Is there a common ancestor to the cat and dog?

Yes, there is a common ancestor to the cat and dog. If you believe in evolution as set out by Charles Darwin in his work “On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection…” you will believe that there is a common ancestor to all animals not just cats and dogs. And that first common ancestor, experts have decided, is a sea sponge which existed about 640 million years ago and still exists today.

Common ancestor of modern cats and dogs: Dormaalocyon latouri

Common ancestor of modern cats and dogs: Dormaalocyon latouri. Credit: see the image.

Around 57 million years ago experts have also suggested that the common ancestor to cats and dogs existed. They’ve named the animal Dormaalocyon latouri. They say that it looks like a cross between a tiny panther and a squirrel. It was a tree dweller weighing about 2 pounds.

Evolution led to many species evolving from this very early animal of which were the group of animals that we now call Carnivora (flesh-eating mammals). And this group of animals categorised as carnivores include dogs and cats. The chart below shows this evolutionary route. They decided that the Carnivora first evolved at around 41 million years ago.

Common ancestor of modern cats and dogs

Common ancestor of modern cats and dogs. This shows the evolutionary parh from the common ancestor. Credit: see the image bottom left.

They found the remains of this common ancestor in Belgium. There is no doubt that this theory is speculative. There is no certainty it seems to me that this is indeed the single common ancestor of cats and dogs. But what is absolutely certain is that there is one animal and it lived a very long time ago and through evolution we have this multitude of species called carnivores and in that very large group of animals there are cats and dogs including domestic cats and dogs.

RELATED: How have domestic cats evolved since the first wildcat was domesticated?

They say that modern carnivores evolved from a single group known as carnivoraforms which existed in the Paleocene (66-56 million years ago) and Eocene (56-33.9 million years ago) periods.

The chart below shows the divergence of Carnivora:

Carnivora evolution

Carnivora evolution. Source:

The Carnivora evolved from one of the miacids which split into the Caniforms (dog-like creatures) and the Feliforms (cat-like creatures).

Note: the categorisation of the species is called taxonomy and it is constantly evolving. It is still not a settled area of science.

Associated: Evolution of the blotched tabby pattern of domestic cats

Sources: Daily Mail, Quora and the internet generally.

Below are some articles on the more recent history of the cat:

All of today's 600m domestic cats descend from 5 female matriarchal wildcats

All of today’s 600m domestic cats descend from 5 female matriarchal wildcats

In the image below I have tried to present a feel for what the Fertile Crescent was like around 10,000 ...
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5 facts about the Persian cat and Angoras

Infographic on 5 facts about the Persian cat and Angoras

As Sarah Hartwell aptly describes it, this is a tangled tale. The Angora and Persian histories are intertwined. The Angora ...
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cats in ancient Egypt

Cats in Ancient Egypt – not what you think it was like

Introduction - the relationship between Ancient Egyptians and domestic and wildcats was not as rosy as you think Cats in ...
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Sabre-toothed cats endurance hunting in packs in ancient times

Sabre-toothed cats genetically suited to endurance hunting

Researchers at the University of Copenhagen have totally upended the concept of the cat as a predatory, ambush stalker as ...
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Cat organ

Cat Organ

I'm not writing about the internal organs of the domestic cat. I'm referring to what is described as a musical ...
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Note: sources for news articles are carefully selected but the news is often not independently verified.

Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 74-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare. If you want to read more click here.

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