Saturday 13 March 2021

First domestic cats in Europe

A study published on July 28th 2020: Ancestors of domestic cats in Neolithic Central Europe: Isotopic evidence of a synanthropic diet, states that 'the early migration of the Near Eastern cat...preceded the known establishment of housecat populations in the region by around 3,000 BCE (Before Common Era). The Common Era means AD (Anno Domini). So 3,000 BCE means 3,000 BC (Before Christ).

African wild somewhat like the first domestic cats of Europe
African wild somewhat like the first domestic cats of Europe. Photo: Pixabay.

To recap, they believe that the Near Eastern wildcat migrated to Poland around 4,200 years before Christ (BC) and after around 1,200 years the first Near Eastern wildcats in Poland were domesticated or semi-domesticated.

The first domestic cats worldwide are estimated to be dated at 9,500 BC on Cyprus. It is believed that this cat was similarly a domesticated Near Eastern wildcat that was imported into Cyprus by ship with its owner.

One theory is that the wildcat followed the migration of farmers into Poland as 'synanthropes'. Synanthropes are animals or plants which live near humans because it benefits them.

Back in those first years of domestication of the wild cat it was a successful process as both species benefited (not so successful today). There were no feral cats. All domestic cats were first generation domesticated wild cats at the very beginning. Then subsequent wildcat offspring were domesticated and true domestication began. 

At present there are an estimated 500 million domestic and feral cats in the world. At around 3,000 BC the number of domestic cats was probably in the tens of thousands worldwide if that.

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