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A detailed survey of cat genes suggest that even after they wandered into human lives, they remained largely unchanged for thousands of years. Pixabay
  • Cats are popularly understood as independent, antisocial and not easy to tame
  • Bones and teeth of ancient cats have often been studied to understand more about their evolution
  • It is popularly believed that travelling cats often mated with local wild cats, spreading genes and creating an altogether new population

JULY 30, 2017 : Cats and humans have always shared a love-hate relationship. Today, a large part of cats’ lives are spent around the owners but researchers believe that that had not always been the case. A research aimed to understand the history of cat focused on the DNA from ancient cats aimed at tracing the relationship between man and felines.

Researchers surveyed the DNA obtained from more than 200 ancient cats from Europe, Africa, Asia, Egyptian cat mummies from as back as 9,000 years was studied to know more about human’s relationship with the cat.

It is believed that the domestication of cats may have begun around 10,000 years ago.

French researchers used the DNA from the ancient bones of the African wild cats to track the first domesticated felines back to ancient farms in the Fertile Crescent, an arc of land that included present day Iraq, Palestine, Lebanon, Jordan and Israel. It was in this growing fertile land that cats and humans are believed to have first mingled.

According to Eva-Maria Geigl, from Jacques Monod Institute in Paris, the farmers accumulated grains in large amounts that attracted rodents, which in turn attracted the wild cats, as reported by VOA. With time, the wild cats adapted to this arrangement and learned to live with humans and became relatively tame while the humans embraced their hunting instincts without interfering with their genetic breeding.

Researchers have also found DNA dated back from 9,500 years, which suggest that cats were also crew members in ancient trading vessels.

According to historians, as civilizations began to prosper, and people began to travel, cats often accompanied them.

ALSO READ: Evolution and falling levels of human intelligence: Learn from cats!

Previously, researchers had found a cat buried alongside a human in Cyprus, an island without any native population of felines.

3500 year old Egyptian paintings of cats sitting beneath chairs from further reveal an important aspect of the history of cats- that they were a part of the early Egyptian households before they became royalty.

As they traveled and reached Egypt, believing in their ability to see in the dark, cats became sacred to the Egyptians for which they were mummified in the burial chambers.

“Ancient Egyptians worshiped cats at large, and the Egyptian cat specifically was appreciated to the level of being worshiped and mummified, just like the pharaoh”, told Mona Khalil from the Egyptian Society of Mercy to Animals to VOA.


Cat Mummy at Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum, San Jose, California. Wikimedia Commons

While it is easier to distinguish dogs from their wolf ancestors, scientists have faced difficulties to track the overall process of domestication of cats as the fossils and DNA obtained cannot clearly distinguish whether a cat was wild or domesticated.

Researchers also believe that dogs were selected to perform specific tasks, which was never the case with cats.

“We are discovering incredible things about where they have come from, how far they have gone, and what kind of impact they have had on humans”, believes research scholar Claudio Ottoni of the University of Leuven.

An increasing number of researches are now being taken up on the history of cats, and their domestication continue to be among the most popular pets in the world today.

– by Soha Kala of NewsGram. Twitter @SohaKala


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