In order to understand their instincts and the relationship of the domestic cat with human beings, it is essential to know where they come from, their ancestors, their origins and their history. Here we present a historical tour of the life of cats.
From ancient predatory mammals to present-day felines, the main evolutionary driver has been the need to feed off other animals and to survive the challenge of natural selection. Cats’ ancestors are not so different from those that existed 10,000 years ago, the moment in history when the <54>Felis silvestris or wild cat appeared.
If we make a tour of felines, their sorts and varieties, we can find the genetic or family relations of the present-day domestic cat:
Big cats: jaguars, leopards, tigers, lions and panthers; they share many behavioural aspects with cats, although the greatest difference is the habitat where they live.
Small cats: lynx, puma, ocelot, cat, and margay belong to the Felis genus. In fact, many are physically very alike and they have a great deal of genetic overlap, although their characters are not similar.
The similarities between wild cats and domestic cats are so plentiful that experts debate whether they are separate species or are varieties of the Felis silvestris. In fact, they can be crossed together, but it would be difficult to domesticate the resulting animal.
From ancient predatory mammals to present-day felines, the main evolutionary driver has been the need to feed and to survive the challenge of natural selection.
Cats are the only animals that have chosen to be domesticated. They were interested in the convenience of living under a roof and with guaranteed food, which explains their natural independence. Because of this they never feel subordinate.
FROM WILD TO DOMESTIC CATS IN ANCIENT EGYPT
The first sources that we have that make reference to domestic cats come from ancient Egypt,<81> but it is known that cats already lived together with humans years before, around 5000 B.C. It is during the Egyptian civilisation that cats come close to humans and get used to them. Granaries full of cereals offered rodents… and food! Their character evolved because only the most tame specimens could survive in this environment.
ORIGINS OF THE NAME
In Egyptian cats were oddly called Mau, which means ‘to see’. In fact they believed that their look sought out the truth and that they could see beyond death.
THE DIASPORA OF CATS
Within a short period of time the domesticated cat became dispersed from Egypt around the whole world. Cats reached India and China at the hands of Phoenician traders around 500 B.C. and it wasn’t until 100 A.D. that they spread across Europe, reaching the North and Russia. Their spreading to North America happened in the 18th Century.