Evolution of the Domestic Cat

The domesticated cat (or house cat) has been with us for thousands of years. In 2007, a research journal suggested cats originated in the Middle East. The article, entitled “The Near Eastern Origin of Cat Domestication” cited genetic analyses. The author stated that the Middle East Wildcat is the ancestor of all domestic cats.

Historians believed that cats were first domesticated in Egypt about 3,600 years ago. New evidence shows this to be untrue. In 2004, a grave excavated in Cyprus contained the skeletons of both a human and a cat. The fossils laid close together and estimated to be 9,500 years old. In 2014, a study showed direct evidence of fossils that were 5,300 years ago. Scientists found the remains in the ancient village of Quanhucun, China.

Other scholars believe that domesticated cats have been around for 12,000 years. Agriculture had first begun to flourish in the Middle East’s Fertile Crescent at that time. They suggest people used cats to keep rodents from destroying their crops.

And, throughout the years, cats have evolved and spread throughout the world. They moved with their human counterparts, propagating new breeds along the way.

Ancient Egyptians revered cats as sacred animals. Their goddess, Bastet, goddess of love, had the head of a cat. Death was the penalty for anyone convicted of killing a cat. In Beni-Hassan, scientists have found a cat cemetery containing 300,000 cat mummies. Next to some of the remains were little bowls which presumably held milk.

In the Middle Ages, many Europeans demonized cats. They associated cats with the devil and witchcraft. Many scholars speculate that the killing of cats is what spread the plague carried by rats.

In the 1600’s, public opinion again changed during the Age of Discovery. Ships carried domesticated cats aboard to control the rodent population. Rats and mice would destroy ropes and wood on the vessels. The vermin would eat grain stores and spread diseases. Seamen considered “ship’s cats” to be good luck because of their ability to catch and kill rodents. Exploration and colonization also helped produce new cat breeds. The felines would mate with native species, creating a hybrid with unique characteristics.

Today, there are many established cat breeds throughout the world. Wikipedia lists almost a hundred on their “List of Cat Breeds” page. Many of the cat registries do not recognize all of these breeds. They instead consider some as variations of an already established pedigree.

So as you are looking for that perfect feline to pamper and adore, research its ancestral history. In that way, you will become familiar with its character and habits. You can also find out if it has any known genetic diseases or illnesses. It is essential to choose a cat that will fit your personality. It will mean years of happiness for both you and your feline. You will then have found your “purrfect” pet.

Photo by Fausto García on Unsplash.

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