Cats are highly independent pets that seem to enjoy being around humans, even if they don’t “need” us the way dogs and other pets do.
That’s because, unlike other domesticated pets, cats are more “tame” than truly domesticated. If humans died off tomorrow, most of the cat population would find a way to survive, including your sweet housecat.
The Taming of the Cat
When we think of household pets, cats and dogs often come to mind. After all, these are two of the most popular pets for most Americans.
But cats aren’t domesticated in the way dogs are. The latter spent over 30,000 years alongside humans, and though they’re a subspecies of Canis lupus, they show distinct differences from wolves that are the result of their time being shaped by humans.
The same can be said for other animals that have shared lives with humans but not cats. Their domestication 1 is different from other pets and livestock, and they haven’t changed much from their ancestors after spending millennia with humans.
What does that mean, exactly? Cats are more accurately classified as tame, and maybe they don’t need us as much as we need them.
Can Cats Survive on Their Own?
Cats can certainly enjoy time with their owners. In fact, some breeds are known for being more affectionate and attached to their chosen person. But affection and loyalty don’t equal dependence.
One could argue that dogs need humans for their care. They can survive in feral packs and hunt, but dogs are longer-lived and seem happier in the company of humans. Cats, on the other hand, choose to spend time with humans when they’re perfectly capable of thriving on their own.
Take, for example, stray and feral cats. There are millions of unowned cats all over the world, some of which were once owned by a human and others that were a product of generations of feral cats. These cats are basically wild.
There’s a key difference between strays and ferals, however. The former may have been part of generations of pet cats and accustomed to receiving care from humans. These cats often count on community caregivers for food and shelter.
The latter, truly feral cats, are quite different. These cats were never pets, weren’t born into captivity, and never relied on humans for their basic needs. They are truly independent, rather than having a strong independent streak like some house cats and are likely to thrive if humans vanished from the earth one day.
How Would Cats Survive Without Humans?
Feral cats are basically wild, which means they’re living in total freedom like other wildlife. They share other traits with wild animals as well, such as a short lifespan and a rough life.
Living on the streets, cats have short lives and often succumb to injuries from human activity or predators, such as dogs, coyotes, and raptors. They may also suffer from malnutrition or starvation if they can’t find prey or have to compete with stronger cats and other predators for the same food sources.
Still, these cats manage to survive long enough to reproduce, which is how feral cats became an invasive species. Even if they only live a few years, feral cats can produce up to 36 kittens in multiple litters each year.
If these kittens reach sexual maturity, they also produce litters leading to a boom of feral cats to sustain the species. Though it may take a few generations, cats have already proven that they can survive without human intervention.
At their core, cats are solitary survivalists. Some house cats would struggle to adjust after relying on owners, but if humans disappeared, they’d find a way to continue on without care and support.
It’s heartbreaking, I know! But cats are survivors.
Featured Image Credit: Gansstock, Shutterstock