How We Domesticated Cats (Twice)

Two Cats Walking Together

We all know that ancient Egyptians loved and honored cats — but were they really the first humans to domesticate this animal?

As it turns out, no. 

In 2001, French archeologists found a burial site in Cyprus from 9,500 years ago that included a man and an 8-month old cat — obviously buried together to show the closeness of man and animal. So, how did that burial site get there? Who were the first to domesticate cats?

Let’s take a look!

How Did Humans First Domesticate Cats?

Before we answer this question, let’s talk about what domestication actually means. 

An animal is domesticated when it is at least somewhat reliant on humans and when humans have permanently and genetically modified the animal line through human-manipulated breeding.

What’s interesting is that the current gene pool has been influenced by two different domestication periods. The first period was approximately 10,000 years ago, when cats were thought to have been domesticated by Southwest Asians. Later, approximately 3,500 years ago, cats were domesticated by Egyptians. Both lines of domestication have influenced the current-day house cat.

The First Domestication: Southwest Asia ~ 10,000 Years Ago

Southwest Asians seem to have domesticated cats first. We know that cats here (as well as in Egypt) likely served a purpose for early humans, who later would adopt them as closer pets. This purpose was probably the catching of vermin such as mice, who were snacking on stored grains and aggravating humans. 

Tip

A 9,500 year old burial in Cyprus represents some of the oldest known evidence of human/cat companionships anywhere in the world.

The humans who appreciated this kindness likely then put cats on ships to continue hunting vermin there. This is probably how cats ended up throughout the Mediterranean and on islands like Cyprus.

The Second Domestication: Egypt ~ 3,500 Years Ago

Egyptians have long been associated with cats. The earliest link was found when the remains of several cats were discovered at the Egyptian burial site of Hierakonpolis. The bones there matched the small bones of today’s domesticated cats. Archeologists even found that one of the cats had healed fractures in its bones, which shows that the cat was likely cared for by humans. 

Cat Care at Its Best: Bring Your Feline Friend in for a Checkup at Sunset Veterinary Clinic

If you have a feline friend in your family, give him or her a rub today and tell them that their lineage is one that’s 10,000 years old!  And, as always, whenever your kitty is showing signs of being under the weather or when they’re due for their yearly exam, contact Sunset Veterinary Clinic to bring them in for a full checkup.

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