DNA evaluation factors to rodents because the trigger for domestication of cats

DNA analysis points to rodents as the cause for domestication of cats

Genetic markers record the ancient history between humans and cats. (Credit: Mukesh Jain/Unsplash).

When, where and why cats were domesticated has long been a question, with DNA providing new insights


  • New evidence suggests cats and humans have been living together for about 10,000 years.
  • People started taking cats to control rats in agricultural fields.
  • It was previously thought that the Egyptians were the first to domesticate cats, around 3,500 years ago.

The question of when, why and how domestication of cats occurred has proven to be a difficult question to answer. In archeological sites, it is difficult to tell the difference between domestic cats and wild cats. Cats were previously thought to have been first domesticated in Egypt during the Classic Period, around 3,500 years ago, but only recently DNS based evidence points to domestic cats originating from the Fertile Crescent in the Middle East around 10,000 years ago. In a new study, researchers compared a range of genetic markers in cat samples from the Middle East, Russia, Europe and Asia, with the results supporting the theory that cats were first domesticated in the Fertile Crescent.

One of the markers compared was microsatellites, which are rapidly mutating pieces of DNA that can inform scientists about breed evolution and current cat populations. Another marker, known as nucleotide polymorphisms, provides clues to cats’ older history. The study compared and analyzed over 200 different genetic markers that provide clues to the long history of human-feline relationships. The results suggest that rats are an important catalyst for feline domestication, with the advent of farming resulting in humans and cats sharing a common interest in scavenging pests.

One of the reasons cat domestication is so difficult to explain is because humans don’t rely on them for survival like other domesticated animals. As it turns out, cats may not be fully domesticated at all. One of the study’s authors, Leslie Lyons, says: “We can actually call cats semi-domesticated because if we released them into the wild, they would probably still prey on vermin and be able to survive and mate on their own because of their natural behaviors.” . Unlike dogs and other domesticated animals, we didn’t really change the behavior of cats during the domestication process, so cats are once again proving to be special animals.” An article describing the findings has been published in Heredity.