Origin And Evolution of House Cats

2 minutes

IN BRIEF: In this post we look into the where and how we humans mingled with cats and domesticated them. Did we domesticate cats first, or was it the dogs. All is talked about in this article.

“As every cat owner knows, nobody owns a cat!” – Ellen Perry Berkeley

“The phrase ‘domestic cat’ is an oxymoron” – George F. Will

“A dog is a man’s best friend. A cat is a cat’s best friend” – Robet J. Vogel.

We cant deny the truth of any of the above sentences said by legends. Cats are gracious and independent animals. They still have their hunting instincts intact. But still domestic cats are the part of lives for many. The question remains how did these self sufficient wild cat transformed into domestic cats?

This question is still a mystery for scientists and many research of the scientist is oriented towards finding out the answer. As per the 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 (a “spitting, scratching, panic-stricken wild feline would have been the last kind of boat companion they would have wanted,” writes Desmond Morris in Catworld: A Feline Encyclopedia), the finding suggested that domestication occurred before 8,000 years ago.

In 2004, the unearthing of an even older site at Cyprus, in which a cat had been deliberately buried with a human, made it even more certain that the island’s ancient cats were domesticated, and pushed the domestication date back at least another 1,500 years.

Recent studies have found that all domestic cats descended from a Middle Eastern wildcat, Felis sylvestris, which literally means “cat of the woods.” Cats were first domesticated in the Near East, and some of the study authors speculate that the process began up to 12,000 years ago.

Thus cats have been our companion since ages. But dogs have been our companion for longer period than cats. When humans were predominantly hunters, dogs were of great use, and thus were domesticated long before cats. Cats, on the other hand, only became useful to people when we began to settle down, till the earth and—crucially—store surplus crops.

With grain stores came mice, and when the first wild cats wandered into town, the stage was set for what the Science study authors call “one of the more successful ‘biological experiments’ ever undertaken.” The cats were delighted by the abundance of prey in the storehouses; people were delighted by the pest control. Thus it has been said that wild cats domesticated themselves. They stayed in the human environment and adopted it.


Charmy Chitnis is a Physics Graduate from St Xavier's Mumbai. She loves to compose music and play guitar during her free time. She is a trekking enthusiast, likes meeting new people and trying new adventures in life. Being an avid writer, she wants to leverage YourDOST platform to convey her thoughts about mental issues with people.