Washington, Dec 17 — The origins of the world’s first pet cat has been traced – to China.
The first direct evidence of cat domestication has been found within the farming community in the Chinese village of Quanhucun village, some 5,300 years back, according to a new study.
“Our data suggest that cats were attracted to ancient farming villages by small animals, such as rodents, that were living on the grain that the farmers grew, ate and stored,” said Fiona Marshall, the study’s co-author and a professor of archaeology at Washington University in St. Louis.
“Results of this study show that the village of Quanhucun was a source of food for the cats 5,300 years ago, and the relationship between humans and cats was commensal”, or mutually beneficial, added Marshall.
Even if these cats were not yet domesticated, evidence confirms that they lived in close proximity to farmers, and that the relationship had mutual benefits, she added.
The evidence for this study is derived from research in China led by Yaowu Hu and colleagues at the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Hu and his team analysed eight bones from at least two cats excavated from the site.
Cats were thought to have been first domesticated in ancient Egypt, where they were kept some 4,000 years ago.
But more recent research suggests close relations with humans may have occurred much earlier, including the discovery of a wild cat buried with a human nearly 10,000 years ago in Cyprus.
The findings of the new study appeared in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.