Saturday, January 05, 2019

Where did we get cats?

ASKING THE IMPORTANT QUESTIONS: Where Do Cats Come From? (Claudio Ottoni, The Ancient Near East Today). Human domestication of cats (or perhaps vice versa) began ten thousand years ago in the Levant.
Importantly, cats were never selected for a peculiar task by humans; they already possessed in their wild state the predatory skills that made them useful to human communities: hunting mice and other pests that infested human grain storages (or households, ships and so on). In the behavioural context of the Egyptian society cats developed a more tolerant attitude towards humans and became their companions, while maintaining their innate predatory skills and a sort of aloofness that is still a landmark of modern housecats. This is corroborated by the analysis of full genomes in modern cats, which recently suggested that the main differences between wild and domestic cats are at the level of behavioural traits.
Almost. Wild cats are generally bigger than domesticated cats, sometimes much bigger. We clearly bred domesticated cats to be too small to be a threat. If your cat were bigger, it would eat you.

Fun Fact: There is no certain mention of domesticated cats in the Jewish and Protestant Bibles. For a possible mention, see here and links.

Domesticated cats appear once in the Catholic Bible in the Epistle of Jeremiah 22.

There's more on ancient cats here, here, and here. And then there's this.

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