The Evolution of House Cats

The Evolution of House Cats

F. s. lybicaI am fascinated by evolution and the way various life forms are categorized and compared.  I have spent countless hours at home leafing through my copy of The Tree of Life (a Phylogenetic Classification) studying the branches in the tree and looking for interesting patterns (“Where did the four-chambered heart appear?”)

You won’t be surprised to hear that I am particularly interested in the evolution of felis catus (house cat).  It is a tricky area and good information was hard to come by, especially for an amateur like me.  I was, therefore, thrilled to find this wonderful article in the June 2009 Scientific American.I highly recommend this article, which uses clues from genetics, evolution, archaeology and palenontology to answer some of the long-standing questions about house cats, such asbastet2

  • Did house cats descend from different species of wild cats, or from one species?
  • When were cats first domesticated (the answer will surprise you)?

The authors also ask the why cats became domesticated, since they have no obvious utlity to humans.  This part of the article contains a quote that I think captures the essence of the cat

“… whereas other domesticates were recruited from the wild by humans who bred them for specific tasks, cats most likely chose to live among humans because of opportunities they found for themselves.”

Perfect 🙂

4 thoughts on “The Evolution of House Cats

  1. This is a great article. I love the image of ancient folks who “took kittens home simply because they found them adorable and tamed them, giving cats a first foothold at the human hearth.” I can imagine a cat hearing this, smiling and saying, “humans will be humans, in every era.” 🙂

  2. My cat just came downstairs, looked at me and I gave her some kitty treats. My cat has trained me. (I wonder if somewhere cats have written books about their relationships with us.)

    1. This kind of scenario (i.e., the cats have trained us) is something we have all joked about many times. What I find so fascinating is that there is scientific evidence that this is true.

  3. Cats (and dare I say it — dogs?) train us much more than people think. I’ve read that it’s not an accident that cats meow at humans more than each other because of a desire to get us to react certain ways.

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