UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine Veterinary Genetics Laboratory
CAT ANCESTRY
Brief History of Cat Domestication

Cats were domesticated from their wildcat relatives when humans became farmers and formed agricultural villages, about 8,000 - 10,000 years ago. A few wildcats, attracted by vermin that infested grain stores, first became tame and then tamed wildcats evolved, alongside with their human companions, to become our domesticated pet cats. Cats first became our steady companions in the Near East, in the areas of Turkey, Cyprus, Iran, Iraq, and perhaps Egypt. From these areas of domestication, early random bred, feral cats spread around the world as they were transported to different countries and continents by humans that settled new territories.

Just as humans evolved into distinct races in different parts of the world, their companion cats also evolved into different races. Recent genetic studies have identified 8 major races of cats: Western European, Eastern Mediterranean, Indian, Arabian Sea, South Asian, East Asian, Iran/Iraq, and Egyptian. Because many parts of the world were colonized and populated by Western Europeans, most of the cats in these areas, such as the Americas and Australia, are derived from Western European race of cats.

Veterinary Genetics Laboratory, Tel 530-752-2211, Email VGL