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An odd question, yes, but a question I am asking anyway. I have a group of feral cats that lives in a cave system. They've lived down here for generations, and survival of the fittest weeded out the builds that were unlikely to survive. Question is, could cats sustain their basic needs, off of only what is in the caves? These cats are of human intelligence, have extremely primitive technology. As a bonus, you can also add what mutations and genetics would aid a cat in cave survival (Real life mutations and genes).

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  • $\begingroup$ Are the caves isolated from outside or not? $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch - Reinstate Monica Oct 17 at 18:33
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    $\begingroup$ @L.Dutch-ReinstateMonica No, but they don't go outside of the cave for religious and cultural reasons. $\endgroup$ – Jay Oct 17 at 18:34
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    $\begingroup$ It's very rude to delete a question after someone has put effort in writing an answer. $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch - Reinstate Monica Oct 17 at 19:31
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    $\begingroup$ @L.Dutch-ReinstateMonica This is clearly a flawed and bad question, as pointed out by DKNguyen. I don't know how to improve it, and it's a question that I could probably solve with a Google search. I was under the impression you were supposed to delete it then. $\endgroup$ – Jay Oct 17 at 19:37
  • $\begingroup$ If we assume a cave system with a supply of organics (like a sewer system with rats) you have food, and the caves are shelter of a sort. Cats would need to be able to prey on rats (a larger prey animal, but not impossible) requiring a heavier body frame and they need a strong immune system to tolerate a bacteria/parasite laden ecology. $\endgroup$ – DWKraus Oct 17 at 20:13
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With no humans to domesticate, they'll have to hunt their own bats.

Which proliferate by the thousands in caves in many parts of the world.

And fish, which are common even in deep caves with good water systems. There are even underground catfish, and fish that can climb the walls, though these are rather too small to make a good meal.

Some species are blind, living in deep caves without light, so these cats may have unusually large ears, and hunt by the splashes and plops they make breaking the surface.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks! But, I'm wondering, I had originally planned to place a taboo on hunting bats. Would I be required to get rid of this, or at least find a way to make it so they can eat bats somehow (Like perhaps only eating already deceased bats)? $\endgroup$ – Jay Oct 18 at 17:01
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    $\begingroup$ Maybe you can fiddle the statistics of cavefish colony sizes and leave the bats alone. Bathunting may be limited, perhaps as ritual, or only in desperation, to avoid chasing the colonies elsewhere. They can FLY dammit, and though face fluff makes for some kind of sonar stealth technology they do still have the advantage. $\endgroup$ – Brian Drummond Oct 18 at 17:31
  • $\begingroup$ Alright, thanks again! $\endgroup$ – Jay Oct 18 at 17:34
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I think your cats may can survive by hunting bats, besides I think @L.Dutch may be thinking about deep underground ones rather than caves, beside you say your cave is not blocked, which doesn't mean other animals beside your cat don't go outside to hunt, unless I'm mistaken and it includes other animals too?

Also I have seen feral cats hunt bats many times, even inside caves or usually near the cave's mouth.

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    $\begingroup$ Thanks for your answer, it is definitely less... pessimistic. And the cats are the only ones that don't go outside to hunt, other animals come and go as they please. Is there any animals besides bat that would be viable, like maybe cave fish? $\endgroup$ – Jay Oct 17 at 23:20
  • $\begingroup$ @Jay ah yeah cave fish also possible, though i am not sure their number will suffice in long term unless the underground water is connected to river or sea. $\endgroup$ – Li Jun Oct 18 at 8:46
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Human Intelligence is the most overpowered skill you can give to any animal and it's arguably the most powerful skill ever--it's what's enabled humans to dominate the world. This is why I'd say: As long as it's thermodynamically possible, yes, your cats can survive.

To elaborate: living creatures consume energy, measured (for example) in Calories. If a creature eats more Calories than they burn, they survive. If a creature eats less Calories than they burn, they will eventually die, probably before procreation. This means for your cats to survive multiple generations, you need to introduce energy into the cave system somehow. Some ways this could be done:

  • Hunting non-cave creatures: mice or other small prey animals consume food outside, wander into the cave, and get killed and eaten. Requires reliable and high "wandering in" rate

  • Farming: certain cave sections have skylights where sunlight pours in. These patches of light are used to grow plants (although I'm not sure if cats would be ok with a strictly vegetarian diet). These plants could also be used as food for domesticated animals, which are eventually eaten by the cats

  • Fishing: a surface river goes underground and passes through the cave. The cats can use nets or other fishing strategies to catch aquatic life and then eat it

  • Fungal farming: provided the cats have some sort of abundant biomass source, mushrooms and other fungi can be farmed and consumed directly or used to feed livestock. This has advantages because the fungi do not require sunlight.

  • Pre-supply: some food preservation methods can keep food edible for a very long, if not indefinite, time. For example, maybe someone stored tens or hundreds of tons of pemmican in the cave before sealing it. This could feed many generations along with possible livestock or fungal farms as desired.

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    $\begingroup$ Cats won't do a lot of farming, they can't survive on a vegetarian diet and will be unhealthy if they aren't almost completely carnivorous (unlike dogs, who are to an extent scavengers and have some capacity to be omnivorous). They actually have trouble metabolizing a lot of plant based foods. (It's one of the biggest problems with modern cat food, they use a lot of unhealthy carbs (corn, wheat, etc.) as fillers in the food, and it isn't actually good for the cats). So feed any crops to the livestock like you suggested, and the cats can kill and eat the other animals for food :) $\endgroup$ – MarielS Oct 18 at 2:46
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The food chain inside caves is fed through the few organic matter which drips inside the environment. Therefore it cannot sustain large organisms.

The largest cave organism I recall is a sort of newt, way smaller than a cat. If your cats have to sustain themselves only with what they can forage in the caves they will be forced to scale down to a similar size.

Anything bigger would probably starve.

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  • $\begingroup$ I see. Well, this obviously means they'd have to hunt on the surface as well, but can they sustain their other basic needs like water just fine? $\endgroup$ – Jay Oct 17 at 19:01
  • $\begingroup$ @jay How is that any different from a person living in a house? $\endgroup$ – DKNguyen Oct 17 at 19:19
  • $\begingroup$ @DKNguyen Since they are feral cats, without tools, living in caves and barely scraping by each day? $\endgroup$ – Jay Oct 17 at 19:21
  • $\begingroup$ Fun factoid: the cave newt Proteus anguinus can survive ten years without food. Wikipedia says that this was ascertained by "controlled experiments". $\endgroup$ – AlexP Oct 17 at 19:21
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    $\begingroup$ @jay What I am getting at is if you're going to make that concession there's virtually no difference between just using a cave for shelter versus sustaining yourself in a cave, especially when most creatures spend a lot of time trying to get food. $\endgroup$ – DKNguyen Oct 17 at 19:25

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