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The domestic cat as we know him today is believed to be a descendant of African wild cats, and with the big cats such as lions and tigers often exhibiting similar behaviour to our beloved pets, it’s time to ask just how close is the link between them?
In 2013, a scientific study discovered that tigers and domestic cats share over 95% of the same genes. Cats remain very close to their wild ancestors in a number of ways, with many changes being superficial, such as colouring; or down to breeding. So, what traits do domestic cats have in common with wild cats?
You’ve probably already learnt the secrets of your cat’s body language, and you’d notice remarkable similarities if you were observing big cats in the wild. The position and movement of his tail, his posture and the way he signals his mood with his ears are all mirrored in his big cat cousins. In fact, some species of big cats have white markings or tufts on their ears; all the better for ear signalling in dim light. If you’ve got a Maine Coon, with his distinctive ear tufts, this probably sounds familiar. Just like your cute and cuddly domestic cat, wild cats are also known to head butt other members of their pride, smell with their mouths open, and wiggle their bottoms when they are ready to pounce on their prey.
The anatomy of a domestic cat is pretty much the same as a big cat; your cat is just a lot smaller in size. They have the same eyes that ‘glow in the dark’ and help them to hunt for prey at night, and the same rough as sandpaper tongue. If you think that a loving lick from your cat is uncomfortable, just imagine what it would be like from a lion! Just like a domestic cat, the rough barbs on a big cat’s tongue helps them groom themselves and others, but also enables them to tear flesh from bone when they’re tucking into dinner.
If your cat keeps you up at night chasing up and down the hallway, again he is mimicking the behaviour of his big cat cousins. In the wild, big and small cats hunt at night; they have exceptional eyesight and hearing which means they are completely comfortable in the dark of night.
It’s adorable when your cat winds around your legs, rubbing his face and chin on you, as well as on everything else in sight! When he does this he’s marking you, and his surroundings, with his scent. Scent marking is another trait that domestic cats have in common with their wild ancestors, and it’s used both in your home and in the wild to mark territory and communicate with other cats.
The next time you watch a wildlife documentary that shows a lion stalking, hunting, taking down and finally devouring its prey; compare it to the behaviour of your own cat or kitten. Whether your cat is stalking a bird or mouse, or is slaying a feather on a stick or another toy, the movements are exactly the same!
Do Big Cats Purr?
If you’ve ever wondered about the answer to the question, “Do Big Cats Purr?” then check out this informative YouTube video from Big Cat Rescue.
What other similarities have you observed between your cat and big cats in the wild? Please share in the comments below…
Image: Barbara Muller-Walter / Tambako the Jaguar / Fizals Photography via Flickr
Maxwell, Faraday & Allie says
Oh yeah, big cats *totally* do purr, though the frequencies vary a bit from species to species.
And, uh, I mark momma CONSTANTLY by rubbing against her. Don’t tell her but she thinks it’s me telling her I LOVE her (which I do, but I’m still MARKING her). ~ Maxwell
Great post. Sure glad our domestic cats are not as big as the Big Cats. I love watching the videos of the big cats and them just ripping up a box. I guess a cat is a cat no matter what size they are.
Piranha Banana says
Very interesting information – good to see there are so many similarities!
Oh, I love this post! How wonderful it is that our house kitties have so much in common with the big cats.
Athena and Marie says
Great post! We are indeed like our ancestors (and I’m my mum’s little tiger).
Fur Everywhere says
This is so interesting! I figured domestic cats had some similar traits to their ancestors, but I had no idea it was this many!
Caren Gittleman says
Since I have often marveled at how Cody has reminded me of a Tiger (circling, attacking, stretching, etc) I particularly LOVED this post today!
The Swiss Cats says
“God invented the cat so that man has a tiger to pet at home.” Victor Hugo