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Monday, February 24, 2014

Cats First Domesticated by the Chinese in Farms

While it’s commonly thought that cats were first made into pets by the ancient Egyptians, new evidence shows that our friendly felines were actually first domesticated in Chinese farms, some 5,300 years ago.

A recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences traced the domestication of cats to Quanhucun, an early village in China.

According to Fiona Marshall, one of the study’s co-authors, her team took three-pronged scientific approach to investigating the beginnings of cat domestication. Marshall is also a professor of archaeology in Arts and Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis. Her data shows that cats were probably drawn towards the small animals that lived in ancient farming villages, so as they preyed on these critters that fed on grain in farms, it was only a matter of time until they interacted with humans.

Marshall adds that their findings indicated that the village of Quanhucun was a food source for cats 5,300 years ago, leading to a symbiotic relationship between humans and cats. The cats could prey on small animals like rodents, and the farmers enjoyed a natural way of keeping pests away from their grain. She also notes that even if the cats were not domesticated, they have enough evidence to show that the animals lived
close to farmers.

Marshall, along with the study’s lead researcher Yaowu Hu and other members of the research team examined eight cat bones of at least two felines excavated from a site in China. From there, the team found that the cats fed on grain millet grown by farmers. Even more interesting is how one cat appeared to have had a diet of human-grown grain, leading to suspicions that it was actually fed by farmers.

Read the full story on Discovery News.

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