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The Taming of the Cat

Driscoll CA, Clutton-Brock J, Kitchener AC, O’Brien SJ. The Taming of the cat. Genetic and archaeological findings hint that wildcats became housecats earlier–and in a different place–than previously thought. Sci Am. 2009 Jun;300(6):68-75.

Unlike other domestic species, cats seem to contribute little to human survival, so the question of when and how cats were tamed has been unsolved. Traditionally, it has been thought that the Egyptians were the first to tame cats, about 3600 years ago. However, more recent genetic and archaelogical evidence may push that date back to about 10,000 years ago, and place cat domestication in the Fertile Crescent, where agriculture had its roots. Most likely, cats began to live near people to take advantage of food scraps and rodents. Now, in the 21st century, about one-third of American households have cats, and more than 600 million cats live among humans worldwide. [SL]
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Vigne JD, Guilaine J, Debue K, Haye L, Gérard P. Early taming of the cat in
Cyprus. Science. 2004 Apr 9;304(5668):259.
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Lipinski, M. J., L. Froenicke, et al. (2007). “The ascent of cat breeds: genetic evaluations of breeds and worldwide random-bred populations.” Genomics 91(1): 12-21.
>> PubMed Abstract