The relationships between animals and humans in today’s society are very different from 10,000 years ago. How much have these relationships changed over time? What led to these similarities and differences? And why are we making Ray Cats? Why not Ray Dogs?
Let’s start by going back 10,000 years. This sets us in the 8th Millennium BC when the spread of agriculture was just taking hold. Seed stocking and animal husbandry were being practiced, and we were making cave paintings of people riding horses. But it is thought that humans and animals were interacting long before we learned to farm, as well as raise livestock. Dogs and humans were thought to have forged a relationship very early, with evidence dating back to around 33,000 years ago. The earliest evidence of domestic cats and humans living together was only 9500 years ago. They were entirely domesticated in 5000 years when the Egyptians started worshipping them.
Humans and dogs have always had some similarities. We are both very social and operate in groups. We both hunt and gather food. There are many misconceptions of how humanity tamed dogs. We like to think that we went out of our way to befriend wild ‘wolves’, but it really was the opposite. For ages, humanity has actually gone out of its way to eradicate wild dogs and wolves. At no point were we interested in making them an offering of meat as a peace treaty. We never stole wild wolf pups to tame and breed them. Experts think it was more like the dog domesticated us. The story goes that dog packs that would hang around the trash dumps of early civilizations would often encounter humans. If the dogs were bold and aggressive they would be killed, but if they were friendly they would be left to live. At some point, a group of these dogs split off from the more wild population that we were more interested in killing. They survived by being friendly and helpful to us. They learned our gestures, and knew to bark to get our attention. Humans found them very helpful. They protected us, helped us hunt better, and were always there as an emergency food source. Now, we can see all these traits in the dogs of today. They tend to be friendly, bark to get our attention, and often look to us for guidance. Is this same principle true for cats? What traits have we been selected for in them?
Cats are entirely different beasts in both appearance and behaviours. While dogs have been understanding our gestures and personality, cats have only really learned how to get stuff from us. This all started when humanity’s way of life made a perfect environment for rodent populations to thrive. Following these rodent populations, wild cats came into our fields and sheds. After we realized that they were helping us so much, we let them stay. The Egyptians worshipped them for this very reason: their ability and desire to hunt snakes and rodents very effectively. However, cats are in no way as understanding as dogs are. You can see this in modern cats. Any cat you are close to tends to act like it’s interacting with its mother: kneading, tails in the air, purring, meowing, rubbing against your legs are all signs of this.
Cats have had a lot of time to develop their strategies and behavior. Some analysis of ancient cats diets show higher amounts of plant material. That means that these cats didn’t just roam around Egypt catching rats, we also fed them our grains. Back then, they probably started acting like we were their mothers too.
Making a Ray Cat vs. a Ray Dog would be equally as hard of an engineering challenge. But what about other traits that will be important for the next 10,000 years? Like for our own future, who knows what the future holds for these animals? You can make the argument that dogs have been around humans for longer, making them a better choice than cats. But, dogs have also had a decline in health ever since we started breeding them for more “perfect” traits and dog breeds. We have been breeding dogs to be less and less functional as the hunter gatherers that they once were. Cats, however, still thrive in the barns and fields like they once did. Cat mutations/disabilities of sorts can be cute, but we’re less inclined to make ‘purebreds’ out of barn cats. Cats are just less reliant on humans and I think that this is a key trait for a walking geiger counter, which is meant to survive over 10,000 years. Let’s say we as humans blew ourselves up, or an asteroid hit the Earth. Would the dogs or the cats still be looking to our corpses for salvation? How compatible are these domestic species with their wild counterparts? I wouldn’t see our pet dogs doing much to survive after a large disaster. They have lost their pack. They are human companions exclusively.
Both felines and canines can inhabit very diverse climates; from arctic wolves and snow leopards, to sand foxes and sand cats. Are wild cats closer house cats than wolves are to domesticated dogs?
As for the actual reasons cats were chosen, they are back with Françoise and Paolo in the 80’s when they had the idea. Here is my take on the pros and cons:
|- Not very reliant on humans.||- Will protect humans with their lives.|
|- Known to inhabit abandoned human buildings.||- Always around humans.|
|- Hunts and eats abundant vermin.||- Been around for longer|
|- More wild.|
|- Not always around Humans.||- When independent becomes aggressive.|
|- Curious.||- Bred to depend on humans for survival.|
|- Known to inhabit abandoned human buildings.|
Make sure to comment any thoughts or opinions, and if I missed anything please let me know!