A first-time large-scale study of felines and their DNA reveals the history of cats and how they spread around the world. So how did cats become our pets in the 21st century?

In the modern age, most of us absolutely adore cats but how and why did our beloved felines end up as pets in every country around the world. A recent study, lead by Eva Maria Geigl, an evolutionary geneticist at the Institut Jacques Monod in Paris, revealed how cats travelled from country to country, belonging to mariners, farmers and even Vikings.

Little is known about cat domestication, the history of how cats became pets and arguments as to whether certain types of cats are actually house cats will probably always be unknown. Cat’s history and origins are unknown but this new study could slowly begin to unravel the history of cats and how they conquered the world.

First of all, a 9,500-year-old burial from Cyprus had the remains of a cat contained in it, researchers suggest that cats living alongside people dates right back to the dawn of agriculture which was about 12,000 years ago. Ancient Egyptians may have tamed wild cats about 6,000 years ago which could be a reason why some cats were mummified, and of course, we can’t ignore the fact that cats in ancient Egypt were often worshipped and were held in the highest way, penalties for killing cats were extremely brutal.

By Anonymous (Egypt) - Walters Art Museum: Home page  Info about artwork, Public Domain,
By Anonymous (Egypt) – Walters Art Museum: Home page  Info about artwork, Public Domain,

Researchers also analysed the DNA of the remains of 209 cats from continents such as Europe, Asia and Africa.  The remains came just before the dawn of agriculture so their growth and movement could be analysed from the very start. The results showed that cat populations all over the world grew in different ways. For example, the Middle Eastern Cats expanded more commonly in farming communities, this could be because of the amount of rodents the farms attracted which in turn attracted the cats, the farmers then probably saw how useful cats could be for their farms and would have then tried to tame and train them.

Thousands of years after this, the cats in Egypt spread in large numbers to Eurasia and Africa, with some even travelling to places like Bulgaria, Turkey and sub-Saharan Africa. This could have happened when humans would take cats to sea with them to help them control the rodent problems, the study also found DNA lineage at a Viking site which surprised many people.

Another great find for the researchers was the history behind tabby cats’ coats which found that the mutation which is responsible for their coats only appeared in the Medieval period which is extremely interesting for all of you with tabby cats yourself.

By Alvesgaspar - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12127693
By Alvesgaspar – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12127693

The research has discovered a lot out about cat and their origins but more money will need to be invested if more information will be found out. Never the less, the research performed by Geigl’s amazing team,  has revealed a lot about not only cats but also humans, and how we initially began our love for cats with their love for catching mice.

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