Life on Earth is strange, and I don’t just mean physically. It’s odd how life goes on here.
In terms of time, we are so out of sync with our planet!
First, look at our natural surroundings — steady as a rock (most of the time, anyway).
And usually very, very old.
Then look at humans, or at cats — each born helpless; struggling to reach maturity; struggling more to survive and reproduce; and then aging and passing away.
It all happens quickly, too (at least to an outside observer: parts of our own lives seem to take forever).
In the wild, cats don’t live long, maybe five to ten years, or a little more if they’re tough and lucky.
Exceptionally elderly people might live for a hundred years, but even this is short compared to the social fabric that they are wrapped in. While often resembling a patchwork quilt, its history goes back many centuries.
The current British monarch, for example, is in her mid-90s. That isn’t very old, considering how long her royal house has been around, and it’s positively youthful compared to the age of her kingdom.
Still, what do centuries and millennia mean to a multimillion-year-old rock?
Nothing, of course. It’s inert, although there may be something living underneath it or even inside. The rock’s components — silica, oxygen, and various other elements — are just chemistry, facts for nerds to ponder.
Biology is where it’s at, and we’re at the top of the heap!
This delusion is so powerful that most of us need a strong reason to ask the really interesting question — what does that multimillion-year-old rock mean to us?
No, seriously. Have you ever really looked at one of these before?
The kitty doesn’t have to be Fluffy, although house cats are a lot easier to study at home than, say, mountain lions or tigers.
Believe it or not, apart from size and a few lifestyle-related anatomical details, you do have a little mountain lion/tiger there!
That’s because all members of family Felidae are built alike. (Turner and Anton)
What is a cat?
This information is from Kitchener et al., Wright and Walters, and some fun hours spent watching house cats — my own and friends’ cats.
The long feline body is much more supple than that of a gray wolf (Fido’s closest relative; I use wolves for comparison because dogs have been domesticated longer and in many cases don’t look much like their forebear now; outside the show ring, Fluffy still resembles its African wildcat ancestor in many ways).
Have you ever wondered why the spring season in both hemispheres feels as old as forever and as young as a newborn baby — at the same time?
Evolution goes back billions of years, but new possibilities open up whenever life awakens and reproduces itself.
On a related note, ever wonder about how cats evolved? Or how closely related house cats — the “lions in our living room” — really are to the big cats?
And what about those saber-toothed cats?
Earth’s apex predators have gone from T. Rex & Company to today’s lions, tigers, and other carnivorous mammals (including domestic cats, which are apex small predators in most human-dominated habitats).