History of cats – First known cat in the history
History of cats – The first known cat is called Proailurus, which means “before cat.” This scientific name is from the ancient Greek words “pro” and “ailuros,” which means cat. Henry Filhol discovered Proailurus genus fossils in 1879 in central France. After that, Filhol described a few species of the genus Proailurus. Proailurus lemanensis fossils were found in France and Mongolia. Similar fossils were found in North America with a giant skull – called the skull of Ginn Quarry cat. Proailurus lived about 33.9 million years ago in the late Oligocene and Miocene.
Cat gap – a period in world’s history
Around 25 to 18.5 million years ago, very cat-like and cat fossils were found in North America. This period is called a cat gap. We don’t know why so few cat fossils were found during this period. Still, there are many theories such as climate change, volcanic activity, the evolution of the miacoids or other environmental changes. Miacoids gradually transited in Carnivora during the Paleocene and late Eocene. After that, Carnivora developed in many suborders, including Feliformia which refers to catlike animals.
Pseudaelurus – ancestor of the entire cat family
Pseudaelurus is the scientific name for a prehistoric cat found in Europe, Asia, Africa and North America. This animal was related to today’s cats and was the successor to the Proailurus genus. Pseudaelurus lived in the Miocene, a geological epoch around 23 to 5 million years ago. This animal could climb trees and it had short legs and a cat-sized body.
The cat family evolved from Proailurus and Pseudaelurus, carnivores from
feliformia suborder, belong to Felidae, an animal family whose members are wild
cats and domestic cats.
Cat evolution history:
1. Miacoids (primitive carnivores from Paleocene, Eocene)
2. Carnivora (Paleocene, Middle Eocene, diversified in Miocene)
3. Feliformia – cat-like Carnivora
4. Felidae (Feloidea carnivores) – felid-like carnivores
5. Proailurus and Pseudaelurus (prehistoric cat) – early wild cat
6. Felidae, modern wild cat and Felis, small and medium-sized cats
7. Felis catus (domestic cat)
History of cats – Domestic cat
When we say domestic cat, we mean an animal species called Felis catus, a scientific name created in the 18th century. Family Felidae includes many cat genus, but Felis catus refers to our domesticated cat. Felis diverged from the Felidae group 7 million
Neolithic inhabitants brought the cat in Cyprus around 7500–7200 BC. Here, the remains of a tamed African wildcat were found near a human grave. Neolithic farmers tamed the cat to hunt the rodents that spoiled their food stores. Without cats, food stores would be vulnerable and this could cause starvation in cold climates. By keeping rodent populations low, cats also prevent the spread of many diseases. Cat’s played an integral role in the success of these early agricultural societies, Tamed cats and farmers lived together for mutual benefit for thousands of years. Later, wildcats in Egypt contributed to the development of domestic cats.
Wild cats protected the grain and Egyptians revered them as avatars of a god because they had the power to protect them from many possible troubles. Protective, loyal, independent, fierce, nurturing and pugnacious, cats became associated with the Egyptian gods and goddesses with the same characteristics. Cats were also valued because they hunted snakes and mice.
Cat burials from 3800 B.C. help us establish when the wildcats became domestic. The first evidence of a domestic cat in Greece dates around 1200 BC. Egyptian domestic cats founded the lineage that entered Europe around the 5th century.
Some research shows that cats chose domestication. Unlike dogs that were domesticated by human intervention. There are two main lines of lineage for domestic cats, one originating in southwest Asia and another originating in Egypt. Wild dogs were selectively bred for specific traits, tasks, and domestication. Cats were never on that “un-perfect list”; there was no need to select or change them.
The domestication process made cats affectionate to humans, but their genetic material didn’t change. Some studies showed that our cute and friendly domestic cat shares 95.6% genetic material with wild tigers! Domestic cats haven’t changed much since ancient times. They have kept their size and abilities. House cats can survive living in the wild because they keep the memory and physical characteristics of their undomestic days.
Domestic cat division
A domestic cat can be a feral cat, a farm cat or a house cat. Some avoid contact with humans, but they are domesticated as they live near human settlements or in the authentic human environment. Cat registries recognize around 60 cat breeds.
What did the first domestic cats look like?
Egyptian murals show us the familiar tabby coat we know today. We can imagine those cats looked like little tigers. The mackerel tabby cat pattern is the most common seen in Egyptian iconography. Some people believe this cat is the progenitor of the contemporary domestic breed, the Egyptian Mau. Jean Mill, a Bengal cat breeder, also worked with the Mau breed to develop the original Indian domestic cats which have characteristics of both the Bengal and Egyptian Mau.
Who named the cat a cat?
Cat comes from the Latin word cattus. Cattus referred to tomcats in the 6th century. The terms puss, pussy or pussycat for a cat arose in the 16th century in northern Europe from the word cat and the innate invocation and attraction of cats. The male cats are called tomcats or toms and an unspayed female cat is called a queen. A juvenile cat is a kitten, and a group of cats is called a clowder or a glaring.
Do cats and dogs have the same ancestors?
Yes! Cats and dogs have a common ancestor in the Carnivora group. Around 43 million years ago, Carnivora split into two differently defined groups: caniformia or dog-like carnivora and feliformia or catlike carnivora. People domesticated dogs
earlier than cats as dogs could track prey, provide protection, and companionship. Domestication happened around 12000 years ago. Therefore, cats were more like fine ladies because they were domesticated by a more civilized man than dogs.
Domestic cats today
Feline traits are unique and desirable. Cats have small bodies and valuable characters. Some statistics claim the world feline population is 480 million stray cats and 220 million owned cats. Some research shows that in 91 out of 167 countries, cats
are more popular than dogs. Overall, the U.K. prefers dogs, but the capital city of London is full of cat lovers. Portugal, Canada, Argentina, Italy, Germany, Russia, China and many other countries prefer cats to dogs.
Cats were domesticated without species selection. The cat’s natural instinct was beneficial to mankind without selective breeding. Maybe hunting dogs were the first domesticated animals, but human culture and society would be impossible without cats.