How Humans Created Cats
Following the invention of agriculture, one thing led to another, and ta da: the world’s most popular pet.
Why do people keep cats?
As a non-cat person, I have long been perplexed by this state of affairs, in which millions and millions of humans around the world have wound up sharing a home with these odd creatures. How did this come to be?
For a long time, archaeologists have hunted for early evidence of this relationship between humans and cats. They’ve found a wildcat buried near a human on Cyprus from about 9,500 years ago, a proximity suggesting some sort of relationship between the two species. And from ancient Egypt there are paintings, about 4,000 years old, that depict cats, often sitting beneath the chairs of women.
But these bits of history did little to reveal how man and cat first reached, paw to hand, across that species divide.
Now, new archaeological evidence from China, published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, documents for the first time a chain of events that forged the relationship between human and feline.
The story begins with agriculture. About 5,560-5,280 years ago in the Shaanxi region of central China, humans were experiencing an agricultural boom. “It’s early, but it’s not the earliest farming in China,” the paper’s co-author, Fiona B. Marshall of Washington University, told me. “It’s from the time when farming really took off, when it was successful.”
To me, at least, it sounds pretty familiar.
Domestic Cats Can Have Impacts On Native Wildlife:
- Domestic cats are not a part of Floridas natural ecosystem. A single individual free-ranging cat may kill 100 or more birds and mammals per year. Scientists in Wisconsin estimate that cats kill at least 7.8 million birds per year in that state alone. Even cats with bells on their collars kill or injure birds and small mammals.
- Cats compete with native wildlife and can spread disease. Outdoor cats have been identified as the primary host in the transmission of toxoplasmosis to wildlife, a disease which has caused death in manatees and other mammals.
- Domestic cats can create a nuisance and cause damage, such as killing poultry.
- Free-ranging cats can kill birds at bird feeders reducing opportunities for wildlife viewing.
- Cats can be a nuisance in gardens when they defecate and cover their feces by digging.
The Evolution Of House Cats
Genetic and archaeological findings hint that wildcats became house cats earlier–and in a different place–than previously thought
It is by turns aloof and affectionate, serene and savage, endearing and exasperating. Despite its mercurial nature, however, the house cat is the most popular pet in the world. A third of American households have feline members, and more than 600 million cats live among humans worldwide. Yet as familiar as these creatures are, a complete understanding of their origins has proved elusive. Whereas other once wild animals were domesticated for their milk, meat, wool or servile labor, cats contribute virtually nothing in the way of sustenance or work to human endeavor. How, then, did they become commonplace fixtures in our homes?
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A Brief History Of House Cats
It may be that nobody owns a cat, but scientists now say the popular pet has lived with people for 12,000 years
On any of the surprising number of Web sites dedicated entirely to wisdom about cats, one will find quotations like these: “As every cat owner knows, nobody owns a cat” “The phrase ‘domestic cat’ is an oxymoron” and “A dog is a man’s best friend. A cat is a cat’s best friend” . Of course, there is such a thing as the domestic cat, and cats and humans have enjoyed a mostly symbiotic relationship for thousands of years. But the quips do illuminate a very real ambivalence in the long relationship between cats and humans, as this history of the house cat shows.
The Mystery of the Ancient House Cat
It has taken a while for scientists to piece together the riddle of just when and where cats first became domesticated. One would think that the archaeological record might answer the question easily, but wild cats and domesticated cats have remarkably similar skeletons, complicating the matter. Some clues first came from the island of Cyprus in 1983, when archaeologists found a cat’s jawbone dating back 8,000 years. Since it seemed highly unlikely that humans would have brought wild cats over to the island , the finding suggested that domestication occurred before 8,000 years ago.
The Truth About The Origin Of The Domestic House Cat
If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian — they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.
1. Carlos A. Driscoll, Andrew C. Kitchener, Stephen J. OBrien. The Evolution of House Cats. Cat Oddities. 12 Aug. 2014.
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History Of Cat Shelters In America
Cats first came into the spotlight of anti-cruelty law in 1866, with the formation of the American Society for the prevention of Cruelty to Animals . The first actual anti-animal cruelty law was passed in New York in that year. Cats were not specifically covered by these early laws that didnt happen until the early 1900s, when many counties in States throughout the country took up the anti-cruelty baton.
The other inspiration for these local initiatives was the American Humane Society, formed in 1877, which focused on the protection of animals and children alike. This in turn paved the way for the formation in 1957 of the countrys largest humane organization, the Humane Society of the United States .
Sadly, the majority of these Rescue centres and Shelters had to euthanize the dogs and cats they sheltered, if they were unable to get them adopted within in a short space of time. This is still an issue in some areas.
In the 1940s the stereotype of the stray-pet catcher was born the prison van with the over-eager uniformed men armed with nets to scoop up dogs. Part of this Animal Control service was to catch and kill and homeless dog, to minimise rabies threats. Thousands of cats were destroyed, even though they dont pose a rabies threat.With rabies completely under control in the 1950s, the Animal Control euthanizing programs continued regardless.
The US has been finding ways to cope with unwanted cats for more than 150 years
What Animals Did Romans Raise
Cows provided milk while oxen and mules did the heavy work on the farm. Sheep and goats were cheese producers and were prized for their hides. Horses were not widely used in farming, but were raised by the rich for racing or war. Sugar production centered on beekeeping, and some Romans raised snails as luxury food.
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Wildcats Should Stay In The Wild
This may sound like common sense, but wildcats should not be kept as pets. Although theyre related to cats, they have not been domesticated over thousands of years to be human companions. Unfortunately, some people try to bring wildcats into their homes. Quite often these wildcats are later abandoned when their owners realize they can’t control them.
Genetics: Saving The Scottish Wildcat
As the northernmost representative of the European wildcat, the Scottish wildcat lives under environmental and climatic conditions unlike those experienced by any other wildcat. It is also critically endangered, thanks to interbreeding with feral domestic cats. According to the latest rough estimate, perhaps only 400 pure Scottish wildcats survive. But sorting the Scottish feline from hybrids and domestic cats is challenging because they all look so similar. To that end, the authors recently discovered a unique genetic signature of the Scottish wildcat that permits precise identification. This development will facilitate implementation of legal protection of this animal.
Today the Cat Fanciers Association and the International Cat Association recognize nearly 60 breeds of domestic cat. Just a dozen or so genes account for the differences in coat color, fur length and texture, as well as other, subtler coat characteristics, such as shading and shimmer, among these breeds.
Thanks to the sequencing of the entire genome of an Abyssinian cat named Cinnamon in 2007, geneticists have identified the mutations that produce such traits as tabby patterning, black, white and orange coloring, long hair and many others. Beyond differences in the pelage-related genes, however, the genetic variation between domestic cat breeds is very slightcomparable to that seen between adjacent human populations, such as the French and the Italians.
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Cats Are Part Of Our Environment
In the thousands of years that cats have lived alongside people, indoor-only cats have only become common in the last 60 or 70 yearsa negligible amount of time on an evolutionary scale.
Throughout human history, cats have always lived and thrived outside. It is only recently that we have begun to introduce reproduction control like spaying and neutering to bring them indoors. And also, bring the outdoors to them: using canned food and litter boxes to satisfy biological needs developed over thousands of years of living outdoors.
Although human civilization and domestic cats co-evolved side by side, the feral cat population was not created by humans. Cats have lived outdoors for a long timethey are not new to the environment and they didnt simply originate from lost pets or negligent pet owners. Instead, they have a place in the natural landscape.
Feral cats deserve a chance to live their lives outside just as they have for thousands of years. Indoor homes are not an option because they have not been socialized to live with humans. They would be scared and unhappy indoors. Their home is the outdoors andjust like squirrels, raccoons, and birdstheyre well suited to their outdoor home.
Accepting and acknowledging this simple reality is key to understanding and helping these animals. TNR is an act of compassion society can extend to them.
Through TNR, we further help cats by spaying and neutering them and having them vaccinated.
Why Are Male Cats More Friendly
Male Maine Coon cats generally tend to be more affectionate than female Maine Coon cats. The male cats enjoy making sure they are at the center of their owners attention, whereas the females are more laid-back. People agree that male British Shorthair cats are a bit more open with their owners than females.
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Are There Black Panthers In Uk
A black panther has repeatedly been seen stalking the countryside in both counties. In Devon and Cornwall there have been 28 sightings and five reports of farm animals being killed by big cats. And a month before two sheep had their throats ripped out near Axminster, also in Devon, according to police logs.
What Kind Of Cats Live In South Asia
Asia is home to the largest of all the cats, the Siberian tiger, and the smallest of cats, the rusty-spotted cat of India and Sri Lanka. In the middle are the leopard, the snow leopard, the clouded leopard and on down to the small wild cats such as the odd-looking flat-headed cat and the fishing cat, the only wild cat known to fish on
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Where Did Domestic Cats Come From
. Also know, where did cats evolve from?
Felids are all evolved from a common ancestor less than fifteen million years ago. Domestic cats are thought to have evolved from Near Eastern wildcats, probably the African wildcat Felis silvestris lybica.
what is the domestic cat closest relative? The closest relatives to domestic cats are from a species going by the Latin name Felis silvestris, literally meaning forest cat. The species contains several sub-species, including the European wildcat and the African wildcat .
Besides, when did cats come to America?
Phoenician trading ships are thought to have brought the first domesticated cats to Europe around 900 BC. Romans are believed to have introduced the cat to England. It was not until settlers arrived from Europe with their domesticated cats that cats were kept as pets in North America.
Were cats or dogs domesticated first?
Humans also deliberately bred dogs to be more adorable. Other pets came later. Sheep and goats were first domesticated roughly 11,000 years ago, while cats became pets around 7000 B.C. with the advent of agriculture.
Evolution And Adaptation Of Felis Catus
Co-existence of cats and humans is evident from fossil records from early human settlements, although these have been assumed to be wild cats. The development of true domestication was previously thought to have occurred in Egypt around 3600 years ago. Skulls of cats found in Egyptian cat burial grounds have been identified as mainly being of the species Felis sylvestris lybica and it is this wild cat living in Asia and North Africa that is now thought to have been the major ancestor of the modern-day Felis catus. However, more recent evidence shows that feline domestication probably occurred about 10,000 years ago or more in the Middle East, in the region of the Fertile Crescent. The earliest true record of domestication comes from a cat that was found deliberately buried with its owner in a grave in Cyprus, some 9500 years ago, and it is assumed that domestication will have begun some time before this as there were no native cats on Cyprus.
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Cats As Deities And Demons
The Ancient Egyptians were enthralled with the cats ability to keep them safe from rodents, snakes, scorpions, and other dangerous critters. They were so enthralled with cats that they took them into their homes and thought of them as part of their families. They also worshipped a feline deity named Bastet who was the goddess of family, love, and fertility.
The close relationship Egyptians had with their cats is evidenced by the tough laws regarding their treatment. For instance, causing a cat to die was punishable by death. Additionally, Egyptians mummified their cats and entombed them with their families. They even mummified mice to go along with their beloved cats on their journey to the next world. These cat mummies have provided valuable DNA to researchers studying the history of our feline friends.
Egyptians were not the only societies that worshipped cats. India and China had cat fertility goddesses, and the Vikings worshipped Frey, the cat goddess of love and beauty. However, during the middle of the 14th century, cats became linked with the devil. Black cats, in particular, were thought to be evil. It was also believed that witches could turn into cats and sneak into homes to do harm. Fortunately for cat lovers, these myths have gone by the wayside. That said, there are still some folks who will avoid crossing the path of a black cat at all costs
Where Was The Cat First Domesticated
Cats were first domesticated in the Near East around 7500 BC. It was long thought that cat domestication was initiated in ancient Egypt, as since around 3100 BC veneration was given to cats in ancient Egypt. As of 2021 there are an estimated 220 million owned and 480 million stray cats in the world.
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What Did Romans Think Of Cats
Romans particularly liked cats for their ability to catch mice and other rodents. Cats were so good at it that the Roman army brought cats with them to safeguard their food supply from rats. Rats also liked to chew on wood and leather, which meant they were a threat to Roman armor and equipment as well.
Cats Domesticated Themselves Ancient Dna Shows
A comprehensive survey of cat genes suggests that even after felines wandered into our lives, they remained largely unchanged for thousands of years.
In true feline form, cats took their time deciding whether to jump into humans laps.
In a new comprehensive study of the spread of domesticated cats, DNA analysis suggests that cats lived for thousands of years alongside humans before they were domesticated. During that time, their genes have changed little from those of wildcats, apart from picking up one recent tweak: the distinctive stripes and dots of the tabby cat.
Researchers surveyed the DNA of more than 200 cats spanning the last 9,000 years, including ancient Romanian cat remains, Egyptian cat mummies, and modern African wildcat specimens. Two major cat lineages contributed to the domestic feline we know today, they report in a study published Monday in Nature Ecology & Evolution.
The earlier ancestorsof todays domestic catsspread from southwest Asia and into Europe as early as 4400 B.C. The cats likely started hanging around farming communities in the Fertile Crescent about 8,000 years ago, where they settled into a mutually beneficial relationship as humans rodent patrol.
Mice and rats were attracted to crops and other agricultural byproducts being produced by human civilizations. Cats likely followed the rodent populations and, in turn, frequently approached the human settlements.
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Dna And Phylogenetic Evidence
Current taxonomy tends to treat F. silvestris, F. lybica, F. catus, and F. bieti as different species. A 2007 study of feline mitochondrialDNA and microsatellites of approximately 1,000 cats from many different regions showed 5 genetic lineages of the wildcat population. These lineages included:
- Felis silvestris silvestris
- Felis silvestris bieti
- Felis silvestris ornata
- Felis silvestris cafra
- Felis silvestris lybica
This study showed that F.s. lybica included domesticated cats and that wild cats from this group are almost indistinguishable from domesticated cats. Along with DNA analysis, phylogenetic studies were also conducted to narrow down the evolutionary history. Phylogenetic trees were generated based on mitochondrial DNA analysis. In each study Bayesian, maximum likelihood, and parsimony maximum likelihood trees all produced identical results. They each show that F.s. ornata, F.s. cafra, and F.s. lybica were all very closely related to a common ancestor. It also showed that this group of variations are monophyletic, meaning they share a common ancestor not shared by other groups. The trees also helped show that F.s. lybica gave rise to the domesticated cats of today. F.s. silvestris showed a very early branching away from the other groups, but still shares a very early common ancestor with the rest of the clades.