General Information

Barn cat sitting in the sun on a wood bench.

Barn Cats

In rural areas, feral cats are sometimes welcomed by farmers and other landowners as low-maintenance providers of rodent control in stables, barns, and feed stores. Some cat adoption centers have exploited this by offering farmers feral cats that they have collected and taken into care. Properly managed, such programs can be a satisfactory solution to …

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Pack of feral cats bunched up together to heat themselves in the winter.

Cats Sticking Together

The majority of domestic cats lead solitary lives and resent or fear competition for food, territory, and shelter. However, two or more cats that share a home can become friends, especially if they are littermates. Others, at best, cease hostilities and settle down together with indifference. Among feral cats there is a much greater degree …

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Black feral cat walking on a white fence.

Feral Cats

Cats of domestic descent that have known little or no human contact, or former pets that have become homeless for various reasons, are termed “feral.” Although feral cats live in a wild state, they have no relationship to the true wildcat species found throughout the world. Being resourceful animals, cats that have strayed or been …

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Cats dressed in sailor and captain suits sitting together.

Cats in The New World

With the beginning of the great voyages of discovery and colonization that set out from Europe from the 15th century onward, domestic cats crossed the Atlantic for the first time. Taken on board sailing ships to control infestations of rodents, they had ample time on the long sea passages to the Americas to produce kittens. …

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Cat with harness walking on a leash.

Domesticating Big Cats

Out of all the big cat species, only the cheetah has proved possible to domesticate to any extent. Both the ancient Egyptians and the Assyrians kept tame cheetahs and used them for hunting, as centuries later did the Mogul emperors in India. These beautiful animals can be remarkably tractable when habituated to people—the huntsmen of …

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Painting of two cats near some sphinxes statues.

How Cats Moved Indoors

Cats probably first put a paw into domestic life when humans made the switch from being hunter-gatherers to being farmers. Growing crops meant storing grain, and granaries attracted swarms of rodents ready to feast on this new bonanza of food. In turn, this provided an inexhaustible supply of easily caught prey for local populations of …

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