Buffer

Learn about the evolution of cats

Elvis Elvis

Today’s Pet Cats have all evolved from three to possible four of the wild Feliade species.

The first domestic cats of which we have any evidence, were those of Ancient Egypt. Whose mummified remains were discovered by archaeologists at Beni Hasan in central Egypt in 1889.

The Egyptian Cat remains dated from about 2000 BC, when the worship of the cat had evidently become well established.

The most common type of cat found in Egypt was similar to the lightly tabby African wild cat, Felis libyca, which is a native to the areas bordering the Mediterranean. No all the mummified cats were felis lybyca, however.

There were also some examples of Felis chaus, the ring tailed jungle cat which is a native of the middle East.

If by 2000 BC, the cat had achieved cult status, it must have arrived on the farms and in the cities of Ancient Egypt long before.

Ancient Egyptian civilization was based on good rich crops of grain, from two to even three crops of grain per year, planted on the fertile land that was fertilized by the Nile valley and Delta.

By about 3000 BC, Egypt was a flourishing kingdom.

No doubt the cat evolution of wild cats were attracted by the Egyptian farms by the rich pickings of rodents to be found in the barns.

And later they were to be found in the cities where the vast stocks of corn were to be found stored in granaries.

Famously adaptable, the cats would have become a permanent feature of Egyptian life, and from there the process of domestication would have begun. European Wild cat being the third ancestor of the modern cat, is the European wild cat.

Felis silvestris, with its distinctive, rounded black tipped tail.

This is similar to the African wild cat, though, rather stockier and with darker, more pronounced tabby markings which are possibly the result of its natural habitat in more temperature regions.

How felis silvestris came into the genetic picture can only be guessed at, but it was (and part of the British isles still is) a common species in northern Europe and may have infiltrated into farming settlements there in the same way as the African wild cat in Egypt.

Learn about the evolution of cats

Another possibility in cat evolution is that Egyptian cats taken to Ancient Rome by traders.

Or possibly carried to Rome aboard ship as stowaways , spread northwards with the Roman Legions and interbred with their European cousins.

It is known that the Roman army took cats with them all over Western Europe to protect their food supplies, and also that interbreeding between libyca and silvestris can be generally successful.

Asian Ancestors a possibly fourth ingredient in the mix of the domestic cats Pallas’s cat, Felis manul.

A native of central Asia , its hair is longer than that of its three distant cousins, and it could have introduced a long hair gene into the mixture as the domestication of cast spread.

The domestic cat populations of cat evolution in South-east Asia were well established in early historical times, and it is possible that Felis manul – a fearless cat that would not have any doubts about approaching human settlements in search of food – interbred with the other ancestor species.

The domestic cat populations of South-east Asia were well established in early historical times, and it is possible that Felis manul – a fearless cat that would not have any doubts about approaching human settlements in search of food – interbred with the other ancestor species.

Cat evolution in becoming domesticated: It would be too much of a simplification , however to suggest that these wild species simply adopted human hosts and thus automatically become domesticated.

Many wild cats, large and small, hung around human settlements to take what they can, but they remain as implacably as they were born.

Domestic cats, by contrast, are born tame and as soon habituated to human company.

Even feral cats, which either directly or by heredity have experienced human contact but may have become ‘wild’ in their behaviour, soon accustomed themselves to human company as when, as for, when for example, they were fed by human friends.

Clearly some genetic changes in cat evolution must have taken place, in the many generations since the first time the wild cat approached a farm and found its barn full of mice.

During which which prolonged contact with humans (and the plentiful warmth, comfort and food available in human surroundings) has given the domestic cat a more placid – more pragmatic-personality than its wild relatives.

The gradual genetic change rather than mere habit was responsible for producing the domestic cat is shown by the fact that its brain is significantly smaller than that of the wild cat.