The cats that roam our living rooms today have ancestors as far back as 4400 B.C. — but they haven’t always been domesticated. Here’s a look at how cats came to be our most cherished household companions.
Until recently, it was unclear how and when felines became domesticated household companions. But a new study has revealed that cats, despite their attitude of indifference, managed to make themselves indispensable to humans.
Researchers studied the DNA of more than 200 felines from the past 9,000 years. They discovered that cats likely entered human settlements in southwest Asia and Europe seeking vermin to hunt. This free pest control was convenient for farmers and shop owners, so they continued to co-exist. Meanwhile, a second subspecies was gaining the attention of Egyptians. “It was clear that this cat began to be seen as more of a companion than a pest-killer,” says Claudio Ottoni, co-author of the paper published in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution. “Egyptian art depicts it as part of the family.” When Egyptian felines spread to the Old World around 1500 B.C, other cats had also begun making their way from the barn to the household.
Unlike dogs, cats were never selected or trained for specific traits. The harmonious relationship between humans and felines happened naturally which, according to researchers, might explain why their personalities have remained unchanged over millenniums. They might be more affectionate, but independence is still a trait that most modern housecats share – and perhaps that’s why they’re so beloved!