It is commonly believed that the Egyptians first domesticated cats 4,000 years ago, but many now believe that cats could’ve been domesticated thousands of years before that on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, where recent excavations have suggested cats could have lived with humans as early as 9,500 years ago.
While cats have been with us for a while now, it may not be completely accurate to describe them as “domesticated.” It’s probably more accurate to say these efficient predators “chose” to be domesticated.
Cats likely arrived in human communities because of their instincts as hunters — they went where they could find the most vermin prey. Their relationship with humans began on farms, where cats had a constant source of prey by helping farmers deal with their rodent problems.
Cats’ opportunism and knack for hunting are part of what makes them so interesting. As cute as the common house cat is to us, they, like other cats, are natural-born killers.
Outdoor and stray feral cats are able to kill hundreds of millions of birds and rodents every year by utilizing their acute hearing, night vision, speed and agility. Some countries, such as Australia, have stricter regulations on cat breeding than we do here in the states, due to their impact on the ecosystem and reputation as surplus killers.
But cats don't behave as surplus killers out of sheer bloodlust. It’s instinctual for cats and many other predators to kill more than they need to eat at a given time — and those predator instincts are very much still there in domestic cats.
Despite being part of one of the most feared genera of predators in the animal kingdom, cats are a favorite among pet owners. In North America, there are nearly 75 million cats compared to about 65 million dogs.
Still, it is important to remember that these predators-at-heart can find themselves easily bored in the home during the 30 percent of their lives that they aren’t resting.
Playing with your cats can keep them physically healthy through exercise, while also helping them relieve instinctual impulses and the inherent aggression natural predators often have.
Cats bond with each other and their owners through horseplay and “play fighting,” an important part of how they are socialized as kittens.
But most of all, it’s fun! So make sure to take time to play with your cats.