The common archaeological and scientific consensus was that cats were originally domesticated 7,500 BCE (before current era) in Cyprus, Greece. But according to archaeological evidence found in a Chinese village, domesticated cats surfaced in two distinct parts of the world.
The interesting fact is that the two subspecies of felines, from the Mediterranean and the Asian region, were almost completely different, due to the geographical position of said locations. Most domesticated cats from our current time can be traced back to the Felis Silvestris Lybica species, but in Asia, the ancestral domesticated cat was the Prioinalurus Bengalensis, the local leopard cat.
The fossils in question were discovered 15 years ago and were originally considered to be from the Felis Lybica species. These would have potentially reached the Asian region through Middle Eastern trading routes and would have arrived already domesticated.
The pelvis and mandible fossils show similarities to the original domesticated feline, but after through analysis, researchers have found that they have distinct differences, making the team conclude that the fossils were actually from the local leopard cat.
It’s not entirely surprising that cats gained an increased popularity as pets because of their ability to hunt small pests that would usually plague farms and homes. Through intense domestication and genetic engineering, the house cats were much smaller than their wild counterparts.
The concept of early genetic engineering is not entirely new. Humans have been selectively breeding almost every domesticated animal, be they dogs or cats. We simply chose to breed the subjects who had more appeal to us. This is why we have pugs and corgis, canine species that would not last in the wild at all. The same can be said about cats, even if felines can still survive more or less in the wild, even if domesticated.
But due to the fact that house cats surfaced in two areas shows zoologists even more that the idea of how cats actually adapted to home environments was a process not entirely dictated by humans. Felines have somewhat elected to domesticate themselves because a human home could potentially provide a constant food source and a perimeter where they could benefit from an increase in safety from larger predators.
Bearing in mind that domesticated cats surfaced in two distinct parts of the world, other animals that were previously considered to have undergone human domestication processes may have actually elected to become domestic of their own accord. Further studies have to be conducted in order to prove this concept, but this new discovery regarding cats will most assuredly change zoologists’ beliefs regarding ancient pet cats.