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The Evolution of Domestic Cats

Cats don’t always seem to mind the saying, “don’t bite the hand that feeds you.” Their behavior can switch from not caring if you exist to begging for affection — and a snack. It’s common knowledge that cats are descended from wild cats, but the evolution of domestic cats is a bit more difficult to discern.

Up until recent years, the evolution of domestic cats has been somewhat of a mystery. Your cat is a curious, independent pet with a unique behavior to match. Have you ever wondered how cats came to be a mainstay in households across the country?

Here’s a look at the evolution of domestic cats.

The Evolution of Domestic Cats

Cats were recently discovered to be descended from the Near East Wildcat that lives in the Middle East. After studying and comparing the DNA of house cats and Near East Wildcats, scientists were able to show that the genes of domesticated cats had evolved over time from the wildcat. If you put a photo of your cat next to a photo of the Near East Wildcat, it’s easy to see how your cat is related. The similarities in species show that the domesticated cats we’ve come to love haven’t had as extreme an evolution as dogs have from wolves. This is why cats behave like hunters and act so independent. Even though they’ve gone through about 10,000 years of evolution, cats have held on to their ancestors’ wild behaviors.

A Godly Start in Egypt

Most people are aware that cats were a strong figure in early Egyptian culture. Cats were shown great respect, and common belief was that Egyptians were the first to cross the line and create the bond between cats and humans around 4,000 years ago. However, recent research shows that although the bond between cats and Egyptians was clear, there isn’t any evidence that shows the cats of that period were truly domesticated. To find out where the evolution of domestic cats truly started we have to go back a little further.

True Beginnings

In 2014, bones and teeth from cats were discovered in a 5,000 year old Chinese farming village. Scientists who studied the feline remains were able to show that the cats were eating small rodents and grains, which revealed that the cats were attracted to the town because of the rodent population. The cats likely were a great help to the farmers as a form of natural pest control. As the farmers began to become accustomed to having cats around their crops, they became more accepting of having the cats be present in their homes. The grain found in the cat’s diet proved that the cats were either eating the crops or being fed by the farmers.

The discovery of cat bones in China says that cats actually domesticated themselves based on their need for food. Attracted to the town because of the rodent population, cats simply inserted themselves into humans lives and eventually became a part of daily life. Cats forced their own domestication and slowly spread across the world as the loving pets we know today.

It’s not yet clear if the cats found in China are a descendant of the Near Eastern Wildcat. The species is not native to the area, and if it is proven that the domesticated cats are related to the wildcat it shows that cats were domesticated much earlier and brought to the Chinese region.

What Makes Your Cat a Wildcat?

Your cat might be an oddball, but she’s still built like a wildcat. Learn more about how whiskers are an important part of what makes your cat so unique.