HISTORY AND BACKGROUND
The American Domestic has always held a special place in the American home, regardless of its size or color. This homely cat has not won any laurels and does not come from pure breeds, but has kept Americans company for thousands of years, much before purebred cats began appearing. Many are even ancestors to some of the current pure breeds.
The Domestic makes up 95 percent of the U.S. cat population, and comes in a variety of colors and patterns. It usually has a healthy mixture of genes, making it vigorous and resistant to disease. However, a glaring disadvantage is that the personality, size, and color of the cat is unpredictable.
No one knows for certain when the first domesticated felines came to the U.S.. However, American paintings and needlework from the 1600s and 1700s often depict domestic cats. Some believe the first cats arrived with European fishing boats. Others suggest that the first cats came to America with Christopher Columbus in 1492 (cat bones have been found on the sites visited by Columbus). Either way, it is idle speculation. The Domestics have, however, undoubtedly proven their usefulness to the American people.
Early American settlers used cats to effectively deal with rodents, which were damaging important crops. The early ancestors of the American Domestic were hardy creatures, making their homes in barns and fields and demonstrating their worth repeatedly. Over the generations their instincts for survival and hunting have been sharply honed.
Besides acting as a natural rat killer, the American domestic provided much needed company to the new settlers. In the late 1800s, these cats began to be sought after as prize animals and were exhibited in shows. In 1895, the first large cat show was held in New York’s Madison Square Garden.
The American Cat Association – the first American cat registry – started in 1899 and helped to popularize the cat as a member of the family. The American Domestic is now frequently used in advertising to sell products, and has made cat breeding a large enterprise.
Today, the random bred American Domestic can even compete for awards in some cat fancy associations. They are judged in these competitions more for their overall attractiveness, uniformity and temperament than by a set standard. When an American Domestic is content, and properly groomed and trained, it can rival any championship breed.
This cat comes in various sizes and colors. It may be sleek and long, or small and fluffy. Its coat may also be short or long, can be dense or sparse, and can come in any color or pattern.
The basic ground colors for the Domestic are orange and black, and many can be safely referred to as Tabby’s, which mean simply that they have a pattern of color that falls into one of four groups: Agouti, also called a ticked coat, with bands of color on each individual hair; Classic, with whorls of color; Mackerel, the most common Tabby pattern (think Garfield the cat), with stripes along the tail legs and body; and Spotted, which brings about a wilder look, with its leopard like pattern of contrasting spots on the coat. Most American domestics are built proportionately and have firm muscles.
Depending on their ancestry, which is usually indeterminable, they may resemble a pure breed in form, and there are many naturally born Domestics that are quite lovely, in fact, there are registered breeds that have been discovered as street cats and perfected through breeding, the Singapura, for example.
But, nonetheless, it is temperament that is held as the ideal with the Domestic cat, especially since it is often the family cat, and that will show through over time, as the cat matures. It is otherwise difficult to determine the personality your Domestic will be, and this is one of the few drawbacks to bringing a mixed breed Domestic into your home.
PERSONALITY AND TEMPERAMENT
The American Domestic comes from a modest background, frequently the result of haphazard pairings between rural cats, or non-neutered cats that have escaped to make their lives on the streets. Mixed breed Domestics are generally mild mannered, but if they happen to come from a line of cats that have been living feral for some time, it may be next to impossible to tame them for indoor living.
Then, there are always stories of cats that have happily entered into a quiet life at the family hearth, attaching strongly with its human family and providing excellent companionship, and doing double duty as the organic household pest control. Most American Domestics are easily trained for home life, as long as it is blessed with affection, good food, and a warm, safe place to sleep.
This is generally a healthy type of cat, with rare genetic defects and an ability to ward off disease easily. Basic cat care is called for – brushing the teeth regularly to prevent tooth decay and gingivitis, regular vaccinations, grooming, neutering, and yearly visits to the veterinarian.
Taking a kitten of mixed breed into your home is a venture into the unknown, since you will not know its true personality until it has reached its full potential. It will take a strong commitment to caring for and training a cat that turns out to be difficult; cats can live upward to 20 years. Making sure that the basics, like vaccines and neutering, are taken care of will go a long way to ensuring a cat of even temperament.