Cats joined humans about the time we started farming – and creating excellent mouse habitats where we stored our grain. Rodents can be a plague in any age – I had to replace $700 worth of mouse-eaten wiring in my pick-up not long ago. So I don’t doubt farmers immediately recognized the value of cats. As wild humans became domesticated so did the animals most able to tolerate us, to travel with us – and, for a special few, to love us.
The cat’s ancestors “lived in Europe as early as the late Pliocene. Fossil remains of the wildcat are common in cave deposits dating from the last ice age and the Holocene.” wikipedia
Accumulating evidence shows us when the cat joined forces with humans.
Researchers extracted mitochondrial DNA (which is passed down the maternal line) from more than 200 ancient cat remains that came from Viking graves, Egyptian mummies and Stone Age sites.
DNA evidence shows cat domestication began about 9,000 years ago in the Near East, where farming started…
A second wave of cat domestication happened in ancient Egypt. Cats spread to Europe during the Roman era and went even further during the Viking period. Egyptian cat DNA was even found in a Viking port. BBC
Some ancestors of our domestic cats escaped us and their lines survive today, still wild, across a wide swath of Earth – Africa, Europe, and Asia. Their domestic cousins have colonized the rest – every island and continent except Antarctica.
It seems odd to me that no one’s smuggled a kitten into an Antarctic research station. Most of us no longer need a cat to manage the mouse population in our barns, no longer need a dog to guard the flock, and no longer need horses, llamas, or any of the animals we keep as pets. But we want them – spend a lot of time and money to acquire and keep them. They comfort us in ways our fellow humans cannot.
Most domestic animals have undergone a lot of conscious selective breeding.
There was very little breeding and selection going on in cats up the
19th Century [dang those Victorians! Kate] in contrast with dogs,’ said Dr Geigl. ‘The cat was useful from the very beginning – it didn’t have to be changed.’
But of course.
For all you dog-lovers out there, I haven’t ignored our canine companions, probably the first animals that helped us invent domestication: Humanity belongs to the dogs, a poem.
cover of my science ficiton novel, Glory on Mars. But people told me the cover was too quirky, so I’ve got a new one now – hopefully more science fiction-y. What do you think?