History of Cats domestication
History of the Domestic Cat
Cats have always been a source of fascination for mankind throughout history. Today cats have become one of the world’s most popular pets perfectly suited to the lifestyle of our day. They are beautiful, enigmatic and easy-to-care for pets. But where and when did the domestic cat originate? This page will give you some insight into this question.
It has been about 4000 years since the first cats were domesticated. The Ancient Egyptians were the first to keep and use cats to control vermin and other pests to protect stores of food. In Ancient Egypt, the cat was revered as a hunter and worshiped as gods and goddesses. The ancient Egyptians imposed the death penalty for killing cats and cats were also mummified before being buried.
Other ancient civilisations later began to domesticate the cat and took tame felines to Italy where they slowly spread around Europe. Eventually, they arrived in the New World with the Pilgrims. The shorthaired domestic cat spread across the world from Egypt while longhaired cats came later from Turkey and Iran. The domestic cat also spread from India to China and Japan.
Except for a short period of persecution in the Middle Ages when cats were associated with the devil, by the eighteenth century cats had become popular household pets world wide.
The wild cats of today such as Lions and Tigers descended from early carnivores called miacids. From there the modern wild cat developed into three main types; the European wild cat, the African wild cat and the Asiatic desert cat. The domestic cat is thought to have evolved from the African wild cat because of its tabby markings.
Domestic cats today still take many characteristics from their wild ancestors. The arresting eyes, body shape, feeding and grooming habits are the same along with the ability to pounce into action at any given moment. It is this link that makes the domestic cat so fascinating around the world.
The non-pedigree domestic cat, the Moggie is the most popular house pet today with the black and white Moggie being the most popular followed by the black cat followed by the Tabby cat. There are also 36 recognised breeds of pedigree cats around the world with the Siamese cat being the most popular. Most homes today that keep pets have at least one cat in residence.
How do you Make a Domestic Cat?
There are two difficulties inherent in determining when and how the cat was domesticated: one is that, unlike many other species, domesticated cats can and do interbreed with their feral cousins; the other is that the primary indicator of cat domestication is their sociability, and we all know how far that goes. Domestic cats are identified archaeologically by their relatively small size (compared to feral cats), by their presence outside of their normal range, and if they are given burials or have collars or the like.
According to cat researcher Sarah Hartwell, one theory of domestication promulgated by archaeologist J.A. Baldwin is that wild cats were first attracted to human settlements by the small rodents who themselves came to feed on agricultural stores. Humans may have simply tolerated or actively encouraged the cats to hang around and essentially guard those stores.
Cat History and Archaeology
The oldest archaeological evidence for domesticated cats was found on the Greek island of Cyprus, where several animal species including cats were introduced by 7500 BC. Further, at the Neolithic site of Shillourokambos, a purposeful cat burial was found next to a human burial, dated between 9500-9200 years before the present. The archaeological deposits of Shillourokambos also included the sculpted head of what looks like a combined human-cat being.
The next is 6th millennium BC Haçilar, Turkey, where female figurines carrying cats or catlike figures in their arms have been discovered. There is some debate about the identification of these creatures as cats. Haçilar is well outside the normal distribution of F. s. lybica.
Cats in Egypt
Up until very recently, most sources believed that domesticated cats became widespread after the Egyptian civilization took its part in the process. One recent paper argues that a cat skeleton discovered in a predynastic tomb (ca. 3700 BC) at Hierakonpolis may be evidence for domestication. The cat, apparently a young male, had a broken left humerus and right femur, both of which had healed prior to the cat’s death and burial. Reanalysis of this cat has identified the species as Felis chaus, not F. silvestris, however. Late period cats
The first illustration of a cat with a collar appears on an Egyptian tomb in Saqqara, dated to the 5th dynasty (Old Kingdom, ca 2500-2350 BC). By the 12th dynasty (Middle Kingdom, ca 1976-1793 BC), cats are definitely domesticated, and the animals appear frequently in Egyptian art paintings and mummies.
The feline goddesses Mafdet, Mehit and Bastet all date to the Early Dynastic period (although Bastet is not associated with domesticated cats until later). Cats are the most frequently mummified animal in Egypt.
Molecular Evidence for Cat Domestication
A recent study suggests that cats were domesticated at the same time as that of wheat and barley in the Fertile Crescent region, that is about 10,000 years ago. Time will tell–the only archaeological data supporting that is at Shillourokambos in Cyprus. This exciting news is definitely not as far-fetched as it might be, given the role of the cat as the hunter of grain-eating rodents. It’s one of those arguments about who may have been more domesticated in this relationship–the cat or the human?
1 May, 2014
History of Cats domestication
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