Cats may have been first domesticated 14,500 years ago

A recent study published in the journal Scientific Reports has come to the conclusion that the domestication of the cat may have occurred thousands of years earlier than we once imagined. They decided that because the house mouse existed in the Eastern Mediterranean 14,500 years ago it is likely the first domestic cats did too.

The Levant
The Levant. Illustration: PoC from map (Wikipedia) and mouse (public domain).
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Previous earliest domestic cat was 9,500 years ago

Before this idea, the current thinking was that the first wildcats were domesticated about 9,500 years ago because the remains of a pet cat were found next to the remains of the cat’s human caretaker on the island of Cyprus. I have written about this in a previous article which you can read by clicking on this link.

Earliest house mouse in the Levant 14,500 years ago

However, this new study focused not on the domestic cat but on the house mouse. The argument is that where there were house mice, it is likely that even those thousands of years ago there would be domestic cats to keep the mice infestations down. And they came to the conclusion that in the Eastern Mediterranean which is called the Levant, and which comprises an area including the countries of Israel, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Iraq, the house mouse infested houses 14,500 years ago.

Extrapolating from that they decided that within these houses there may have been family domestic cats, the first that existed on the planet. Then later about 10,000 years ago some of these cats were transported across the Mediterranean to Cyprus in small boats which is why the skeleton of a cat, referred to above, was found (this information comes from me not the study).

East Mediterranean a domestic cat ‘hub’

From this ‘domestic cat hub’ of the eastern Mediterranean, the domestic cat spread out to Europe and the researchers concluded that Europeans settled down to become farmers starting about 6,500 years ago in Eastern Europe and about 4,000 years ago in southern Europe. They argue that the domestic cat reached Bulgaria by 6,400 years ago, Romania by 5,200 years ago and Poland by 5,000 years ago. They say that the cats were brought over from Anatolia, which is more or less Turkey today and which is an area more or less north west of the Levant that I refer to above.

Anatolia

Turkey is certainly one of the ancient birthplaces of the domestic cat as well. The famous Turkish Van and Turkish Angora are two purebred cats which originate in Turkey. I will say that these are both the same cat. What I mean is they have the same origin in Turkey and cat breeders separated one cat out into two separate breeds.

First domestic cat date pushed back

In any case, if the researchers are true and they seem to be speculating that the domestic cat first came about 14,500 years ago it is a revelation because it pushes back once again, further into history, the date of the first domestic cats. FYI: the first domestic cats were domesticated North African Wildcat’s, which I believe you might have read about already.

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