [into the living room] to see my presents on Christmas day and [when I opened my presents] I cried, and said, “I didn’t get a real kitty.”
SL: Cutest quirk your cat has?
MH: She plays fetch. Her favorite game is using my hand as a chew toy.

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