Cats, cute little furry fun cats! What is not to love about these little furballs and all the cute playful fun you can have with them (don’t mind the temper though)? That playful house cat has 37 other big brother species, to include the Tigers, Lions, Jaguars, and Leopards of the Taxonomic family Felidae. Unfortunately, the majority of these species are endangered from excessive poaching and selective hunting.
There was much speculation about just how spread-out and diverse the cat family really was, until recent years when DNA analysis has taken to examining our little “housepets”.
Generally, people thought that cats were first introduced to domestication by humans in ancient Egypt, however, feline-human association goes way further back, say to 9,500 years ago. The earliest known site is in Cyrus in which a human and cat are buried side-by-side in a mutual grave.
This cat was about the size of an African wildcat, which is much larger than your average domesticated feline. So, with this in mind, that puts the domestication of cats around the same period and location of the introduction of agriculture (in the near east).
Many suggest that the original companionship between man and feline was the amount of rodents from the excess food storages agriculture created. When rodents were around, cats were attracted to them, which also helped protect human food supplies.
Thus, according to this theory of cat and man interaction via agricultural means, human and feline grew to tolerate each other for their mutual interests. As a generally accepted rule, cats are referred to as “self-domesticating”, or actively ally themselves with humans for purposes of enhanced survival.
If humans had the food and the safety, cats were more than willing to do favors for them. Besides, the companionship was beneficial for both sides.
So, the cat became a phenomena around human settlements everywhere, and as man grew to build civilization he took the cat with him. Some nation-states were even known to worship the domesticated cat (i.e. Egyptians). Gold statues of cats, elegant burials, and groups dedicated around the world specifically to cat-loving enhances the feline’s position of admiration.
Today, cats are the most popular pet around the world, with numbers estimated to be as high as 600 million around the globe. Many wildcats are also known to self-domisticate to this day (about 5 species have adapted to this among the African sub-species). Apparently it was a real good “decision” to domesticate itself, as the cat has prospered immensely since its feral life.
– New York Times, DNA Offers Insight Concerning Cat Evolution
– USA Today, Feline Geneticist Traces Origin of the Cat