Ancient Silk Road spread the domestic cat to the Far East

The recent finding of a 1,000-year-old domestic cat skeleton in Kazakhstan confirms that the domestic cat travelled with traders from the area of its origin in the Middle East to the Far East.

Ancient Silk Road
Ancient Silk Road. Photo: Quora.
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The Daily Mail online reports that the skeleton was well preserved and in good condition. The cat had been carefully buried which indicates that it was a domestic cat. The scientists also concluded that the cat had been fed a good, high-protein diet which once again confirmed that the cat was domesticated.

The area in Kazakhstan where the remains of the cat were found
The area in Kazakhstan where the remains of the cat were found.

The report says that the researchers were surprised that cats were kept as pets in the region around the eighth century A.D. I’m not surprised at all because the cat was first domesticated around 10,000 years ago in an area which is approximately were Syria is today. From that hub the domestic cat was exported to various parts of the world including along the ancient Silk Road going east. Therefore, there were thousands of years for the domestic cat to have reached Kazakhstan and beyond with traders as domestic pets. It is therefore not remarkable that they have found the skeleton in Kazakhstan.

The author of the article in the Daily Mail gets it wrong in point of fact. They say that “it was believed cats only became domesticated pets much later on”. As mentioned above, this is entirely incorrect.

Researchers found the skeleton at an excavation site in Dzhankent. This is an area previously populated by the Oghuz people (I understand these to be people of Turkish origin). It’s a remote location. X-rays revealed that the cat had healed bone fractures.

The Oghuz people at that time would have kept animals for utilitarian purposes. However, this cat appears to have been in a companion. I will speculate and suggest that a trader they had meet sold the cat to them. At that time such a domestic cat would have been quite an exotic animal and fascinating. It would have been quite a luxury to have a pet cat in such a harsh environment. Perhaps the people who adopted the cat were relatively quite wealthy and they loved their cat companion.

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