The domestic cat – your cat – has, from its evolutionary origins in Africa, been transformed in comparatively little time into one of the most successful and diverse species on the planet. Jonathan Losos, writing as both a scientist and a cat lover, explores how researchers today are unravelling the secrets of the cat, past and present, using all the tools of modern technology, from GPS tracking (you'd be amazed where those backyard cats roam) and genomics (what is your so-called Siamese cat . . . really?) to forensic archaeology. In addition to solving the mysteries of your cat's past, it gives us a cat's-eye view of today's habitats, including meeting wild cousins around the world whose habits your sweet house cat sometimes eerily parallels.
Do lions and tigers meow? If not, why not? Why does my cat leave a dead mouse at my feet (or on my pillow)? Is a pet ocelot a bad idea? When and why did the cat make its real leap off the African plain? What's with all those cats in Egyptian hieroglyphics? In a genial voice, casually deciphering complex science and history with many examples from his own research and multi-cat household, Losos explores how selection, both natural and artificial, over the last several millennia has shaped the contemporary cat, with new breeds vastly different in anatomy and behaviour from their ancestral stock. Yet the cat, ever a predator, still seems only one paw out of the wild, and readily reverts to its feral ways as it occupies new lands around the world.
Humans are transforming cats, and they in turn are transforming the world around them. This charming and intelligent book suggests what the future may hold for both Felis catus and Homo sapiens.
Jonathan B. Losos is an evolutionary biologist at Washington University and the founding director of the Living Earth Collaborative, a unique biodiversity centre and partnership between Washington University, the Saint Louis Zoo and the Missouri Botanical Garden. He was previously a professor of biology at Harvard and a curator at the university's Museum of Comparative Zoology. He has won awards from the National Academy of Sciences, the Society for the Study of Evolution and the American Society of Naturalists. Jonathan is also the author of Improbable Destinies: How Predictable is Evolution?
"What does the future hold for humankind's other best friend? Reaching back into the evolutionary history of the cat family, brought right up to date with the emergence of new breeds and hybrids, this fascinating book deserves to be on every cat-lover's nightstand."
– John Bradshaw, author of Cat Sense: The Feline Enigma Revealed
"If you have ever lived with a feline long enough to reach an accommodation, you've probably asked yourself: Am I training the cat, or is the cat training me? That question is a gateway to the labyrinth of fascinating riddles explored by Jonathan Losos – himself a lifelong ailurophile as well as an eminent evolutionary biologist – In this engaging and very smart book."
– David Quammen, author of Spillover, Breathless and The Song of the Dodo
"An impressive and enlightening deep dive into how our beloved feline companions found their way into our hearts and homes."
– Pam Johnson-Bennett, Certified Cat Behaviour Consultant and author of Catwise, Cat vs. Cat and Think Like a Cat
"A fascinating, evidence-based look at how we have lived with cats for thousands of years – with an eye on where our relationship with cats might go in the future. The Age of Cats is an engaging journey through cat evolution and domestication."
– Mikel Delgado, PhD, Certified Applied Animal Behaviourist
"Not just another cat book, this enthusiastic study traces the evolution of the domesticated house cat from the African wildcat and explores the scientific questions it raises [...] A vivid, well-rounded treat for anyone interested in cats."
– Kirkus Reviews