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Monday 20 August 2007

More on the domestication of cats

It looks like we domestic felines are descended from a group of around five cats in the Middle East around 130,000 years ago as suggested by a DNA study involving over samples from over 900 domestic and wild cats. Researchers have traced the domestic feline family tree back to a small family of wild cats living on the banks of the Tigris and Euphrates in modern-day Iraq.

They also found that the closest living relative of the pet cat is the Near Eastern wildcat - a shy and rare creature which resembles a large tabby (pictured). Aside from accidental cross-breeding, the researchers also found that the domestic cats are not closely related to the wildcats of Europe, Central Asia and Southern Africa.

Dr Andrew Kitchener, a zoologist at the National Museum of Scotland and co-author of the report in the journal Science (July 2007, vol 317:519-523), suggested that the last common ancestor of wildcats and domesticated cats lived more than 100,000 years ago.

Although the first domestic cats appeared in Mesopotamia, it was the Egyptians who turned them from a working animal into a pet, creating a cult which was passed on to the Romans and exported around the world.

Although the domestication of the cat has been pushed back thousands of years, it still took place long after dogs were tamed.


Islay said...

Dear Momo,
Do you ever pretend, or imagine yourself a wildcat, and lie in wait of imaginary prey in your back garden, watching the mice and small creatures in awe of your prowess and nobility? I do - a wolf, that is.

Angel MoMo and Charlotte said...

I do, Charlie, and it's not only in the back garden; I do it in the house as well. I even pounce on SS at times when she rounds a corner. Size is not an issue. The creatures in the garden, real or imaginery, are fair game. I have fun chasing them, capturing and releasing them as I see fit. Oh yes, there are endless things to do! However, in this rain I don't particularly want to get wet, so I stay on the lounge and let them come to me.