ArticlePDF Available

The evolution of house cats

Authors:
68 SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN Ju ne 20 09
The
T
aming of the C at
e v o l u t i o n
© 2009 SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN, INC.
www.ScientificAmerican.com SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN 69
It is by turns aloof and affectionate, serene
and savage, endearing and exasperating.
Despite its mercurial nature, however, the
house cat is the most popular pet in the world. A
th ird of A meri can house holds h ave feline mem-
bers, and more than 600 million cats live among
hu m an s w or ldwi de . Ye t a s f a mi li ar a s t he se c re a-
tures are, a complete understanding of their ori-
g in s h as pr ov ed elus iv e. Wh er ea s o t her o nc e w ild
animals were domesticated for their milk, meat,
wool or servile labor, cats con-
tribute virtually nothing
i n the way o f sus te -
nance or work to human endeavor. How, then,
did they become commonplace xtures in our
homes?
S chol ar s l on g b el ie ve d t ha t t he an ci en t E gy p -
tians were the rst to keep cats as pets, starting
around 3,600 years ago. But genetic and archae-
ological discoveries made over the past five
ye ar s have rev ised th is sc enar io and have gen-
erated fresh insights into both the ancestry of
the house cat and how its relationship with hu-
mans evolved.
Cat’s C radl e
The question of where house cats rst arose has
been challenging to resolve for several reasons.
Although a number of investigators suspected
that all varieties descend from just one cat spe-
ciesFelis silvestris, the wildcatthey could
not be certain. In addition, that species is
not confined to a small corner of the
globe. It is represented by populations
living throughout the Old Worldfrom
Scotland to South Africa and from Spain
to Mongoliaand until recent-
ly scientists had no way
KEY CONCEPTS
Unlike other domesticated
creatures, the house cat
contributes little to human
survival. Researchers have
therefore wondered how
and why cat s came to live
among people.
Experts traditionally
thought that the Egyptians
were the rst to domesti-
cate the cat, some 3,600
years ago.
But recent genetic and
archaeological discoveries
indicate that cat domesti-
cation began in the Fertile
Crescent, perhaps around
10,00 0 years ago, when
agriculture was getting
under way.
The ndings suggest that
cats star ted making them -
selves at home around peo-
ple to t ake ad vantage of
the mice and food scraps
found in their settlements.
The Editors
Genetic and archaeological ndings hint that
wildcats became house cats earlierand
in a different placethan previously thought
By Carlos A. Driscoll, Juliet Clutton-Brock,
Andrew C. Kitchener and Stephen J. O’Brien
The
T
aming of the C at
© 2009 SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN, INC.
70 SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN Ju ne 2 00 9
jane burton G etty Imag es ( preceding pages); tom brakef iled Getty Images (this page);
jen chri stia nsen (illustration)
the genetic composition of wildcat groups would
vary across geography but remain stable over
ti me, as h as occur red in many other cat specie s.
If regional indigenous groups of these animals
could be distinguished from one another on the
basis of their DNA and if the DNA of domestic
cats more closely resembled that of one of the
wildcat populations, then he would have clear
evidence for where domestication began.
In the genetic analysis, published in 2007,
Driscoll, another of us (O’Brien) and their col-
leagues focused on two kinds of DNA that mo-
lecular biologists traditionally examine to differ-
entiate subgroups of mammal species: DNA from
mitochondria, which is inherited exclusively
from the mother, and short, repetitive sequences
of nuc lear DNA know n as micr osa tell ite s. Us ing
established computer routines, they assessed the
ancestry of each of the 979 individuals sampled
based on their genetic signatures. Specically,
they measured how similar each cat’s DNA was
to that of all the other cats and grouped the ani-
mals having similar DNA together. They then
asked whether most of the animals in a group
lived in the same region.
The results revealed ve genetic clusters, or
lin ea ge s, o f w il dc at s. Four of th es e l in ea ge s c or -
responded neatly with four of the known sub-
species of wildcat and dwelled in specic places:
F. silvestris silvestris in Europe, F. s. bieti in Ch i-
na, F. s. ornata in Central Asia and F. s. cafra in
southern Africa. The  fth lineage, however, in-
cluded not only the fth known subspecies of
wildcatF. s. lybica in th e M id d le Ea st but also
the hundreds of domestic cats that were sampled,
including purebred and mixed-breed felines
from the U.S., the U.K. and Japan. In fact, genet-
of determining unequivocally which of these
wildcat populations gave rise to the tamer, so-
called domestic kind. Indeed, as an alternative to
the Eg yptia n or igins hypothesis, some research-
ers had even proposed that cat domestication
o cc ur re d i n a n um be r o f d if f er ent l oc at io ns , wi th
each domestication spawning a different breed.
Confounding the issue was the fact that members
of these wildcat groups are hard to tell apart from
one another and from feral domesticated cats
with so-called mackerel-tabby coats because all
of them have the same pelage pattern of curved
stripes and they interbreed freely with one anoth-
er, further blurring population boundaries.
In 2000 one of us (Driscoll) set out to tackle
the question by assembling DNA samples from
some 979 wildcats and domestic cats in south-
ern A frica, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Mongolia
and the Middle East. Because wildcats typically
defend a single territory for life, he expected that
[FINDINGS]
THE HOUSE CATS ANCESTOR
He will kill mice and he
will be kind to Babies
when he is in the house,
just as long as they do not
pull his tail too hard. But
when he has done that,
and between times, and
when the moon gets up
and night comes, he is the
Cat that walks by himself,
and all places are alike to
him. Then he goes out to
the Wet Wild Woods or
up the Wet Wild Trees or
on the Wet Wild Roofs,
waving his wild tail and
walking by his wild lone.
Rudyard Kipling,
“Th e Cat That Walked b y Hims elf”
F. s . lybi ca
F. s . orna ta
F. s . cafr a
F. s. silvestris
F. s . biet i
Historic distribution
F. s . lybica
Researchers examined DNA belonging to
nearly 1,000 wildcats and domestic cats from
across the Old World to determine which
subspecies of the wildcat, Felis silvestris, gave
rise to the house cat. They found that the
DNA clustered into ve groups, based on
similarity of sequence, and noted that the
wildcats within each group came from the
same region of the world (map). The domestic
cats, however, grouped only with F. silvestris
lybica, the Middle Eastern wildcat ( photo-
graph). T his re sult established that a ll domes-
tic cats are descended from F. s. lybica alone
(family tree).
Sa nd ca t
F. margarita
(closest living relative of F. silvestris)
Chinese mountain cat
F. s . biet i
Southern African wildcat
F. s . cafr a
Middle Eastern wildcat
Felis silvestris lybica
and domestic cats
European wildcat
F. s. silvestris
Ce ntra l Asi an wi ldc at
F. s . orna ta
© 2009 SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN, INC.
www.ScientificAmerican.com SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN 71
source: “ea rly taming of the cat in cyprus ,” by j.-d. Vigne, j. guil aine, k. debue, l. haye and p. gérard, in SCIENCE, Vo l. 30 4; ap ril 2 004
dates for domestication. The ancestors of most
domesticated animals lived in herds or packs
with clear dominance hierarchies. (Humans
unwittingly took advantage of this structure by
supplanting the alpha individual, thus facilitat-
ing control of entire cohesive groups.) These herd
animals were already accustomed to living cheek
by jowl, so provided that food and shelter were
plentiful, they adapted easily to connement.
C at s, in co nt ra st , a re so li ta ry h un te rs th at de -
fend their home ranges ercely from other cats
of th e sa me sex (th e pr id e-li vi ng li ons a re th e ex -
ception to this rule). Moreover, whereas most
domesticates feed on widely available plant
foods, cats are obligate carnivores, meaning
they have a limited ability to digest anything but
meata far rarer menu item. In fact, they have
lost the ability to taste sweet carbohydrates alto-
gether. And as to utility to humans, let us just say
cats do not take instruction well. Such attributes
suggest that whereas other domesticates were re-
cruited from the wild by humans who bred them
for specic tasks, cats most likely chose to live
among humans because of opportunities they
found for themselves.
Early settlements in the Fertile Crescent be-
tween 9,000 and 10,000 years ago, during the
Ne ol ith ic per io d, c re ate d a c omplet ely new env i-
ronment for any wild animals that were suf-
ciently exible and inquisitive (or scared and
hungry) to exploit it. The house mouse, Mus
musculus domesticus, w as on e s uc h c re at u re . A r -
ically, F. s. lybica wildcats collected in remote
deserts of Israel, the United Arab Emirates and
Saudi Arabia were virtually indistinguishable
from domestic cats. That the domestic cats
grouped with F. s. lybica alone among wildcats
meant that domestic cats arose in a single locale,
the Middle East, and not in other places where
wi ldcats are common.
Once we had gured out where house cats
came from, the next step was to ascertain when
they had become domesticated. Geneticists can
often estimate when a particular evolutionary
event occurred by studying the quantity of ran-
dom genetic mutations that accumulate at a
steady rate over time. But thi s so -c alled molecu-
lar clock ticks a mite too slowly to precisely date
e vent s a s r ec ent as th e p as t 1 0, 0 00 ye ar s , t he li ke -
ly interval for cat domestication. To get a bead on
when the taming of the cat began, we turned to
the archaeological record. One recent nd has
proved especially informative in this regard.
In 2004 Jean-Denis Vigne of the National
Museum of Natural History in Paris and his col-
leagues reported unearthing the earliest evi-
dence suggestive of humans keeping cats as pets.
T he di sc ov er y c om es fro m t he Me di te rr a ne an is -
land of Cyprus, where 9,500 years ago an adult
human of unknown gender was laid to rest in a
sha llo w g ra ve. A n a sso rt men t o f ite ms ac co mp a-
nied the bodystone tools, a lump of iron oxide,
a handful of seashells and, in its own tiny grave
just 40 centimeters away, an eight-month-old
cat, its body oriented in the same westward di-
rection as the human’s.
Because c ats are not n ative to most Mediter-
ranean islands, we know that people must have
brought them over by boat, probably from the
adjacent Levantine coast. Together the trans-
port of cats to the island and the burial of the
human with a cat indicate that people had a spe-
cial, intentional relationship with cats nearly
10,000 years ago in the Middle East. This locale
is consistent with the geographic origin we ar-
rived at through our genetic analyses. It ap-
pears, then, that cats were being tamed just as
humankind was establishing the rst settle-
ments in the part of the Middle East known as
the Fertile Crescent.
A Cat an d Mouse Game?
With the geography and an approximate age of
the initial phases of cat domestication estab-
lished, we could begin to revisit the old question
of why cats and humans ever developed a special
relationship. Cats in general are unlikely candi-
EARLY DOMESTICATION: Tradition-
ally the a ncie nt Egypti ans h ave
been credited with domesticat-
ing the cat by roughly 3,600
years ago. But in 20 04 archae ol-
ogists working on the Mediter-
ranea n island of C yprus discov-
ered a 9,500-ye ar-old buri al of
an adu lt h uman and a cat (cir-
cled i n photog raph, left, and
map, b elow). Be cause cats a re
not native to Cyprus, people
must h ave brought them over by
boat, proba bly f rom the ne arby
Levant. The nd thus sugg ests
that people in the Middle East
began kee ping cats as pet s long
before the Egyptians did.
© 2009 SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN, INC.
stephen dalto n Pho to Re searc her s, In c. (mouse); t he is rae l mus eum, j erus alem (statuette);
the brit ish m useu m (mummy); daVe king Ge tty Imag es (Siamese) ; hel mi fl ick (B ritish Shorthair)
72 SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN J une 20 09
Researchers believe , bas ed on archaeologic al and hist oric r ecor ds, t hat t he tr ansformation of
the Middle Eastern wildcat into a ubiquitous pet transpired over thousands of years.
10,500– 9,500 YEARS AGO
House mouse remains preserved with human
stores of grain in Israel; origin of agriculture
and of permanent human settlements creates
opportunities for cats willing to get close
enough to humans to hunt house mice
9,500 YEARS AGO Human and cat
double burial on Mediterranean island of
Cyp rus; earlies t evi dence of s pecial re lati on-
ship between people and cats
3,700 YEARS AGO Ivory cat
statuet te sculpted in Israel; suggests cats were
a common sight around human settlements
in the Fertile Crescent
3,600 YEARS AGO Artists paint
domesticated cats from Thebes, Egypt; oldest
cle ar evide nce of fully domesticated cat
2,900 YEARS AGO Cats become
“ofcial deity” of Egypt in the form of
the goddess Bastet; huge number of cats
sacriced and mummied in her sacred city
indicates that Egyptians were breeding
domestic cats
2,300 YEARS AGO The height of
cat worship in Egypt; the Ptolemeic rulers
mai ntai n strict bans on t he ex port of c ats
2,000 YEARS AGO Cat remains
preserved at the German site of Tof ting in
Schleswig and increasing references to cats in
art and literature show that domestic cats
were common throughout Europe
13501767 The Tamara Maew (or
“Cat-Book Poems”), composed by Buddhist
monks in Thailand, describes indigenous
natural breeds, such as the Siamese, which
arose largely through genetic drift, as
opposed to human intervention
1800s Most of the modern breeds
developed in the British Isles, according to
writings of English natural history artist
Harrison Weir
1871 Cat show at the Crystal Palace
in L ondo n is r st to inclu de hu man-
created breeds
2006 First hypoallergenic cat, created
by Allerca
chaeologists have found remains of this rodent,
which originated in the Indian subcontinent,
am ong the  rst human stores of w ild grain from
Israel, which date to around 10,000 years ago.
The house mice could no t compete wel l with the
local wild mice outside, but by moving into peo-
ple’s homes and silos, they thrived.
It is almost certainly the case that these house
mice attracted cats. But the trash heaps on the
outskirts of town were probably just as great a
draw, providing year-round pickings for those fe-
lines resourceful enough to seek them out. Both
these food sources would have encouraged cats
to ad ap t t o l iv in g w ith pe op le ; i n t h e l in go of evo-
lutionary biology, natural selection favored those
cats that were able to cohabitate with humans
and thereby gain access to the trash and mice.
Over time, wildcats more tolera nt of livi ng in
human-dominated environments began to pro-
liferate in villages throughout the Fertile Cres-
c en t. Se le ct io n i n t h is ne w n ic he wo ul d h av e b ee n
principally for tameness, but competition among
cats would also have continued to inuence their
evolution and limit how pliant they became. Be-
cause these proto–domestic cats were undoubt-
edly mostly left to fend for themselves, their hunt-
ing and scavenging skills remained sharp. Even
today most domesticated cats are free agents that
can easily survive independently of humans, as
evinced by the plethora of feral cats in cities,
towns and countrysides the world over.
Considering that small cats do little obvious
harm, people probably did not mind their com-
pany. They might have even encouraged the cats
to stick around when they saw them dispatching
mice and snakes. Cats may have held other ap-
peal, too. Some experts speculate that wildcats
just so happened to possess features that might
have preadapted them to developing a relation-
ship with people. In particular, these cats have
“cute” featureslarge eyes, a snub face and a
high, round forehead, among othersthat are
known to elicit nurturing from humans. In all
likelihood, then, some people took kittens home
simply because they found them adorable and
tamed them, giving cats a rst foothold at the
human hearth.
Why was F. s. lybica the only subspecies of
wild cat to be domesticated? Anecdotal evidence
suggests that certain other subspecies, such as the
European wildcat and the Chinese mountain cat,
are less tolerant of people. If so, this trait alone
could have precluded their adoption into homes.
The friendlier southern African and Central
Asian wildcats, on the other hand, might very
[TIMELINE]
FROM WILD TO MILD
© 2009 SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN, INC.
www.ScientificAmerican.com SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN 73
jen christiansen
logical evidence affords some insight into the
process. After the Cypriot nd, the next oldest
hints of an association between humans and cats
are a feline molar tooth from an archaeological
deposit in Israel dating to roughly 9,000 years
ago and another tooth from Pakistan dating to
around 4,000 years ago.
Testament to full domestication comes from
a much later period. A nearly 3,700-year-old
ivory cat statuette from Israel suggests the cat
was a common sight around homes and villages
in the Fertile Crescent before its introduction to
Eg ypt. Th is s cenario m ake s sens e, g iven t hat a ll
the other domestic animals (except the donkey)
and plants were introduced to the Nile Valley
from the Fertile Crescent. But it is Egyptian
paintings from the so-called New Kingdom pe-
riodEgypt’s golden era, which began nearly
3,6 0 0 yea rs ag o that provide the oldest known
unmistakable depictions of full domestication.
These paintings typically show cats poised un-
der chairs, sometimes collared or tethered, and
often eating from bowls or feeding on scraps.
The abundance of these illustrations signies
that cats had become common members of
Egyptian households by this time.
It is in large part as a result of evocative im-
age s s uc h a s t he s e t ha t s ch ol ar s t ra di ti on all y p er -
ceived ancient Egypt as the locus of cat domesti-
c at ion. Ev en th e o ld es t E gyp ti an r ep re se nt at io ns
of wildcats are 5,000 to 6,000 years younger
well have become domesticated under the right
conditions. But F. s. lybica had the advantage of
a head start by virtue of its proximity to the rst
settlements. As agriculture spread out from the
Fertile Crescent, so, too, did the tame scions of
F. s. lybica, lling the same niche in each region
they enteredand effectively shutting the door
on local wildcat populations. Had domestic cats
from the Near East never arrived in Africa or
Asia, perhaps the indigenous wildcats in those re-
gions would have been drawn to homes and vil-
lages as urban civilizations developed.
Rise of the Goddess
We do not know how long the transformation of
the Middle Eastern wildcat into an affectionate
home companion took. Animals can be domes-
ticated quite rapidly under controlled condi-
tions. In one famous experiment, begun in 1959,
Russian scientists using highly selective breeding
produced tame silver foxes from wild ones in just
40 years. But without doors or windowpanes,
Neolithic farmers would have been hard-pressed
to co nt rol th e b reed in g o f cat s e ven if th ey wa nt -
ed to. It seems reasonable to suggest that the lack
of human inuence on breeding and the proba-
ble intermixing of house cats and wildcats mili-
tated against rapid taming, causing the meta-
morphosis to occur over thousands of years.
Although the exact timeline of cat domestica-
tion remains uncertain, long-known archaeo-
[THE AUTHORS]
Carlo s A. D riscoll i s a memb er of
the University of Oxford’s Wil dlife
Conservat ion Research Unit and
the Laboratory of Genomic Diversi-
ty at the National Cancer Institute
(NCI). In 2007 he pub lished the rst
DNA-based family tree of Felis
silvestris, the spec ies to which
the do mes tic c at belon gs.
Juliet Clutton-Brock, founder
of the International Council for
Arch aeozoology, is a pioneer in th e
study of do mes tica tion and earl y
agriculture. An drew C. K itch ener
is p rinc ipal cura tor of m amma ls
and birds at N ati onal Mus eums
Scotland, where he studies geo-
graphical variation and hybridiza-
tion in mamma ls an d birds.
Stephen J. O’Brien is chi ef of
the NCI’s Laboratory of Genomic
Diversity. He has studied the
genetics of cheetahs, lions, orang-
utans, pandas, humpback whales
and HIV. This is his fth article for
Scientic American.
As agriculture and permanent human settlements spread from the Fertile Crescent to the rest of the world, so, too, did domestic cats.
The map bel ow sho ws the earliest putative occurrences of h ouse cat s in re gions around the globe.
[DISPERSAL]
HAVE CATS, WILL TRAVEL
BRITAIN:
2,100 yea rs ag o?
GERMANY:
2,0 00 ye ars ago
CYPRUS:
9,5 00 ye ars ago
AMERICAS:
50 0 year s ago?
EGYP T:
3,6 00 ye ars ago
GREECE:
2,5 00 ye ars ago
ISRAEL:
9,0 00 ye ars ago
INDIA:
2,0 00 ye ars ago
CHINA:
2,0 00 ye ars ago
AUSTRALIA:
40 0 years ago?
9,500 year s ago Present
PAKISTAN:
4,000 yea rs ag o
© 2009 SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN, INC.
British Isles before the Romans brought them
overa dispersal that researchers cannot yet
explain.)
Meanwhile, on the opposite side of the globe,
domestic cats had presumably spread to the Ori-
ent almost 2,000 years ago, along well-estab-
lished trade routes between Greece and Rome
and the Far East, reaching China by way of Mes-
opotamia and arriving in India via land and sea.
Then something interesting happened. Because
no native wildcats with which the newcomers
cou ld in te rb re ed li ve d i n t he Fa r E as t, th e O ri en -
tal domestic cats soon began evolving along
their own trajectory. Small, isolated groups of
Oriental domestics gradually acquired distinc-
tive coat colors and other mutations through a
process known as genetic drift, in which traits
that are neither benecial nor maladaptive be-
come xed in a population.
This drift led to the emergence of the Korat,
the Siamese, the Birman and other “natural
breeds,which were described by Thai Buddhist
monks in a book called the Tamara Maew
(meaning “Cat-Book Poems”) that may date
back to 1350. The putative antiquity of these
breeds received support from the results of ge-
netic studies announced last year, in which Mar-
ilyn Menotti-Raymond of the National Cancer
Institute and Leslie Lyons of the University of
th an the 9,500 -year-old Cypriot b ur ial, howev-
er. Although ancient Egyptian culture cannot
claim initial domestication of the cat among its
many achievements, it surely played a pivotal
role in subsequently molding the domestication
dynamic and spreading cats throughout the
world. Indeed, the Egyptians took the love of
cats to a whole new level. By 2,900 years ago the
domestic cat had become the ofcial deity of
Egypt in the form of the goddess Bastet, and
house cats were sacriced, mummied and bur-
ied in great numbers at Bastet’s sacred city,
Bubastis. Measured by the ton, the sheer num-
ber of cat mummies found there indicates that
Eg yptians were not just harvest ing feral or w ild
populations but, for the rst time in history,
were actively breeding domestic cats.
Egypt ofcially prohibited the export of their
venerated cats for centuries. Nevertheless, by
2 ,500 yea rs ago the a ni mals had made th eir way
to Greece, proving the inefcacy of export bans.
Later, grain ships sailed directly from Alexandria
to destinations throughout the Roman Empire,
and cats are certain to have been onboard to keep
the rats in check. Thus introduced, cats could
have established colonies in port cities and then
fanned out from there. By 2,000 years ago, when
the Romans were expanding their empire, do-
mestic cats were traveling with them and becom-
ing common throughout Europe. Evidence for
t he ir sp re ad co me s f ro m t he G er ma n s it e o f To ft -
ing in Schleswig, which dates to between the 4th
and 10th centuries, as well as increasing referenc-
es to cats in art and literature from that period.
(Oddly, domestic cats seem to have reached the
Saving the
ScottiSh
Wildcat
As the northernmost representative
of the European wildcat, the Scottish
wildcat lives under environmental
and climatic conditions unlike those
experienced by any other wildcat. It
is also critically endangered, thanks
to interbreeding with feral domestic
cats. According to the latest rough
estimate, perhaps only 400 pure
Scottish wildcats survive. But
sorting the Scottish feline from
hybri ds and domes tic cats is cha llen g-
ing because they all look so similar.
To that end, the authors recently
discovered a unique genetic signature
of the Scottish wildcat that permits
precise identication. This develop-
ment will facilitate implementation
of l egal protec tion of th is creature.
74 SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN Ju ne 2 00 9
The Truth about Cats and Dogs
Unlike dogs, which exhibit a huge range of sizes, shapes and temperaments, house cats are
relatively homogeneous, differing mostly in the characteristics of their coats. The reason for
the relative lack of variability in cats is simple: humans have long bred dogs to assist with particular
tasks, such as hunting or sled pulling, but cats, which lack any inclination for performing most tasks
that would be useful to humans, experienced no such selective breeding pressures.
gandee Vas an Gett y Imag es (cats); ti m flach Ge tty Imag es (dogs)
© 2009 SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN, INC.
© 2009 SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN, INC.
www.ScientificAmerican.com SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN 75
courtesy of k athrin stucki A1 Savannahs
The wide range of sizes, shapes and tempera-
ments seen in dogsconsider the Chihuahua
and Great Daneis ab sent i n cats. Feli nes show
much less variety because, unlike dogswhich
starting in prehistoric times were bred for such
tasks as guarding, hunting and herdingwild-
cats were under no such selective breeding pres-
sures. To enter our homes, they had only to
evolve a people-friendly disposition.
So are today’s cats truly domesticated? Well,
yesb ut perhaps on ly jus t. A lthou gh they sati s-
fy the criterion of tolerating people, most domes-
tic cats are feral and do not rely on people to feed
them or to nd them mates. And whereas other
domesticates, like dogs, look quite distinct from
their wild ancestors, the average domestic cat
largely retains the wild body plan. It does exhibit
a few morphological differences, however
namely, slightly shorter legs, a smaller brain and,
as Charles Darwin noted, a longer intestine,
wh ich may h ave been an adap tation to s caveng-
ing kitchen scraps.
The house cat has not stopped evolving,
thoughfar from it. Armed with articial in-
semination and in vitro fertilization technology,
cat breeders today are pushing domestic cat ge-
netics into u nchar ted terr itory: they are hybrid-
izing house cats with other felid species to create
exotic new breeds. The Bengal and the Caracat,
for example, resulted from crossing the house
cat with the Asian leopard cat and the caracal,
respectively. The domestic cat may thus be on
the verge of an unprecedented and radical evolu-
t ion i nt o a mu lt is pe ci es co mp os it e w ho se fu tu re
ca n only be i magined.
STILL EVOLVING: The mating of house cats with exotic speci es of cat s is revolution-
izing dom esti c cat gen etic s. Th e photog raph above d epic ts a S ava nnah, the resu lt
of crossi ng a dome stic cat with a Ser val.
California, Davis, found DNA differences be-
tween today’s European and Oriental domestic
cat breeds indicative of more than 700 years of
independent cat breeding in Asia and Europe.
As to when house cats reached the Americas,
little is known. Christopher Columbus and oth-
er seafarers of his day reportedly carried cats
with them on transatlantic voyages. And voyag-
ers onboard the May ower and residents of
Jamestown are said to have brought cats with
them to control vermin and to bring good luck.
How ho us e c at s g ot to A ust ra lia is ev en mu rk ie r,
although researchers presume that they arrived
with European explorers in the 1600s. Our
group at the U.S. National Institutes of Health
is tackling th e problem u sing DNA.
Br eedin g for Beauty
Although humans might have played some
minor role in the development of the natural
breeds in the Orient, concerted efforts to pro-
duce novel breeds did not begin until relatively
recently. Even the Egyptians, who we know were
breeding cats extensively, do not seem to have
been selecting for visible traits, probably because
distinctive variants had not yet arisen: in their
paintings, both wildcats and house cats are
depicted as having the same mackerel-tabby
coat. Experts believe that most of the modern
breeds were developed in the British Isles in the
19th century, based on the writings of English
natural history artist Harrison Weir. And in
1871 the rst proper fancy cat breedsbreeds
created by humans to achieve a particular
appearancewere displayed at a cat show held
at the Crystal Palace in London (a Persian won,
although the Siamese was a sensation).
Today the Cat Fancier’s Association and the
International Cat Association recognize nearly
60 breeds of domestic cat. Just a dozen or so
genes account for the differences in coat color,
fur length and texture, as well as other, subtler
coat characteristics, such as shading and shim-
mer, among these breeds.
Thanks to the sequencing of the entire ge-
nome of an Abyssinian cat named Cinnamon
in 2007, geneticists are rapidly identifying the
mutations that produce such traits as tabby
patterning, black, white and orange coloring,
long hair and many others. Beyond differences
in the pelage-related genes, however, the genetic
variation between domestic cat breeds is very
slightcomparable to that seen between adja-
cent human populations, such as the French and
the Italians.
Mo re t o
explore
Cats: Ancient and Modern.
Juliet Clutton-Brock. Harvard
University Press, 1993.
The Natural History of the Wild
Cats. Andrew Kitchener. Cornell
University Press, Comstock Publishing
Associates, 1997.
A Natural History of Domesticated
Mammals. Second edition. Juliet
Clutton-Brock. Cambridge University
Press, Natural History Museum, 1999.
The Ne ar Ea ster n Origin of Cat
Domestication. Carlos A. Driscoll
et al. in Science, Vol. 317, pages
519–523; 2007.
Patterns of Molecular Genetic
Variation among Cat Breeds.
Marilyn Menotti-Raymond et al.
in Genomics, Vol. 91, No . 1,
pages 1–11; 2008.
© 2009 SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN, INC.
... On the contrary, human manipulation aimed at selecting specific traits that could assist humans (for example food supply, transport and traction in livestock and horses) played an important role in shaping phenotypic variation pretty early along the domestication pathway of other domestic animals. For example, the extreme variation in size and shape that we observe in domestic dogs may be the result of early attempts to select specific tasks such as hunting, protection, and sled-pulling (Driscoll et al. 2009). ...
Article
Full-text available
Domestication is one of the most interesting and challenging processes in human and animal evolution. The fundamental change in subsistence strategies from hunting and gathering to farming that took place for the first time in the Levant more than ten thousand years ago profoundly changed human culture and biology, and set the groundwork for population growth, migrations, the rise of civilizations, and wealth disparities (Bocquet-Appel 2011; Gignoux, Henn, and Mountain 2011; Kohler et al. 2017).
... Cats are the most popular pet in the world and are now found in almost every place where humans live (Driscoll et al, 2009 andSahet al, 2018). No doubt Nepal has an unknown number of domestic, stray and wild cats. ...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
This paper highlights the outcomes of livestock and fisheries research of Nepal
... Cats are the most popular pet in the world and are now found in almost every place where humans live [19,20]. No doubt Nepal has unknown number of domestic, stray and wild cats. ...
Article
Full-text available
Toxoplasmosis is a cosmopolitan parasitic zoonosis, infecting human and other warm blooded animals worldwide. This disease has economic importance in regard to animal reproduction, and it leads to abortions and neonatal complications in humans. This study was carried out to determine the seroprevalence of Toxoplasma gondii in sheep, cattle, cats and human in Inaruwa and surrounding areas of Sunsari district, Nepal. Altogether 336 blood samples, of which 50 from sheep, 92 from cattle, 44 from cats and 150 from human were collected and tested immediately using lateral flow chromatographic immunoassay (Toxo IgG/IgM Combo Rapid test ®). Associated biometric information such as age, sex, pregnancy status, occupation, association with cat was recorded and analyzed to determine the association of risk factors with the disease. Data were analyzed using R 3.2.2 (The R foundation for Statistical Computing, 2015). Seroprevalence of toxoplasmosis was detected 12.00% (95% CI: 4.53-24.31%) in sheep, 8.70% (95% CI: 3.83-16.42%) in cattle, 36.36% (95%CI: 22.41-52.23%) in cats and 12.67% (95% CI: 7.80-19.07%) in human. In case of human, 31 to 45 years age group were found more susceptible to toxoplasmosis (21.74%, OR: 6.4) in comparison to 21 to 30 years (10.0%) and up to 20 years (4.17%) age groups. Toxoplasmosis was found highly significantly associated with abortion (58.33%, OR= 15.4, P=0.0001) in human in the tested individuals. Regarding occupation, 20.83% butchers were seropositive followed by farmers (15.52%), World Scientific News 105 (2018) 145-156-146-housewives (10.0%) and diagnostic lab technicians (8.0%). Female and higher age group showed high prevalence of toxoplasmosis in all studied species. Therefore, this assay is a useful method for the serological screening of toxoplasmosis in different animals and humans.
... The positive rate is reported to vary from place to place (Tizard et al., 1977;Feldman, 1982;Suzuki et al., 1987). Cats are the most popular pet in the world and are now found in almost every place where humans live (Driscoll Carlos, 2009;Sah et al., 2016). No doubt Nepal has unknown number of domestic, stray and wild cats. ...
Article
Full-text available
Toxoplasmosis is a cosmopolitan parasitic zoonosis, infecting human and other warm blooded animals worldwide. This disease has economic importance in regard to animal reproduction, and it leads to abortions and neonatal complications in humans. This study was carried out to determine the seroprevalence of Toxoplasma gondii in sheep, cattle, cats and human in Inaruwa and surrounding areas of Sunsari district, Nepal. Altogether 336 blood samples, of which 50 from sheep, 92 from cattle, 44 from cats and 150 from human were collected and tested immediately using lateral flow chromatographic immunoassay (Toxo IgG/IgM Combo Rapid test ®). Associated biometric information such as age, sex, pregnancy status, occupation, association with cat was recorded and analyzed to determine the association of risk factors with the disease. Data were analyzed using R 3.2.2 (The R foundation for Statistical Computing, 2015). Seroprevalence of toxoplasmosis was detected 12.00% (95% CI: 4.53-24.31%) in sheep, 8.70% (95% CI: 3.83-16.42%) in cattle, 36.36% (95%CI: 22.41-52.23%) in cats and 12.67% (95% CI: 7.80-19.07%) in human. In case of human, 31 to 45 years age group were found more susceptible to toxoplasmosis (21.74%, OR: 6.4) in comparison to 21 to 30 years (10.0%) and up to 20 years (4.17%) age groups. Toxoplasmosis was found highly significantly associated with abortion (58.33%, OR= 15.4, P=0.0001) in human in the tested individuals. Regarding occupation, 20.83% butchers were seropositive followed by farmers (15.52%), World Scientific News 105 (2018) 145-156-146-housewives (10.0%) and diagnostic lab technicians (8.0%). Female and higher age group showed high prevalence of toxoplasmosis in all studied species. Therefore, this assay is a useful method for the serological screening of toxoplasmosis in different animals and humans.
... The positive rate is reported to vary from place to place (Tizard et al., 1977;Feldman, 1982;Suzuki et al., 1987). Cats are the most popular pet in the world and are now found in almost every place where humans live (Driscoll Carlos et al., 2009;Sah et al., 2016). No doubt Nepal has unknown number of domestic, stray and wild cats. ...
Article
Full-text available
Toxoplasma gondii is a protozoan parasite which can infect virtually all warm blooded animals including humans. The present study was conducted to determine the seroprevalence of T. gondii infection in goats (Capra hircus) and risk factors as well. A total of 159 caprine sera samples collected randomly from Inaruwa municipality and surrounding areas of Sunsari district of Nepal, were tested using a commercial rapid diagnostic (Toxo IgG/IgM Combo Rapid Test, CTK Biotech, USA) kit for the detection of T. gondii antibodies. All the sampled goats were taken from herd history of abortion. The disease prevalence, confidence interval (CI) at 95%, and p-value (<0.05) were calculated to analyze the influence of risk factors on seroprevalence of toxoplasmosis. Out of 159 tested sera, 29.56% (47) goats (95% CI: 22.60-37.30%) were infected for T. gondii. Considering risk factors, seropositivity for toxoplasmosis was statistically significantly higher in pregnant goats 42.5% (95% CI: 27.04-59.11%; OR=2.46; p=0.0381) followed by non pregnant 27.78% (95% CI: 16.46-41.64%) and 23.08% in other male and female kids. Similarly, female goats were found 1.82 times more (prevalence: 34%; 95% CI: 24.82-44.15) seropositivity compared with males (prevalence: 22.03%; 95% CI: 12.29-34.73%). High prevalence 34.18% (95% CI: 23.87-45.71%) was found in above 18 months old goats. Additionally, presence of cats in surrounding areas, the pasturing system and the hygiene in the farms were assessed as factors for contributing the disease. Extensive field investigations in the animal population are requested in order to broaden the present results and to assess economic losses due to abortions caused by T. gondii.
... 9000 Jahren in Dörfern des Fruchtbaren Halbmonds domestiziert wurde (Driscoll et al. 2007). Vermutlich wurde sie vor allem von den Römern vor etwa 2000 Jahren verbreitet (Clutton-Brock 1987, Daniels et al. 1998, Driscoll et al. 2009). Auch nach Zentraleuropa kam sie wahrscheinlich mit den Römern und war in zunehmendem Maße vor etwa 1100 Jahren verbreitet (Knapp et al. 2002). ...
Article
The craniometric variability of wildcats from the Harz Mountains in Germany is described for the first time on the basis of a sample from the zoological collection at the University Halle-Wittenberg. 59 linear measurements, 8 parameters derived from them, the body measurements, and 12 qualitative characters were used. Differences to domestic cats from Eastern Germany are given and discussed in comparison to differences between wildcats and domestic cats in the Carpathians. The wildcats and domestic cats studied here differ significantly in 36 cranial measurements, 7 of the derived parameters, and four body measurements. The wildcats are larger than the domestic cats. In the present study the coefficient of difference is ≥ 1.0 for cranial volume, cranial index, intestine length, intestine index, length of M 1, length of P 3 and distance between foramen ovale and foramen lacerum. The variables width of nasal, height and width of nasal cavity, cranial height, width across maxillar bone at canines, distance between upper canines, rostrum breadth, distance of anterior rim of lateral depression of palatine to anterior rim of bulla, length of bulla, width of P 4 and length of P 2-P 4 do not differ significantly between wildcats and domestic cats. The data from the wildcats in the Harz are very similar to comparable data from the literature for wildcats from Thuringia and also to those from the Carpathians. Wildcats from the Carpathians, however, show larger ranges and a higher variability in several variables. Especially the higher values for cranial volumes are difficult to explain. The wildcats from the Carpathians could be slightly larger or show slightly different proportions in the skull, but the little comparable data do not allow reasoning in this direction. It is possible that the sample from the Harz does not include enough very old specimens, which might shift the ranges to higher values for some variables. But this is not enough to explain the large difference in cranial volume. Thus due to the isolation of the Harz wildcat population interbreeding with domestic cats and introgression of domestic cat characters have to be considered. The sexual dimorphism of wildcats and domestic cats is well supported.
... Cats are the most popular pet in the world and are now found in almost every place where humans live (Driscoll et al, 2009 andSahet al, 2018 The present research work has been aimed with the following objectives: (1) to determine the seroprevalence of toxoplasmosis in pigs and goats in Dhankuta district and (2) to identify risk factors of T. gondii. ...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
Collection of scientific and technical papers presented in 9th National Livestock and Fisheries workshop held on May, 2013. This proceedings contains the paper prepared based on the research activities carried under the research stations under the Nepal Agricultural Research Council.
Article
Full-text available
Toxoplasmosis is a zoonotic disease, occurs in almost all warm blooded animals including human beings and is caused by a global protozoan intracellular parasite Toxoplasma gondii. It is estimated that one third of the world human population have been infected by this parasite. This protozoan causes a significant public health problem in humans and imposes considerable economic losses and damages to livestock. The final host is cat, Feliscatus, accounts for all of these significant burdens. Hence the present study was designed to determine the prevalence rate of T. gondii infection in cats and also to analyze the associated factors that were potential for human beings and livestock as well in the period from September 2014 to August 2016. Altogether 254 faecal samples from cat and 390 water samples were collected from Bangladesh Agricultural University (BAU) campus, farm and residential areas of BAU and were examined for presence of T. gondii oocysts at Department of Parasitology, BAU Mymensingh. The overall prevalence of T. gondii was 4.03% (26/644). Presence of T. gondii oocysts in faecal and water samples were 5.5% (14/254) and 3.08% (12/390), respectively. Adult cats had higher (6.7%) prevalence than young cats (3.8%). Summer season was found high prevalence (6.7%) of oocysts in cat faeces. Similarly drain water found higher positivity (6.67%) of oocysts. Therefore, this study concluded that the cats are contaminating the environment by shedding oocysts and then other animals can get the infection from grazing of contaminated grasses and drinking water. So eating undercooked goat, sheep and cattle meat; eating contaminated vegetables and drinking contaminated water are major sources for getting toxoplasmosis to human beings. Hence this disease has great zoonotic importance around BAU campus and therefore it is essential to create public awareness.
Article
The domestic cat is the only member of the Felidae to form social relationships with humans, and also, the only small felid to form intraspecific social groups when free ranging. The latter are matriarchies, and bear only a superficial similarity to those of the lion and cheetah, which evolved separately and in response to very different selection pressures. There is no evidence for intraspecific social behavior in the ancestral species Felis silvestris, and hence, the capacity for group formation almost certainly evolved concurrently with the self-domestication of the cat during the period 10,000 to 5,000 years before present. Social groups of F. catus are characterized by cooperation among related adult females in the raising of kittens from parturition onward and competition between adult males. Unlike more social Carnivora, cats lack ritualized submissive signals, and although "peck-order" hierarchies can be constructed from exchanges of aggressive and defensive behavior, these do not predict reproductive success in females, or priority of access to key resources, and thus do not illuminate the basis of normal cat society. Cohesion in colonies of cats is expressed as, and probably maintained by, allorubbing and allogrooming; transmission of scent signals may also play a largely uninvestigated role. The advantages of group living over the ancestral solitary territorial state have not been quantified adequately but are likely to include defense of permanent food sources and denning sites and protection against predators and possibly infanticide by invading males. These presumably outweigh the disadvantages of communal denning, enhanced transmission of parasites, and diseases. Given the lack of archaeological evidence for cats kept as pets until some 4,000 years before present, intraspecific social behavior was most likely fully evolved before interspecific sociality emerged. Signals directed by cats toward their owners fall into 3 categories: those derived from species-typical actions, such as jumping up, that become signals by association; signals derived from kitten-to-mother communication (kneading, meow); and those derived from intraspecific cohesive signals. Social stress appears widespread among pet cats, stemming from both agonistic relationships within households and territorial disputes with neighborhood cats, but simple solutions seem elusive, most likely because individual cats vary greatly in their reaction to encounters with other cats.
Conference Paper
In spite of the development of technologies that support human-computer or human-human interaction, few studies have been conducted for improving interactions between humans and pets, pets and computers, or between two pets. We propose a new area of research on entertainment using computers, called "human-pet interaction." As an initial step in this research, we have developed a series of sensing devices that can be attached to pet cats, called Cat@Log (cat-a-log). These devices comprise various sensing units such as a camera, a GPS, an accelerometer, and a Bluetooth module. Here, we attempted to determine an optimum design of the devices such that they can be attached to a pet without causing discomfort to it; for determining this design, we considered parameters such as the device's form factor and way of attachment. These developed devices can recognize the experiences and activities of cats; information sensed by the devices is transmitted in real time by using the Bluetooth wireless module. We used this platform and developed a software system that automatically recognizes a pet's high-level behavior and posts it to Twitter.
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any references for this publication.