From Schrödinger To YouTube, The House Cat Is Here To Stay

Our feline overlords aren’t just useful for cuddles, funny videos and silly memes; these domesticated darlings have served many purposes over history.

AsianScientist (Jun. 10, 2016) – If the two million cat videos on YouTube averaging 12,000 views each gave you the impression that cats have replaced dogs in the hearts of homo sapiens, think again.

Pitting the search terms ‘cat videos’ and ‘dog videos’ against each other in Google Trends returns a clear winner since as far back as 2004, when Google first began keeping score. The one and only time the number of feline video queries superseded that of their lupine counterparts was in 2006, and that solitary spike may have been due to the establishment of a site called Cats That Look Like Hitler.

It is perhaps a testimony to the mystical nature of cats that they give the (false) impression of superiority in domestic critter rankings. Indeed, humankind’s fascination with the cat goes way back—more than 9,000 years according to recent archaeological reports from Cyprus, although it was the ancient Egyptians who crystallized fascination into worship when they elevated cats to godhood around 3000 BC.

Much later, during the Edo period in Japan, the cat would become a symbol of good fortune. This idea originated from popular folklore that a cat once gestured to a nobleman as if asking him to approach—an action which, by moving him out of the path of disaster, saved the nobleman’s life. Hence, the figurine known as ‘beckoning cat’ or maneki-neko is frequently displayed in Japanese business establishments for luck, a belief that has since been adopted by the Chinese.

Besides spirituality and superstition, the cat has even had its time to shine in the sciences, thanks to renowned physicist Erwin Schrödinger and his famous quantum mechanical thought experiment.

The rules of feline attraction

As the owner of a jet-black furball that has so effortlessly woven itself into the fabric of my personal and social space, I sometimes wonder: what is it that sustains our love affair with the cat? How has our millennia-spanning interaction with the domesticated feline benefited us, or have we assumed for too long that we are the dominant ones in this relationship?

The oldest reason for feline attraction appears to be a utilitarian one. As nimble predators keen of sight and quick of claw, cats became firm allies with humans in the protection of grain stores from pesky rodents.

Their efficacy extends beyond the hunting of mice and rats, however, and in some parts, their success has resulted in them becoming pests themselves. Studies have shown that the costs incurred by feral cat predation of birds in Southeast Asia amount to 1.95 billion international dollars every year; not to mention the billions of birds and small animals that fall prey to free-roaming pet and feral cats in the US. Next Page >>>

Jeremy received his PhD from Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, where he studied the role of the tumor microenvironment in cancer progression.

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