4 min read

How Did We Ever Tame Cats From The Wild?

It was a long process.

It's been shown that the common house cat is basically a little lion - compared to dogs, who evolved from wolves, cats really haven't changed much from their wild counterparts.

So how did we end up living with these essentially wild, yet cuddly, creatures?

It started thousands of years ago in a little - but literal - game of cat and mouse:

The Near East wildcat is ancestor of the modern house cat
The modern house cat evolved from the Near East wildcat, who still roams the dessert today. | Shutterstock

1. Early farmers in Asia and the Middle East started getting really good at agriculture around 12,000 years ago. They started storing their crops, like grains - and this meant they started having a rodent problem.

Our cats evolved from the Near East wildcat
Shutterstock

2. The Near Eastern wildcat - which still roams the deserts in the Middle East - saw an opportunity. While some of these wildcats may have been captured to be rodent hunters on the farms, it's thought that the cats probably chose to get closer to farmers so they could hunt the rodents eating the grain.

Cat figurine from ancient Egypt
Cat figurine from the Early Dynastic Period of ancient Egypt | The Metropolitan Museum of Art

3. Scientists speculate that farmers saw the benefits of having these wildcats around, so they probably started providing food and shelter to the cats to get them to stick around.

Mummified cat from ancient Egypt
Cat mummy from ancient Egypt | Shutterstock

4. For the next several thousand years, cats started being friendly to humans, who were friendly back. As it's well known, Egyptians even worshipped their feline friends. And a grave from 9,500 BC on the island of Cyprus was recently unearthed: it contained the remains of a person who had been buried with the remains of their cat. This means that when a family moved to the island, they must have brought their pet cat with them.

Girl and pet cat at beginning of 20th Century
A girl and her cat in 1914 | NYPL

5. Cats were largely outdoor pets until the invention of clay kitty litter in the mid-20th century allowed cats to stay inside if nature called. Refrigeration also helped cat lovers keep food for their feline friends, since cats need to eat meat, and most people couldn't - or wouldn't - go out hunting animals for their cats.

And that's how we got where we are today.

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And where we are today is pretty great.

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To adopt a furry feline family member of your own, visit Adopt-a-Pet or your local shelter.