Sunday 2 May 2021

The first domestic cats of Europe in Poland lived off mice and voles

In confirmation of currently accepted fact that the first domestic cats in existence some 10k years ago were effectively working cats living on farms and feeding on mice and other rodents in the Fertile Crescent (this area includes Syria), a study on the first domestic cats in Europe, in Poland, found that they lived the same lifestyle. They studied domestic cat remains dated to 4200-2300 BC and confirmed through isotopic evidence that they preyed upon mice and voles. In their own words this is the conclusion:

Archeological dig in Europe researching early domestic cats (believed)
Archeological dig in Europe researching early domestic cats (believed). Photo: Magdalena Krajcarz

"The isotopic signature of Late Neolithic NE cats suggests that they were free-living, not dependent on a human-produced food, and preyed upon synanthropic mice and voles (i.e., crop pests). The NE cats shared their isotopic niche with European wildcats although the native subspecies utilized a much broader niche than the NE cats did."

Note: the late Neolithic period varies depending upon which part of the world one is referring to but in Poland it is the dates as specified above. It is interesting that they decided that the cats were free-living. This meant that they lived side-by-side with people not in the classic domestic cat relationship. They appear to have been more like barn cats. The word "synanthropic" refers to animals or plants that live near and benefit from an association with human beings and the artificial habitats the people create around themselves.

These cats were imported by traders from the Middle East and lived in a country were there was an abundance of European wildcats who lived on a similar diet.

The study: Ancestors of domestic cats in Neolithic Central Europe: Isotopic evidence of a synanthropic diet. It is published on PNAS.

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