Cats were first domesticated around 10,000 years ago in what’s known as the Fertile Crescent and are known as the most recently evolved cat. As we now know, cats are a varying species from small to large and tame to wild. They have very similar characteristics across them and can be tough to differentiate from each other. This makes it easy to conclude that all cats were bred from a common ancestor from hundreds of thousands of years ago.
Through migration and encounters with different regions (and later people), how did these once wild cats become domesticated?
Cats Were First Seen in Egypt—Or Were They?
Many of us today may think that the first domesticated cats were seen in Egypt alongside pharaohs and other royalty, but this might not be the very first case of a domesticated cat. Skulls and remains of cats were seen buried with humans thousands of years ago in Egypt but there is evidence of domesticated cats in Africa and the Middle East. This is referred to as the Fertile Crescent,1 where a cat’s remains were found buried with its owner.
Due to these findings, people might think that they were domesticated in Egypt first but considering the findings in the Fertile Crescent (specifically Israel and surrounding areas), this can be said to be the first evidence of domesticated cats.
What Were Cats Used For?
Like today’s modern cat, they are natural hunters and are well known for getting rid of common house pests. Many cats are well taken care of across different countries to keep mice away from restaurants, residential homes, and other common buildings. Thousands of years ago when grains were rapidly produced, it resulted in an increase of mice seeking food and shelter. This time frame correlates to the increase in evidence of domesticated cats.
Following this period, they were seen in Egypt through remains in burial grounds, paintings, and other types of art depicting cats as worshipped or royal.
As it began with wild cats gradually living with humans, it became more tolerant of humans by cats. Over time, they learned to live with one another. Cats may have started hunting the pests disrupting homes and businesses, and humans saw this as useful, so they took to feeding, sheltering, and even showing them affection.
The domesticated cats we have today as common house pets are very similar in behavior, look, and lifestyle as they once were thousands of years ago. You will notice cats have sassy personalities, can most likely survive a night outside alone, and are selective with who they let in. You might notice how often they swat at strangers and aren’t even afraid to tell their owners when they’d rather not be touched. Their instinct to pounce and attack from behind a wall comes from their hunting ancestors.
When we think about domesticated cats in comparison to their wild ancestors, we can see a lot of similarities between them. Their personalities have not changed much (from what we can guess), as they still believe they are royalty in any setting. Cats are not fans of being shown too much attention and will gladly swat away at any unwanted company. The unlimited number of cat videos seen online jumping to new heights, pouncing on toddlers, nearly knocking them over, and just wreaking havoc makes a lot of sense!
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