Cat Friends for Over 10,000 Years

And they didn’t have to do that

Unlike dogs who moved right into households right away and have been purposely bred for many generations, cats continue to be largely randomly bred. Cats are often considered semi domesticated since they can, and do, survive on their own in the wild. However, recent research has found their involvement in human history is over 10,000 years old.

A paper from researchers at the University of Missouri sheds some light on the domestication of cats. Dr. Leslie A. Lyons, feline geneticist and Gilbreath-McLorn endowed professor of comparative medicine in the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine, has studied feline DNA around the world.

Recently, she concentrated on samples from cats in the Fertile Crescent area, which is in the Middle East around the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. This area is important in human history, as humans who settled there about 10,000 years ago started to switch over to being farmers as opposed to hunter/gatherers who wandered. Putting down roots involved storing up grains and foods for the winter, which meant rodent control to avoid crop damage became important. Enter cats as the ideal pest-control managers.

As such, cats tended to migrate with humans, often on ships as ratters and wherever farming became a major occupation. Cats can now claim over a 10,000-year relationship with people. They clearly enjoy human company.ν

Nilson, S.M., et al. “Genetics of randomly bred cats support the cradle of cat domestication being in the Near East.” Heredity 129, 346–355.