Friday’s casual cat: The first cat

Fluffikins lived in Northern Africa zillions of years ago, where one day she looked into a reflecting pool and decided to reinvent herself as…

Ahem. Sorry, let’s try that again, this time with facts. The ancestor of all modern cats was this guy, right?

Smilodon, by Charles R. Knight

Smilodon, by Charles R. Knight

Not so much.

If you’ve ever heard that the saber-toothed cat was the ancestor of koalas and possums, that’s a myth. It possibly came about because of this.

But beyond myth-busting, things get complicated very quickly.

Prehistoric Roots

You probably don’t want to wade knee-deep into taxonomy any more than I do, so let’s just watch a short YouTube video by the wonderfully named Saber Tooth Cat Research Center (it moves a little quickly and the red text is difficult to read, but you can pause it):

That’s indeed the truth, as far as I can follow more academic sources checked while researching this article.

Basically, about 25 million years ago, near the end of the Oligocene Epoch, there was the Dawn Cat, Proailurus.

From the Dawn Cat probably came the original three subfamilies of felids: the pantherinae (think of today’s jaguars, lions, tigers and leopards), the felinae (cougars, cheetahs, lynxes, ocelots, etc.) and the machairodontinae (Smilodon and friends, who died off some 10,000 years ago).

But where did Fluffikins come from?

Domesticated Cats

Well, you can believe that about 12 million years ago the genus Felis appeared in the felinae subfamily, and one of its first modern species – Felis lunensis – arrived some 2-1/2 million years ago, leading to wild cats, some of which were eventually domesticated.

…or you can believe that Fluffikins was looking into a reflecting pool one day and reinvented herself to have eyes that shone like the reflection of the sky on the water’s surface but were deeper than any pond. She selected movements for herself that were fluid like the water; muscles that were as smooth and sinuous as the snakes that lived along the banks; a tail that she could move in conversation the same way those rustling reeds around the old water hole used the wind to gossip. She also chose to be fierce but sociable, like Smilodon.

Then she fell asleep, while trying to decide what would be the ideal fur, because it was a nice day, and there were no threats nearby and her tummy was full after a hard but ultimately successful morning’s hunt.

She woke up a few hours later, got up, stretched, and then saw a human on the other side of the pool, drinking. The human looked up, saw her and fell prostrate on the ground, calling her a royal god and offering her all that was his.

Hmm, Fluffikins thought as she haughtily sat down and waited for her new subject to come over and adore her, this is exactly what I wanted!

And so it all began.  (Image source)

And so it all began. (Image source)

Categories: Friday's Casual Cat

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