The Evolution of Cats

We talked about how dogs evolved into what we know them as today, but we didn’t really discuss how wild cats became pets. Once upon a time (around 10,000 years ago), a small village of farmers in West Asia had a rodent problem. Cats began to hang around the human villages because of the increase of their food source in these areas. Farmers eventually realized that it was beneficial to their crop production to have the cats around, so they actually began to support the cat population. Just like with the dogs and hunters, the farmers and cats grew into a mutually beneficial relationship. Farmers stopped killing the cats, and actually began to help them by allowing them into their warm homes and giving them food.

Cat domestication is likely to have happened in the same way all over the world. Cats as pets are more recent than dogs, however, as they came after agriculture whereas dogs began in the hunter gatherer era. In ancient Egypt, cats were revered as gods–Egyptians would keep them on leashes and even mummify them after death. Modern house cats are most closely related middle eastern wildcats. Wildcats and house cats look very similar, but they are very different in traits. House cats genes make them less aggressive and form memories. House cats, similar to dogs, can be motivated by fear or reward stimuli. Although people breed cats like they do dogs, there is still an independent trait that no amount of breeding or domestication can seem to get rid of.

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