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I thought that the definition of species is "can interbreed"
The wildcat (Felis silvestris) is a small cat found throughout most of Africa, Europe, and southwest and central Asia into India, China, and Mongolia. Because of its wide range, it is classed by the IUCN as Least Concern. However, crossbreeding with housecats is extensive and has occurred throughout almost the entirety of the species' range.
So why does it have a different name than the house cat?
From Species at Wikipedia:
A species is often defined as a group of organisms capable of interbreeding and producing fertile offspring. While in many cases this definition is adequate, the difficulty of defining species is known as the species problem.
While I understand that sometimes problems arise, what makes biologist mark the wild cat as a distinct species from the house cat? If they are genetically different, how different?
Donkeys can breed with horses. The result is sterile. Tigers can breed with lions with lots of complication. Wildcat seems to interbreed with housecat without problem whatsoever. Or does it? That's actually the essence of the question.
There are many definitions of species - look at the wikipedia page for an overview (this is a large and tricky subject). Some hybridization is not uncommon between "proper" species (often in narrow contact zones), also with fully or partially fertile hybrids. Definitions of species in these cases often comes down to genetic similarity/dissimilarity of populations. Even though hybridization is taking place it usually does so at very low rates, so the gene pools stay relatively distinct. The biological species concept (which is what you are referring to) is also problematic when it comes to e.g. ring species.
As for wild cats and domestic cats, my feeling is that modern evidence (e.g. molecular studies and phylogenies) places domesticated cats firmly as a subspecies of wild cats (Driscoll et al. 2007, 2009), with the domesticated cat as Felis silvestris catus. In the study by Driscoll et al. (2009), domesticated cats fall in the same mtDNA clade as F. silvestris lybica. However, domesticated cats were traditionally described as a separate species (by Linnaeus), and this has stuck and some still label them as separate species (as does Mammal Species of the World). I can imagine that some who argue for species status now might use a mixture of ecological, phenetic, and biological species definitions.
From Driscoll et al. (2009):
In contrast, the world's domestic cats carried genotypes that differentiated them from all local wildcats except those from the Near East. Domestic cats show no reduction in genetic diversity compared with the wild subspecies (37), thus giving no indication for a founding genetic bottleneck. Multiple genetic analyses produced concordant results, in each case tracing the maternal origins of cat domestication to at least 5 wildcat lines (A through E, Fig. 2B) originating in the Near East. The domestic cat is referred to as a sixth subspecies, F. silvestris catus, although it is clear that domestic cats derive very recently from F. silvestris lybica (37).
… the vast majority of sampled domestic cats fall into the same mtDNA clade, which also includes F. silvestris lybica…
There is also evidence that hybridization can help adaptation by facilitating gene transfer (even though hybrid fertility/viability might be low), so you might want to check out e.g. results from the Heliconius Genome Consortium (2012).
This Wall Chart Shows Every Species in the Cat Kingdom
A cat is still a cat, whether it’s a domesticated Bengal or its larger, wilder relative, the leopard cat. In celebration of all things feline, Pop Chart created a wall print showing the many different types of cat, as well as your fur baby’s place in the kitty kingdom.
“The Chart of Cats” breaks the kingdom down by genus, highlighting the fact that the humble domesticated cat (Felis catus) shares a category with the scruffy-looking Chinese mountain cat as well as the diminutive yet adorable black-footed cat of Africa. (I mean, just look at that face).
“We’ve charted and illustrated to scale the full family felidae with this paw-sitively pleasing print, including all extant and notable species—from the lordly lion, to the ostentatious ocelot, to even extinct entries like the jaw-dropping sabertooth tiger,” Pop Chart writes in its description of the poster.Pop Chart
It even provides an evolutionary timeline, which begins with the extinct Proailurus cat—a small carnivorous animal that resembled a mongoose or civet—about 30 million years ago. The more modern-looking Pseudaelurus evolved about 20 million years ago, and sabercats emerged 10 million years ago.
It wasn’t until fairly recently—just 10,000 years ago—that cats became domesticated. And in typical cat fashion, they domesticated themselves and decided to start living in harmony with humans around the same time that humans settled down and started farming the land.
If you love cats as much as we do, you can pre-order this $30 print from Pop Chart’s website. Orders ship on February 5.
Domestic cats, and wild bobcats and pumas, living in same area have same diseases
Mountain lion photographed by a motion-activated camera, Uncompahgre Plateau, Colorado. Credit: Jesse Lewis, Colorado State University
(PhysOrg.com) -- Domestic cats, wild bobcats and pumas that live in the same area share the same diseases.
And domestic cats may bring them into human homes, according to results of a study of what happens when big and small cats cross paths.
Initial results of the multi-year study are published today in the scientific journal PLoS One by a group of 14 authors.
The joint National Science Foundation (NSF) and National Institutes of Health (NIH) Ecology and Evolution of Infectious Diseases (EEID) Program funded the study. Scientists at Colorado State University and other institutions conducted the research.
It provides evidence that domestic cats and wild cats that share the same outdoor areas in urban environments also can share diseases such as Bartonellosis and Toxoplasmosis. Both can be spread from cats to people.
"Human-wildlife interactions will continue to increase as human populations expand," said Sam Scheiner, program director for EEID at NSF.
"This study demonstrates that such interactions can be indirect and extensive," said Scheiner. "Through our pets we are sharing their diseases, which can affect our health, our pets' health and wildlife health."
The study looked at urban areas in California and Colorado. Its results show that diseases can spread via contact with shared habitat.
All three diseases the scientists tracked--Toxoplasmosis, Bartonellosis and FIV, or feline immunodefiency virus--were present in each area.
The research also demonstrates that diseases can be clustered due to urban development and major freeways that restrict animal movement.
"The results are relevant to the big picture of domestic cats and their owners in urban areas frequented by wild cats such as bobcats and pumas," said Sue VandeWoude, a veterinarian at Colorado State and co-leader of the project.
"The moral of this story is that diseases can be transmitted between housecats and wildlife in areas they share, so it's important for pet owners to keep that in mind."Bobcat with cottontail rabbit on a motion-activated camera at the Colorado Front Range. Credit: Jesse Lewis, Colorado State University
The researchers followed wild and domestic cats in several regions of Colorado and California to determine whether the cats had been exposed to certain diseases.
The effort includes data from 800 blood samples from felines of all sizes, including 260 bobcats and 200 pumas, which were captured and released, and 275 domestic cats.GPS data from bobcats on the Uncompahgre Plateau, Colorado. Credit: Jesse Lewis, Colorado State University
"As human development encroaches on natural habitat, wildlife species that live there may be susceptible to diseases we or our domestic animals carry and spread," said Kevin Crooks, a biologist at Colorado State and co-leader of the project.
"At the same time, wildlife can harbor diseases that humans and our pets can in turn get. Diseases may be increasingly transmitted as former natural areas are developed."
The project also looked at whether bobcats in southern California were segregated into different populations by major highways.
By analyzing genetic and pathogen data, the scientists found that bobcats west or east of Highway 5 near Los Angeles rarely interbred, but that the bobcats did cross into each other's territory often enough to share diseases such as FIV.
"The evidence suggests that bobcats are moving across major highways, but are not able to easily set up new home territories," said VandeWoude.
"They can, however, spread diseases to one another when they cross into each other's territories. This could result in inbreeding of the bobcats trapped by urban development and end up in the spread of diseases."
VandeWoude and Crooks say that the results don't necessarily mean that all domestic cats that are allowed to roam outdoors are at a high level of risk. They plan further studies to better assess that risk.GPS data from bobcats on the Colorado Front Range. Credit: Jesse Lewis, Colorado State University
It does mean that domestic cats and wild cats who share the same environment--even if they do not come into contact with each other--also can share diseases.
The findings show that pumas are more likely to be infected with FIV than bobcats or domestic cats. While FIV cannot be transmitted to people, it is highly contagious among felines.
The rate of Toxoplasmosis was high in pumas and bobcats across Colorado and California.
Toxoplasmosis is caused by a parasite that, when carried by healthy people, has no effect but that can cause complications for infants and adults with compromised immune systems.
Cats only spread Toxoplasmosis in their feces for a few weeks following infection with the parasite. Like humans, cats rarely have symptoms when first infected.
Bartonellosis is a bacterial infection also called cat scratch disease. If someone is scratched by a cat with Bartonellosis, the scratch may become infected, but the infection is usually a mild one.
Other studies underway include a fine-scale analysis of urban landscape features that affect disease incidence evaluation of pathogen exposure and transmission in bobcats and a survey of domestic cat owners about their attitudes toward risks for pets from wildlife.
Large-scale projects looking at movement patterns of bobcats and pumas in Colorado, and a motion-activated camera analysis of human and wildlife interactions along urban areas, are also in progress.
The take-home message, the researchers say, is that life in the wild may not be so wild after all.
House Cats and Wild Cats Aren’t Actually That Different
At no point were cats domesticated by humans. One particular type of cat—Felis silvestris, a sturdy little tabby—has spread world-wide by learning to live with humans. House cats today are offshoots of a particular branch of this species, Felis silvestris lybica, which began to cohabit with humans some 12,000 years ago in parts of the Near East that now form part of Turkey, Iraq and Israel. By invading villages in these areas, these cats were able to turn the human move to a more sedentary life to their advantage. Preying on rodents and other animals attracted by stored seeds and grains and snatching waste meat left behind after slaughtered animals had been eaten, they turned human settlements into reliable food sources.
Recent evidence points to a similar process taking place independently in China around five millennia ago, when a central Asian variety of Felis silvestris pursued a similar strategy. Having entered into close proximity with humans, it was not long before cats were accepted as being useful to them. Employing cats for pest control on farms and sailing vessels became common. Whether as rat-catchers, stowaways or accidental travellers, cats spread on ships to parts of the world where they had not lived before. In many countries today, they outnumber dogs and any other animal species as cohabitants of human households.
Cats initiated this process of domestication, and on their own terms. Unlike other species that foraged in early human settlements, they have continued to live in close quarters with humans ever since without their wild nature changing greatly. The genome of house cats differs in only a small number of ways from that of its wild kin. Their legs are somewhat shorter and their coats more variously colored. Even so, as Abigail Tucker has noted, “Cats have changed so little physically during their time among people that even today experts often can’t tell house tabbies from wild cats. This greatly complicates the study of cat domestication. It’s all but impossible to pinpoint the cats’ transition into human life by examining ancient fossils, which hardly change even into modernity.”
Unless they are kept indoors, the behavior of house cats is not much different from that of wild cats. Though the cat may regard more than one house as home, the house is the base where it feeds, sleeps and gives birth. There are clear territorial boundaries, larger for male cats than for females, which will be defended against other cats when necessary. The brains of house cats have diminished in size compared with their wild counterparts, but that does not make house cats less intelligent or adaptable. Since it is the part of the brain that includes the fight-or-flight response that has shrunk, house cats have become able to tolerate situations that would be stressful in the wild, such as encountering humans and unrelated cats.
One reason cats were accepted by humans was their usefulness in reducing rodent populations. Cats eat rodents, and thousands of years ago were already eating mice that had eaten grain from human food stores. Yet in many environments cats and rodents are not natural enemies, and when they interact they often share a common resource such as household garbage. Cats are not very efficient as a means of pest control. House mice may have co-evolved with house cats, and learned to coexist with them. There are photographs of cats and mice together, only inches apart, in which the cats show no interest in the mice at all.
A more fundamental reason why humans accepted cats in their homes is that cats taught humans to love them. This is the true basis of feline domestication. So beguiling are they that cats have often been seen as coming from beyond this world. Humans need something other than the human world, or else they go mad. Animism—the oldest and most universal religion—met this need by recognizing non-human animals as our spiritual equals, even our superiors. Worshipping these other creatures, our ancestors were able to interact with a life beyond their own.
Since their domestication of humans, cats have not needed to rely on hunting for their food. Yet cats remain hunters by nature, and when sustenance is not available from humans they soon return to a hunting life. As Elizabeth Marshall Thomas writes in The Tribe of Tiger: Cats and Their Culture, “The story of cats is a story of meat.” Big or small, cats are hyper-carnivores: in the wild, they only eat meat. That is why big cats are so endangered at the present time.
The rise of human numbers means expanding human settlements and shrinking open spaces. Cats are highly adaptable creatures, thriving in jungles, deserts and mountains as well as the open savannah. In evolutionary terms they have been extremely successful. Yet they are also extremely vulnerable. When their habitats and sources of food cease to be available, they are forced into conflicts with humans they are bound to lose.
Hunting and killing their food is instinctive in cats, and when kittens play it is hunting they are playing at. Cats need meat to live. They can digest vital fatty acids only when these are found in the flesh of other animals. The meat-free life of the moralizing philosopher would be death to cats.
How cats hunt tells us a good deal about them. Apart from lions, which hunt in packs, cats hunt alone, stalking and ambushing their prey, often at night. As ambush predators, cats have evolved for agility, jumping and pouncing in the pursuit of smaller prey. Wolves—the evolutionary ancestors of dogs—hunt for larger prey in groups held together by relationships of dominance and submission. Male and female wolves may mate for life, and both take care of offspring. None of these features of wolf behavior is found in cats. The way cats relate to one another follows from their nature as solitary hunters.
It is not that cats are always alone. How could they be? They come together to mate, they are born in families and where there are reliable food sources they may form colonies. When several cats live in the same space a dominant cat may emerge. Cats may compete ferociously for territory and mates. But there are none of the settled hierarchies that shape interactions among humans and their close evolutionary kin. Unlike chimps and gorillas, cats do not produce alpha specimens or leaders. Where necessary, they will cooperate in order to satisfy their wants, but they do not merge themselves into any social group. There are no feline packs or herds, flocks or congregations.
That cats acknowledge no leaders may be one reason they do not submit to humans. They neither obey nor revere the human beings with which so many of them now cohabit. Even as they rely on us, they remain independent of us. If they show affection for us, it is not just cupboard love. If they do not enjoy our company, they leave. If they stay, it is because they want to be with us. This too is a reason why many of us cherish them.
Not everyone loves cats. In recent times they have been demonized as “an environmental contaminant . . . like DDT,” which spread diseases such as rabies, parasitic toxoplasmosis and the pathogens responsible for the Black Death. Bird droppings pose a greater risk to human health, but one of the commonest accusations against cats is that they kill so many birds. The case against them is that they disrupt the balance of nature. Yet it is hard to explain hostility to cats in terms of any risks they may pose to the environment.
The danger of disease can be countered by programmes such as trap-neuter-return (TNR), widely implemented in the US, in which cats living outdoors are brought to clinics for vaccination and spaying and then released. The risk to birds can be diminished by bells and similar devices. More to the point, it is strange to single out one branch of a nonhuman species as a destroyer of ecological diversity when the major culprit in this regard is the human animal itself. With their superlative efficiency as hunters, cats may have altered the ecosystem in parts of the world. But it is humans that are driving the planetary mass extinction that is currently underway.
Hostility to cats is not new. In early modern France it inspired a popular cult. Cats had long been linked with the devil and the occult. Religious festivals were often rounded off by burning a cat in a bonfire or throwing one off a roof. Sometimes, in a demonstration of human creativity, cats were hung over a fire and roasted alive. In Paris it was the custom to burn a basket, barrel or sack of live cats hung from a tall mast. Cats were buried alive under the floorboards when houses were built, a practice believed to confer good fortune on those who lived there.
On New Year’s Day 1638, in Ely Cathedral, a cat was roasted alive on a spit in the presence of a large and boisterous crowd. A few years later Parliamentary troops, fighting against Royalist forces in the English Civil War, used hounds to hunt cats up and down Lichfield Cathedral. During popeburning processions in the reign of Charles II, the effigies were stuffed with live cats so that their screams would add dramatic effect. At rural fairs a popular sport was shooting cats suspended in baskets.
In some French cities, cat-chasers put on a livelier show by setting fire to them and pursuing them as they were burning through the streets. In other entertainments, cats would be passed around so that their fur could be torn off. In Germany the howls of cats tortured during similar festivals was called Katzenmusik. Many carnivals concluded with a mock trial in which cats were bludgeoned half to death and then hanged, a spectacle that evoked riotous laughter. Often cats were mutilated or killed as embodiments of forbidden sexual desire. From St Paul onwards, Christians viewed sex as a disruptive and even demonic force. The freedom of cats from human moralities may have become linked in the medieval mind with the rebellion of women and others against religious prohibitions on sex. Against the background of this kind of theism it was almost inevitable that cats should be seen as embodiments of evil. Throughout much of Europe they were identified as agents of witchcraft and tormented and burned along with or instead of witches.
The practice of torturing cats did not end with the witchcraft craze. The 19th-century Italian neurologist Paolo Mantegazza (1831–1910), professor at the Istituto di Studi Superiori in Florence, founder of the Italian Anthropological Society and later a progressive member of the Italian Senate, was an avowed Darwinian who believed humans had evolved into a racial hierarchy with “Aryans” at the top and “Negroids” at the bottom. The distinguished professor devised a machine he jovially entitled “the tormentor.” Cats were “quilted with long thin nails” so that any movement was agony, then flayed, lacerated, twisted and broken until death at last released them. The aim of the exercise was to study the physiology of pain. Like Descartes, who refused to abandon the theistic dogma that animals have no soul, the eminent neurologist believed that the torture of animals was justified by the pursuit of knowledge. Science perfected the cruelties of religion.
That cats acknowledge no leaders may be one reason they do not submit to humans. They neither obey nor revere the human beings with which so many of them now cohabit.
At bottom, hatred of cats may be an expression of envy. Many human beings lead lives of muffled misery. Torturing other creatures is a relief, since it inflicts worse suffering on them. Tormenting cats is particularly satisfying, since they are so satisfied in themselves. Cat-hatred is very often the self-hatred of misery-sodden human beings redirected against creatures they know are not unhappy.
Whereas cats live by following their nature, humans live by suppressing theirs. That, paradoxically, is their nature. It is also the perennial charm of barbarism. For many human beings, civilization is a state of confinement. Ruled by fear, sexually starved and filled with rage they dare not express, such people cannot help being maddened by a creature that lives by affirming itself. Tormenting animals diverts them from the dismal squalor in which they creep through their days. The medieval carnivals in which cats were tortured and burned were festivals of the depressed.
Cats are disparaged for their apparent indifference to those that care for them. We give them food and shelter, yet they do not regard us as their owners or their masters, and they give us nothing back except their company. If we treat them with respect, they grow fond of us, but they will not miss us when we are gone. Lacking our support, they soon re-wild. Though they display little concern for the future, they seem set to outlast us. Having spread across the planet on the ships human beings used to expand their reach, cats look like being around long after humans and all their works have vanished without trace.
From Feline Philosophy: Cats and the Meaning of Life by John Gray. Used with the permission of Farrar, Straus & Giroux. Copyright © 2020 by John Gray. All rights reserved.
Impact on ecosystems
Feral cats are skilled hunters and are a threat to the survival of many native species including small mammals, birds and reptiles.
Feral cats have contributed to the extinction of over 20 Australian mammals and have been implicated in the failure of several endangered species reintroduction programs (numbat, bilby, bandicoot).
In Australia, feral cats are a potential threat to 74 mammal species and sub-species, 40 birds, 21 reptiles and 4 amphibians.
Agricultural and economic impacts
Feral cats have no economic value. The cost of feral cat management and research has been estimated at $2 million per year nationally. The economic loss inflicted by feral and domestic cats, based on bird predation alone, has been estimated at $144 million annually.
Feral cats are also potential carriers of disease which may be harmful to stock and native animals.
Impact on social value and health
The diseases toxoplasmosis and sarcosporidiosis, can be transmitted by cats to humans, domestic stock and some native animals.
Toxoplasmosis can cause foetal disease and miscarriage but the role that feral cats play in the transmission of this disease is thought to be small. Feral cats may also spread a variety of exotic diseases including rabies that could seriously threaten livestock, wildlife and human health in the event of an outbreak.
Wild cat brains: An evolutionary curveball
The brains of wild cats don't necessarily respond to the same evolutionary pressures as those of their fellow mammals, humans and primates, indicates a surprising new study led by a Michigan State University neuroscientist.
Arguably, the fact that people and monkeys have particularly large frontal lobes is linked to their social nature. But cheetahs are also social creatures and their frontal lobes are relatively small. And leopards are solitary beasts, yet their frontal lobes are actually enlarged.
So what gives? Sharleen Sakai, lead investigator of the National Science Foundation-funded research, said the findings suggest that multiple factors beyond sociality may influence brain anatomy in carnivores.
"Studying feline brain evolution has been a bit like herding cats," said Sakai, MSU professor of psychology and neuroscience. "Our findings suggest the factors that drive brain evolution in wild cats are likely to differ from selection pressures identified in primate brain evolution."
Sakai and colleagues examined 75 wild feline skulls, representing 13 species, obtained from museum collections, including those at MSU. The researchers used computed tomography (CT) scans and sophisticated software to digitally "fill in" the areas where the brains would have been. From that process, they determined brain volume.
Sakai's lab is interested in uncovering the factors that influence the evolution of the carnivore brain. One explanation for large brains in humans and primates is the effect of sociality. The idea is that dealing with social relationships is more demanding than living alone and results in bigger brains, especially a bigger frontal cortex.
"We wanted to know if this idea, called the 'social brain' hypothesis, applied to other social mammals, especially carnivores and, in particular, wild cats," Sakai said.
Of the 13 wild feline species examined, 11 are solitary and two - lions and cheetahs - are social.
Here are some of the key findings of the research:
- Surprisingly, overall brain size did not differ, on average, between the social and solitary species of wild cats. But the part of the brain that includes the frontal cortex did differ between the two species.
- The female lion had the largest frontal cortex. Female lions are highly social, working together to protect and feed their young, hunt large prey and defend their territory. In contrast, males may live alone and may be dominant in a pride for only a few years. The larger frontal cortex in females compared to male lions and the other wild cats may reflect the lionesses' demands of processing social information necessary for life in the pride.
- The social cheetahs, in contrast, had the smallest overall brains and the smallest frontal cortex of the wild cats. Small brains weigh less and require less energy, factors that might contribute to the cheetah's remarkable running speeds. "Cheetah brain anatomy is distinctive and differs from other wild cats," Sakai said. "The size and shape of its brain may be a consequence of its unusual skull shape, an adaptation for high-speed pursuits."
- Leopards' frontal lobes were relatively large. Although the leopard is solitary, it is noted for its flexibility and adaptability - behaviors associated with enhanced brain processing and larger brain size in other species.
The study is published online in the journal Frontiers in Neuroanatomy.
This Is The World’s Tiniest Wild Cat, And It Might Be The Cutest Thing You’ll See Today
Nature is an amazing place for fresh air and sunshine. Nature is also great for your mental health as being in it reduces stress and anger. But, did you know that nature is also a major source of cuteness?
Yes, forests, jungles, deserts, and a number of other natural locations are home to millions of cute animals&mdashkoalas, llamas, alpacas, possums, spooders, slow lorises, polar foxes, harp seals, and a myriad more. In this list, it&rsquos, of course, the rusty-spotted cat, which is incidentally also the smallest wild cat on the planet.
Meet the smallest feline species on the planet&mdashthe rusty-spotted cat
BBC has recently come out with a preview of its latest episode of Big Cats. It features a near-adult rusty-spotted cat that lives in the wilds of Sri Lanka. The rare cat is seen roaming the woods and jumping over water, searching for food, and exploring the premises. And it&rsquos adorable!
Bored Panda contacted Danielle Miles, a wildlife researcher in Nevada working on faunal response to conifer removals who is currently doing her doctoral degree while also instructing classes (such as Conservation Biology). Miles has previously done research on carnivores and animal behavior, including the rusty-spotted cat, and agreed to elaborate on the wild animal species for our readers.
The rusty-spotted cat (prionailurus rubiginosus) is a wild species of unusual cats living in the forests of Sri Lanka and much of India, with sporadic sightings in Terai and Nepal.
Danielle Miles wrote for the Animal Diversity Web on the rusty-spotted cat during her undergraduate years at university: &ldquoThe way that the Animal Diversity Web used to work was from a list of species that needed to be updated. Then, through approved universities and advisors, people could volunteer to write up the page for the species needed. At the time, I was an undergraduate researcher working in two labs, one on Spotted Hyenas and one more generally on carnivore evolution. So, when I saw that the Rusty-spotted cat was one of the species that still needed an account, I took the opportunity.&rdquo
Measuring at 35-48cm in body length, the adorable wild cat can easily fit into human palms
These tiny cats are predominantly nocturnal, though they do come out briefly during daylight. However, their activity during the daytime is rather limited. Rusty-spotted cats are often found hiding in trees and caves so as to avoid larger predators in the area.
Rodents and birds are, as you may have expected, their main course when it comes to this cute cat&rsquos meals. However, if need be, they also dart towards other small prey like lizards, frogs, and insects. Much of the rusty-spotted cat&rsquos cuteness comes from its coat and size. The rare animals are often described as a smaller version of a leopard, sporting a rust-colored coat and less, but still present, spots. The average rusty-spotted cat measures at around 35&ndash48cm in body length as well as another 15&ndash30cm of tail length. It could very easily fit into your hands if it was to curl up.
A lot of people online were interested in whether it is possible to domesticate the adorable animal. However, Miles elaborates on whether they should actually be brought into people&rsquos homes: &ldquoIn short, no. An easy way to predict the outcome of people buying rusty-spotted cats is to look at the fate other species have had to face from these scenarios. How many other wild cat species, bears, alligators, and the like have had domestication attempts only to land hundreds to thousands of animals in rescues living incomplete lives as they cannot re-acclimate to a free life.&rdquo
&ldquoPerhaps the closest examples to the Rusty-spotted cat to draw upon are actually lemurs and other small primates.&rdquo continued Miles. &ldquoPeople are attracted to the idea of species like these as pets because they are cute and intelligent, and their size makes them seem manageable and less dangerous. Yet, the truth is that these situations do not work out and the animals end up being euthanized or if lucky, put in a rescue like Lemur Island.&rdquo
Like the American bison, the black capuchin, the red-fronted lemur, and a number of other wild animals, the rusty-spotted cat is also on the list of near-threatened species. The main cause is that its natural habitat, the deciduous forests, are on the decline due to cultivation and natural loss.
Rusty-spotted cats can be found throughout Sri Lanka & India
We&rsquove asked Miles what can be done to help the rusty-spotted cat to avoid extinction. She had this to say: &ldquoThere are no specific conservation plans targeting just the rusty-spotted cat that I am aware of currently, but a focus on preserving their natural habitat and protecting more space from development is key. Protections for unaltered landscapes would not only benefit the Rusty-spotted cat into the future but would provide habitat for all species in those ecosystems, some of which has surely not yet been discovered.&rdquo
&ldquoThe threats to rusty-spotted cat populations are the same that have caused declines in many species across terrestrial landscapes&mdashhabitat loss and limitations to their natural ranges and movements,&rdquo explained Miles. &ldquoAs human populations continue to skyrocket, especially in India, developed areas continue to grow and sprawl into areas that were previously forest habitat. In addition, the spread of roads and agricultural land has led to increased sightings of Rusty-spotted cats in more human-dominated landscapes.&rdquo
&ldquoHowever, I do think that the growing intrigue for the Rusty-spotted cat can be put to good use for conservation,&rdquo explained Miles. &ldquoThese are especially fascinating creatures due to their size and relative novelty to the general public. I would encourage anyone who has now found themselves enthralled with the Rusty-spotted cat find helpful ways to fuel their passion.&rdquo
Supporting zoos and conservation organizations can help in turning the tide that is threatening the rusty-spotted cat: &ldquoI know a few major zoos like the San Diego Zoo and Berlin Zoo have Rusty-spotted cats. Visiting and sponsoring animals at credible conservation organizations like these can allow close interactions with the species while maintaining respect and funding for their wild counterparts,&rdquo said Miles.
&ldquoIt was just a few years ago that the Berlin Zoo had its first successful breeding program for Rusty-spotted cats and these are not sold to private individuals, so anyone attempting to buy a Rusty-spotted cat for their home has to know that these animals are being stolen from their natural habitats, likely from their mothers so they are young enough to acclimate to human interaction.&rdquo
Miles also explained that another option is to volunteer at local zoos or animal rescues. The rusty-spotted cat is relatively rare, sure, but people will find that giving their time and energy to these organizations will be a great learning experience and much more rewarding.
Unfortunately, the rusty-spotted cat is also on the list of near-threatened species
&ldquoSecondarily,&rdquo continued Miles, &ldquowith any species that is newly interacting with humans, there is the concern of zoonotic diseases. Zoonotic diseases are those spread between humans and animals and many of our most deadly outbreaks come from this type of transmission, for example, SARS and Ebola outbreaks in recent history. Bringing Rusty-spotted cats into human homes, especially with the presence of other species they would not encounter in nature, dramatically increases the risk of spreading disease and the likelihood that these potentially deadly outbreaks are diseases we have never seen or treated before.&rdquo
Before you go wondering well, who&rsquos the second smallest feline in the world? It&rsquos the black-footed cat. Even though it&rsquos not the smallest, it is attributed to the title of the deadliest cat on earth because of its ability to bring down more prey than any other feline. Also adorably tiny, also up there with all of the cute animals.
Here&rsquos a video of the rusty-spotted cat roaming wild in its natural habitat
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One Hell of an Experiment
A research team led by geneticist Carlos Driscoll of the National Cancer Institute and scientists at the University of Oxford in England found five matriarchal lineages to which modern domestic cats belong.
"This tells us that domestic cats were sort of widely recruited, probably over time and space," Driscoll said.
But people probably weren't going out and catching—or herding—cats.
"The cats just sort of domesticated themselves. People today know that you can't keep a cat inside [without barriers], and 10,000 years ago in the Fertile Crescent you couldn't just shut the window."
Farmers were likely the first to domesticate wildcats. The animals may have been helpful in hunting mice and other pests that plagued farm fields in the early human settlements, which had just sprang from the first agricultural development.
Agriculture led to cities and towns, as well as a new ecological environment that cats were able to exploit.
There are some 600 million house cats around the world, study co-author O'Brien added.
"Domestication was one hell of a successful natural experiment."
House Cats' Wild Ancestor Found
Domestic cats have been traced back to a single wild ancestor whose relatives still live in the remote deserts of the Middle East today.
The transformation of a vicious predator into a docile tabby took place some 10,000 years ago, a new genetic analysis suggests. That is the same time humans adopted an agricultural lifestyle in the Fertile Crescent. So the first of the friendly cats likely acted as a mouse hunter for grain-storage areas.
“We think that was the beginning of one of the most interesting natural history experiments ever done,&rdquo said Stephen O&rsquoBrien, a geneticist at the National Cancer Institute in Maryland, “which is the changing of a wild, ferocious predator into a friendly mouser that decided to hang its wagon on humankind.&rdquo
Until now, scientists knew close to nil about the genetic relationships between different types of cats, including wild versus domestic varieties.
Well-kempt housecats can and often do breed with wild species, which has made it tricky for scientists to distinguish between a hybrid wild-domestic feline and a purely wild or house variety.
The key difference between the two is behavior. Domestic cats can live in groups and are generally not afraid of people. Since behavioral analyses of a large and diverse group of cats would be nearly impossible, an international research team turned to genetics.
Carlos Driscoll of the National Cancer Institute and his colleagues analyzed genetic material from nearly 1,000 cats, including domestic cats and the wild cat subspecies: the European wildcat, Near Eastern wildcat, Central Asian wildcat, southern African wildcat and Chinese desert cat.
They found that each wild group represents a subspecies of the wildcat Felis silvestris. The DNA from domestic cats matched up with that of the Near Eastern wildcat subspecies Felis silvestris lybica, which lives in the remote deserts of Israel and Saudi Arabia.
They detail the results this week in the online version of the journal Science.
The lineage that includes the domestic cat and its wild relatives originated earlier than previously thought, about 130,000 years ago.
The cats probably took two separate routes out of the Middle East, the scientists speculate. One group trekked to Egypt while the others traveled from Mesopotamia to India, then to China and much later made their way to Japan.
As to when domestic cats popped onto the scene, Driscoll said they don&rsquot have the information to make a valid estimate.
To solve that puzzle, scientists are turning to written historical records and archaeological evidence. For instance, Egyptian tomb paintings indicate that by 3,600 years ago domestic cats were living in Egypt, Driscoll said. And a cat and human burial site dating back 9,500 years was unearthed in Cyprus recently.
A possible boon to this puzzle, O&rsquoBrien mentioned, is the completion of the cat genome. O&rsquoBrien and his colleagues sequenced and characterized the genetic material from a domestic cat named Cinnamon living in Columbia, Missouri. They hope to find specific genes related to cat tameness.
Exotic CatsAfrican Serval Cat Photo © Animal-World: Courtesy Hilltop Cattery
Exotic cats are elegant felines, each wild cat evolved unfettered by human intervention!
Exotic cats are extremely beautiful, alluring creatures. The term exotic cat generally refers to wild cat species that are kept as pets or in domestic confinement. This category includes all types of wild species, from smallish bobcats to very large tigers, as well as all endangered wild cat species.
Most people experience wild cats only in zoos or in photographs. These cats are so attractive and enchanting, that there's a natural desire to want to pet one and hear its purr. There is wonderment too! Is this cat really different than our domestic companions? The answer is yes, and no. Living with an exotic cat can be an amazing experience, as these creatures can have the same loving and affectionate demeanor as a domestic house cat. Yet the reality of keeping an exotic cat is not at all the same as keeping a house cat. The very real challenges are much greater than keeping the average pet cat. Exotic cats are not for everyone, they require a very responsible and dedicated keeper.
The list of exotic cats covers small wild cats as well as large exotic cats. Each cat guide provides the history and background of the exotic cat along with a description, care, and a picture. Make sure you understand the type of exotic cat your are getting, and that it is the kind of pet you want and are willing to commit to. To own an exotic cat is a great pleasure and extraordinary experience indeed. But keep in mind that exotics are not only unique, but are also a very large lifestyle commitment. Exotic cats are simply not for everyone.
Giving an exotic cat a home is a very large responsibility and there are many considerations that must be taken into account before purchasing one. A small wild cat will generally have fewer requirements than a large exotic cat or endangered wild cats, but keeping either is a very large responsibility. Commitment to the decision to obtain an exotic cat should not be taken lightly.
Exotic Cat Ownership Considerations
- Making a Lifetime Commitment
These cats can live up to 20 years or longer, and you must be able to make the decision to be a companion to the animal for its entire lifetime.
- Difficulties Re-homing Large Exotic Cats
Small wild cats are somewhat easier to place in new homes, but large exotic cats are extremely difficult. If you decide you no longer want the cat for some reason, it can be extremely difficult to adopt it out. Many animal shelters will not take exotic cats, and most normal people are not prepared to take on a wild animal. Not to mention cats get used to their homes and may not do very well being transferred to a new location or a new owner.
- Are Exotic Cats Legal in Your Area?
If you are considering obtaining an exotic cat, the first thing you will want to do is to check out your local, state, federal, etc. laws that are applicable to the type of cat you wish to get.
- Permits / LIcense Requirements
Many wild cats require permits, but it varies by type and location, so you would have to determine if you need one. Beside a permit, some other things you may need can include a certificate of health from a veterinarian, a bill of sale, and possibly a transportation permit and a permitted habitat. If the type of cat you want is on the endangered species list, it may make it even more difficult for you to obtain one.
- Finding a Responsible Breeder or Rescue Shelter
You will want to research breeders as well and make sure that you are purchasing your cat from a publicly recognized responsible breeder.
Exotic Cat Ownership Assistance:
A helpful resource for keeping and caring for Exotic Cats, and contributing to their conservation is the Feline Conservation Federation (FCF). This organization provides knowledge, preparation, and support to those who chose to engage in responsible exotic feline ownership. Some of the things they offer include:
- Exotic Cats Care and Husbandry Class
Basic Wild Feline Husbandry Course. If you are serious about getting an exotic cat, a valuable care and husbandry class is offered by the Feline conservation Federation (FCF). This is an 8-hour course focused on responsible captive husbandry of wild felines. It is suitable for all levels, novices to experienced keepers.
- Ongoing Mentoring for Exotic Cat Keepers
FCF also has a registered handler program to provide new members with mentoring services that help prospective and new owners when they ask questions
Alternatives to Exotic Cats - Hybrid Cats
- Exotic Attraction
If you want the wild look of an exotic cat, but without the difficulties and permit requirements that often accompany exotic feline ownership, consider a Hybrid Cat.
- Reduced Commitment
Hybrids cats can be perfect for people who are fascinated by exotic cats. They still have more extensive requirements than other domestic cats, like the Natural Cat Breeds or Mutation Cat Breeds, but are not quite as big of a commitment.
- Hybrid Cat Alternatives
There are a number of hybrid cats that make excellent pets, such as the Bengal, Chausie, Savannah, and Safari.
Large cats generally have expensive needs, including housing, feeding, and vet bills. Of course the initial cost of purchasing the cat is often expensive as well. The smaller exotic cats can sometimes be easier to care for in all of these regards than the larger ones.
Many of the larger cats will need outside enclosures that can be expensive to construct and maintain and they must include areas that let the cat get out of the rain, snow, or extreme heat. They also must be escape-proof, because the escape of these large cats can be quite detrimental.
Large cats have specialized feeding as well – they must have a good, nutritious diet and it may be difficult to obtain commercially prepared food for them.
- Health Care
Also, you will need to find a veterinarian in your area who is willing to treat large cats and will agree to treat yours before you get your cat.
The behavior of these large cats can vary dramatically depending on the type and is quite different from a typical domestic house cat. This should be anticipated and prepared for. Of course all cats have individual personalities, but some generalizations can be made from species to species as well. For instance, some of the larger cats may be more dangerous to be around and you may not be able to go into their houses without much precaution. Some of the larger cats that may be kept in the house may be more prone to destroying furniture and spraying everything. Some of these cats will also be more readily willing to learn tricks and follow directions, and some will be less willing to.
Exotic Cats are broken into two categories, small exotic cat species and large exotic cats. Some of the more readily seen exotic felines include: