Like Lucy, the mother of man who came out of Africa, the mother(s) of all domestic cats might have been a resident of the middle east. Don't worry, this is not the start of Friday Cat Blogging - I refer to a paper to be published in the June 29 issue of Science which traces the history of the domestication of the house cat. The research conducted on behalf of the National Cancer Institute's Laboratory of Genomic Diversity by Carlos Driscoll of Oxford University concludes among other things:
- Cat domestication probably began some 12,000 years ago and became complete around 8,000 years later.
- DNA analysis shows that house cats all over the world, from Shanghai to San Paolo, can trace their ancestry to five distinct wildcat lineages in the near east - around Iraq, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE.
- Cats voluntarily adapted to humans and domesticated themselves upon finding safe living conditions around early agricultural settlements. Man probably played little or no role in the taming of the cat except to tolerate its presence around the home and the barn.
- Cats migrated with their human companions from their original habitat to different parts of the world.
- Although the cat earned its keep by killing rodents around the grain bins, the reason the cat became a beloved household animal (and even a divine deity, as in Egypt), probably had as much to do with its winning personality as its utility in the early agrarian society as a pest controller.