Listening Script Vocabulary
(Section 4: You will hear a talk on the topic of domestic cats. First, you will have some time to look at questions 34 to 40 [20 seconds]. Listen carefully and answer questions 34 to 40.)
Good morning, zoology students, and welcome to this lecture on the domestic cat. Before we start going into detail about biology, I’m going to give you a brief summary to help you understand how the cat became domesticated to live with humans as pets.
The domestic cat, or Felis Catus, is almost certainly descended from the small wildcat, Felis Sylvestris, which is still found throughout Europe, and also in Africa and southern Asia. Throughout this wide geographical range, numerous different races, or subspecies, of the wildcat have evolved as they adapted to local environment and climate.
It seems most likely that the original ancestor of the domestic cat was the African wildcat, Felis Sylvestris Libyca. This animal is only slightly larger than the domestic cat, and is often found living close to people. With the spread of the domesticated form, interbreeding probably took place with local wildcat races that may have contributed, in varying degrees, to the ancestry of modern domestic cats in different places. The striped tabby domestic cat in Europe has a coat pattern that combines the characteristics of the European and African wildcat. And the spotted coat of some domestic cats in India suggests an ancestral relationship with the Asian subspecies.
However, humans' long association with the dog's ancestor, the wolf, began many thousands of years before that, when the hunting and occupation territories of the two species would have frequently overlapped.
While dogs were already domesticated by the end of the last Ice Age, some 12,000 years ago, cats were domesticated much later, probably not until agriculture developed and flourished in the "Fertile Crescent" of the Middle East. Houses, barns and grain stores provided a new environment that was rapidly exploited by mice and other small mammals - the favoured prey of small wild cats. From early times, a mutually beneficial relationship would have developed in which the cat got an abundant food supply, in return for controlling troublesome rodent pests. It seems likely that these wild cats would have been tolerated, initially, or even encouraged with scraps of food. Like the wolf, the most gentle of these wild cats would have been gradually absorbed into human society, and in this way, a founder population of semi-tame cats may have been established.
Over thousands of generations, many of the typical physical changes associated with domestication occurred in the cat. These include reduction in overall size, shortening of the jaw, reduction in brain size, changes in the location of the ears and tail, and changes in coat colour and texture. Unlike the dog, however, cats have changed relatively little in appearance from their wild ancestors.
The taming of the cat is widely believed to have occurred in ancient Egypt, where it may have begun about 4,000 years ago. The Egyptians were greatly interested in animals and would have recognized the value of cats as controllers of vermin such as rodents, snakes and other poisonous reptiles. Cats had great religious significance in this culture, and were often seen as representatives of deities or as objects of religious cults. So cats would have been well cared for in captivity, and many cats would have been kept as cult objects or as household pets. Since they were a protected species, causing the death of a cat was punishable by death.
The Egyptians restricted the spread of cats to other countries by making it illegal to export them. But domestic cats were eventually taken to other countries and …