DNA analysis reveals the fascinating journey of feline domestication

First large-scale study of ancient-cat DNA charts their global spread

We know a lot about the domestication of the dog. But how our feline friends became domesticated has long been an enigma.

Now the mystery of how cats spread across the continents seems to have been solved: Cats swept through ancient Eurasia and Africa transported by early farmers, ancient mariners and even the Vikings, new research has found.

According to Nature.com, a team led by evolutionary geneticist Eva-Maria Geigl from the Institute Jacques Monod (Paris) sequenced the DNA from 209 cats that lived between about 15,000 years and 300 years ago and the results have Geigl convinced that the domestic feline species conquered the world in two waves.

It is believed that the relationship between cats and humans first began in the early days of agriculture; this is evidenced by the discovery of a 9,500-year-old human grave in Cyprus that also contained the remains of a cat. It is thought early farming in the Middle East attracted mice and rodents – which, in turn, lured cats to come closer to the farmers. This period likely marked the beginning of the domestication of wild felines.

The new DNA evidence suggests the second wave of domestic feline population spread originated from the descendants of Egyptian cats (a previous study found evidence the Egyptians had tamed wild cats 6,000 years ago). Thousands of years after their initial domestication, these Egyptian cats were spread by ships to Eurasia and Africa; the ships’ crew used the felines to control rodents on board.

In contrast to their feline ancestors, cats don’t generally live on rodents any more. But in order to respect their “natural diet”, it is important to feed our cats according to their nature alternating between wet and dry food. Our Almo Nature recipes all guarantee balanced nutrition with high quality ingredients and our new range Alternative allows you to alternate between feeding your cat both 100% HFC kibble and wet food, delivering a variety of flavours and textures (for a great jaw workout), a full complement of nutrients, correct hydration and, of course, an enjoyable eating experience.

Do you recognise “wild” behaviours in your cat? Let us know on Facebook!