- There are three possible origins of cats: Ancient Egypt, the Fertile Crescent in the Middle East, and Africa
- Most likely, cats were domesticated in the Middle East 10,000–12,000 years ago
- The domestication likely happened through natural selection over many generations – early humans may have taken in cats once they realized how useful they were to control pests
- Cats didn’t evolve from lions or tigers; instead, their ancestor was Felis silvestris lybica (the African wildcat)
Where do cats come from? Contrary to popular belief, they didn’t originate in Egypt. Here, we’ll explore the ancestry of cats and discuss how they spread throughout the world. We’ll also tell you some myths and legends about these beloved animals. Without further ado, let’s dive into the fascinating history of cats!
Where Do Cats Come From? 4 Possibilities
The origins of cats are shrouded in mystery, and there’s no clear answer to when and where they were domesticated. The oldest theory is that it happened in Ancient Egypt, around 4,000 years ago. This theory is based on the fact that cats were revered by the Ancient Egyptians and often depicted in their art. They were even mummified together with their owners!
However, there’s archaeological evidence that house cats have been around for much longer, about 10,000–12,000 years. So if they didn’t originate in Ancient Egypt, where do cats come from? Unfortunately, we may never know for sure. But read on for a few possible answers!
The Fertile Crescent
Where do cats come from? One theory suggests that cats originated 5,000–8,000 years ago in the Fertile Crescent. It’s a Middle East region that includes modern-day Iraq, Syria, and Turkey. This theory is based on archaeological evidence and evolutionary studies. The Fertile Crescent was also home to some of the earliest civilizations, so it’s possible that cats were first domesticated by one of these cultures.
Did You Know…There’s proof that cats were domesticated around 7500–7200 BC, if not earlier. During the excavation of a Neolithic grave in Shillourokambos, Cyprus, an African wildcat was found buried close by. Since there are no native mammals on the island of Cyprus, the cat must have been brought there by humans – probably from the Fertile Crescent!
The Chinese might have domesticated cats because of the country’s large rat population. Cats are natural predators of rats, so they would have been useful in controlling the rodent population. But the earliest evidence of their presence in China only dates back to 5,250 years ago, and cats may have been around in the Middle East and Egypt much earlier.
What if we take domestication out of the equation? Experts believe that cats genetically originated in Africa. It’s a fact that the African wildcat, which is the ancestor of the domestic cat, still lives in Africa today. It’s also possible that early humans in Africa allowed cats to live in their settlements to help control the rodent population.
Whether they came from Ancient Egypt, the Fertile Crescent, China, or Africa, cats have been a part of our lives for thousands of years. Where do cats come from? As you can see, there are many theories, but also myths and legends about the origin of cats.
Myths and Legends
One myth is that the Ancient Egyptian feline goddess, Bastet, created cats. Another is that Noah brought two cats onto his Ark and that’s how they spread throughout the world. This myth can be supported by the fact that cats are found in all continents except Antarctica.
While these myths can be interesting, they aren’t based on facts. There are even legends about the origins of tabby markings. For example, there’s a Christian folk belief that a tabby kitty offered his warmth to baby Jesus. Mary stroked the cat on the forehead, giving him the M marking. In reality, tabby coats emerged in the Ottoman Empire and became common around the 18th century.
How Did Humans Domesticate Cats?
It’s not clear how cats were first domesticated. It’s imaginable that early humans simply took in wild kittens and raised them as pets. Over time, these kittens would have bred with other cats, and their offspring would have been born domestic.
But most likely, wild cats domesticated themselves. Mice and other rodents were notorious pests for early humans, who cultivated and stored grains. Feral cats may have been attracted to their settlements because of the hunting opportunities, and humans were happy to let them eat the mice. Eventually, cats with more docile personalities would have been favored over their wild relatives.
It’s also possible that both of these theories are true. Early humans may have taken in wild kittens once they realized how useful cats were in controlling the pest population. Regardless of how it happened, the domestication of cats is a fascinating process.
Did Cats Evolve From Lions or Tigers?
Where do cats come from? Did they evolve from lions or tigers? There is no evidence to suggest they evolved from big cats. While it’s true that both lions and tigers are members of the Felidae family, which includes cats, they aren’t closely related. Based on genetic research, big and small cats must have diverged from each other 6–10 million years ago.
Felis Silvestris Lybica: The Ancestor of Domestic Cats
Recent studies show that cats are domesticated from African wildcats (Felis silvestris lybica) that were found in the Near East in the Neolithic period and Ancient Egypt during the Bronze Age. The African wildcat is a small, shy creature that lives in Africa and the Middle East. It’s more closely related to the cheetah than to lions, tigers, or leopards.
How Do Cats Evolve?
Cats evolve from their ancestors through natural selection. This process occurs over many generations and can result in significant changes to the appearance and behavior of a species. For example, domestic cats have evolved to be smaller than their wild ancestors. They have also evolved to be more docile and friendly towards humans.
While the exact process of cat evolution is still unknown, it’s clear that cats have undergone significant changes over the years. These changes have allowed them to become one of the most popular pets in the world.
Why Did Humans Domesticate Cats?
Humans most likely began domesticating cats to control the rodent population. Later, they may have found cats to be cute and cuddly, and wanted to have them as pets. Whatever the reason, humans have been taming cats for centuries, and today, there are millions of pet cats around the world.
How Did Cat Breeds Arise?
Where do cats come from if we’re talking about different breeds? There are dozens of cat breeds in the world today – some large and muscular, others small and delicate. Some have short hair, while others have long, luxurious fur. Breeds also vary in their eye color, ear shape, and tail length.
The different cat breeds arose due to humans selectively breeding for specific physical traits. For example, if someone wanted a small cat with short fur, they would only breed cats that had those characteristics. Over time, this would result in a new breed of cat that was specifically designed to look the way the breeder wanted.
Sometimes, breeds are created by natural mutations. For example, the Siamese cat is a result of a natural genetic mutation that resulted in them having the colorpoint coat pattern. New cat breeds are being created all the time. If you’re looking for a specific type of cat, chances are there’s a breed out there that’s perfect for you!
Frequently Asked Questions
When Did Cats First Appear on Earth?
All cats, from lions to housecats, trace their roots back 10.8 million years ago in Southeast Asia! From that ancestor came 8 lineages, and species resembling modern cats emerged approximately 5 million years ago – a remarkable journey through time for one of mankind’s favorite furry friends.
Did Cats or Dogs Evolve First?
It depends on what you mean by cats and dogs. The earliest ancestors of cats appeared 10–11 million years ago, while the earliest dog-like mammals lived 7–8 million years ago. But dogs were domesticated much earlier than cats – around 23,000 years ago!
What Did the African Wildcat Evolve From?
173,000 years ago, a mysterious split occurred between the African and European wildcats. How these two feline species might have looked before their divergence is unknown to this day.
What Was the First Type of Cat on Earth?
The Egyptian Mau is believed to be the oldest domestic cat breed, while Felis chaus – commonly known as the jungle cat – reigns supreme as Earth’s eldest Felis species still alive today.
Did Cats Exist During Dinosaurs?
When dinosaurs reigned the prehistoric world, only small mammals scurried around. There were no cats, felines, anything similar in existence at that time. Felids appeared millions of years after the dinosaurs went extinct – roughly 11 million years ago to be exact!
Sarah Jameson is a journalist, reporter and a pet nutritionist. She is married to Peter, and they have two beautiful children, Zoey and Quinn. In her spare time, Sarah enjoys cooking for her family and playing snooker. She also loves spending time with her Scottish Terrier, Bobby.