Life-Cycle Studies: Pets

Human domestication of animals probably began with dogs about 17,000 years ago, although some experts believe the association is much older. Dogs got an assured supply of food and shelter, and in return they offered ingrained tracking, hunting, and guarding skills. It's been argued that dogs selected humans, not the other way around, but one way or another a symbiotic relationship developed.

Other species were tamed later during the Neolithic period, which saw the spread of farming and the domestication of goats, sheep, pigs, and cows. Chickens have been kept creatures for at least 8,000 years. The cat was domesticated 9,500 years ago in Cyprus, when wild cats came in from the cold to eat the rodents infesting the grain stores of early farmers. It took a couple of millennia more before donkeys and horses were harnessed for transport. Some animals, despite apparent potential, can't be domesticated; the zebra is a notorious case of one that can't be drafted. But almost any creature can, and has been, kept as a pet, including rats, scorpions, and cockroaches. Low expectations widen the range of possibilities.

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