This is a timeline of the cat from the first cats of any kind on the planet to the present day. I have been selective so as to not overburden the page. I’ve included some wild cat species too. If I have omitted something significant please leave a comment and I’ll add it in.
About 8 – 20 million years ago
The first members of the modern cat family were called Pseudaelurus. They were prehistoric cats. They inhabited Europe, Asia and North America (more).
4 million years ago
Early lynx on the planet
3.5 million years ago
Earliest fossil record of lion in Africa (more)
2.5 million years ago
Jaguars roamed in North America with the lion. Lions also roamed Europe and Asia and South America.
About 2 million years ago
Ancestor of the domestic cat, felis sylvestris, splits off from other cats.
About 1.5 million years ago
First fossil records of the tiger.
1 million to 800,000 years ago
True lion evolves in Africa.
100,000 years ago
Tiger in Alaska, USA.
About 10,000 years ago
First domestic cats emerge. Domestication of the North African wildcat.
About 3,500 years ago
Domestication of cat takes place in Peru?
Before 2000 BC
Cat is domesticated in Egypt. Its name, miw, is recorded.
About 1450 BC
The domestic cat is seen in Egyptian paintings on the walls of tombs.
c. 950 BC
Local cat goddess Bastet has national prominence in Egypt.
5th century BC
Herodotus reports on domesticated cats in Egypt.
4th century BC
Aristotle mentions lechery of female cats.
200 BC – 200 AD
Believed that cats introduced into China.
Word “catus” appears in a treatise on agriculture by Palladius
4th century AD
Domestic cats in Britain.
Cat appears in Indian Pancatantra
Prophet Muḥammad (Abū al-Qāsim Muḥammad ibn ʿAbd Allāh ibn ʿAbd al-Muṭṭalib ibn Hāshim) loved cats (more).
A well-known follower of the Prophet Muhammad, Abu Hurairah, loved cats as much as the Prophet and carried around his small male cat in a bag.
“Pangur Ban” first recorded expression of affection for a cat.
Monetary value of domestic cats as rat catchers set out in the laws of Welsh King Hywed.
Cat blamed for spread of bubonic plague the “Black Death”. The plague reduced human population numbers by one third. The Lord Mayor of London ordered all cats to be killed, thereby exacerbating the spread of the disease as it was spread by small rodents and the fleas on rodents – the cat’s primary prey.
Cats burned alive in an effigy of the pope in Queen Elizabeth’s coronation procession.
Pilgrims imported domestic cats to USA.
The infamous Salem witch trials took place in the USA.
Origin of the phrase: “It’s raining cats and dogs”. This means it is raining hard. It comes from a poem by Jonathan Swift.
In an essay, Alexander Pope protests the cruelty to cats.
First book on cats, History of Cats by Paradis de Moncrif.
Buffon in his Natural History denounces the moral character of the cat.
Cougar (puma) population almost entirely extinguished in Eastern USA.
In the UK, Parliament introduced a bill to prevent abuse of horses, which was ridiculed when an MP facetiously proposed that the law be extended to protect cats as well.
Eugene Aram written by Bulwer-Lytton features a cat as a major character.
Maine Coon started to become a cat breed in America.
Queen Victoria (a decent artist) draws a cat so that it can be included in the original design for the RSPCA’s Queen’s Medal for Kidness as the cat had been omitted.
First cat show at Crystal Palace in London, UK.
First Siamese imported to West from Siam (Thailand).
National Cat Club founded by Harrison Weir in Britain. The first cat club (see list of cat associations today).
Siamese cat considered the rarest of cat breeds in the West.
First cat show in USA at Madison Square Garden, New York.
Veblen approves of cat because they are not suitable “vehicles for conspicuous consumption”.
Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA) formed in the USA.
Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF) unites Britain’s cat clubs – GCCF formed.
Persian cat starts to evolve to flat-face. (see cat breed timeline and more – link opens a new window)
Modern Siamese starts to be developed – more slender (“elegant”).
1950s and 1960s
The most productive years in terms of most new breeds in the USA. Fifteen new breeds in the 1960s.
Cats (the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical) based on T.S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats is a smash hit. Still popular in 2015.
Domestic cats outnumber dogs for the first time in the USA.
Domestic cats outnumber dogs for the first time in the UK.
Declawing banned in 8 Californian cities.
Up to 500,000,000 domestic/stray/feral cats in the world. Too many of them are unwanted. Laws are gradually being introduced to control random cat breeding.
Dr Bradshaw declares that the random bred cat is not truly domesticated because he/she chooses his mate for breeding.
Jackson Galaxy says that more needs to be done to stimulate the indoor cat and to catify the environment (he calls it “catification”).
More needs to be done on wild cat conservation.
Sources: Myself (from this site) and Cat by Katharine M Rogers ISBN 1-86189-292-6