Polarized Light Microscopy Digital Image Gallery
Cats are generally believed to have been first domesticated by the Egyptians some 5,000 years ago to help control rodent populations around granaries. Since that time their relationship with humans has been extremely varied, ranging from their veneration as deities to persecution as witches.
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Despite their long history of domestication, cats, unlike domestic dogs, are still quite able to resort to a self-reliant lifestyle if needed. This is believed to be primarily due to the fact that cats, which are solitary animals in nature, have never been subjugated to the extent of canine species, which are pack animals that naturally defer to a leader. Dogs have also been domesticated for a much longer period of time than cats, their relationship with man beginning as many as 50,000 years ago.
The genetic variability of cats does not compare with that of dogs, which may be so different in some cases, such as in that of a miniature poodle and a mastiff, that it is hard to believe that the individuals represent the same animal. Indeed, most cat breeds are chiefly distinguished by differences in the texture and color of the fur, rather than by body type, size, or shape. The Persian and the Himalayan, for instance, are both long-haired breeds, but the Persian may exhibit a wide variety of colors, while the Himalayan is white or cream colored with the dark markings at the extremities that are typically associated with the short-haired Siamese cat. A hairless cat called the Sphynx is a mutant variety, as is the curly-coated Devon Rex.
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