Cats joined us for a reason. DNA shows what this was

Rudyard Kipling knew a thing or two about cats

…..“the wildest of all wild animals was the cat. He walked by himself, and all places were alike to him” [1]

So how did this aloof, solitary carnivore end up sharing a hearth and home with primates, along with goodness knows what other species, including dogs, horses cows and many others? Until now, the guess was that cats moved in well after other domestic animals. Their role was pest control. To protect the winter stores for humans and other animals, which would otherwise have been destroyed by hordes of rats and other graminivorous rodents. The likely time frame would be in the mid-Neolithic as barns and grain stores became common, attracting pests from far and wide.

The trouble was that until recently, this was little more than conjecture, backed by a few archaeological discoveries. Intriguing, but essentially another just-so story. But now our old friend genetics once again comes to the rescue. A new survey of over 1000 cats, looking at 200 genetic markers puts the origins of domestication in the Neolithic along the valleys of the Tigris and Euphrates. Exactly where the early farmers were starting to pile up stores of wheat, barley and other foods. It’s nice to see that science really can confirm conjectures with some hard evidence. David Nield has the full story here[2] in Science Alerts We were amused to note that, unlike most other domestic creatures, cats have retained most of their wild behaviours and should still be able to survive in the wild, if push came to shove.

Maybe that is their charm. Because the bond between humans and cats has become something more than merely economic. Even big burly footballers like the England team seem susceptible to the old feline charm, as this tale from Eirann Prosser of the Mail shows.[3] Defenders John Stones and Kyle Walker befriended a local stray tabby during off- the- pitch sessions. He’s called Dave and will soon be winging his way back to England along with the other lions. Maybe Kipling was nearer the truth than we thought.




#kipling #cat #neolithic #rodent #john stones #kyle walker #dave the cat #gentics #animal domestication #neolithic

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