Fiona Sunquist in her book Wild Cats of the World tells me that the first animal to be domesticated was the grey wolf now the domestic dog and that Felis sylvestris a.k.a. the wildcat was “almost the last species to be tamed”. I think, to be fair, she’s not quite correct on that statement. My research indicates that the domestication of the cat occurred at a similar time to the domestication of many other animals which makes sense. Below I set out the dates of domestication of the main animals with whom we live with today.
- Dogs domesticated between 14,000 and 29,000 years ago.
- Cats domesticated about 10,000 years ago.
- Goats: 10,000 years ago.
- Sheep: 10,500 years ago.
- Cattle: 10,500 years ago.
- Pigs: around 8,500 years ago.
- Chickens: 10,000-8000 years ago.
- Horses: 6,000 years ago.
- Camels: around 5,000 years ago (in dispute).
On the basis of this list, the horse would appear to be the last to be domesticated. Both the cat and dog must take the title of the most successful animal domestication. Of the two it is probably fair to say that there are more domestic cats than dogs. If that is true, the cat is near the top of the tree of all domestic animals. I reckon there are around 500m domestic and feral cats combined on the planet today. There are over 264m dairy cows worldwide. Cats beat dairy cows on numbers. However, cattle numbers are at around 1 billion.
Associated: Timeline of the Cat
The trouble is that there are a similar number of feral and domestic cats. There should be no feral cats. This state of affairs is indicative of a failure in cat domestication. According to the Pet Food Institute in Washington DC there are more domestic cats and dogs in the United States. However, I don’t think anybody really knows the exact numbers therefore this is speculative. Certainly we don’t know the number of feral cats in any one country.
You probably know by now that based on current knowledge the first domestic cat to be exhumed lived with a person on Cyprus and the remains have been dated to about 9,500 years ago. It is believed that this person and their cat companion came over from Syria which is where the area known as The Fertile Crescent is situated. It is in this area where it is believed that the North African wildcat (Felis s. lybica) was first domesticated to become what we now know as the domestic cat. Later research indicates that the first domestication of the cat may have occurred up to 14,000 years ago.
You will still read books and Internet reference articles which state that cats were first domesticated in Egypt by the ancient Egyptians. I think that information is now outdated.