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African Wild Cat: Ancestor of the domestic cat

The origins of our domestic feline

MetPet.com Staff Writer

Felis Sylvestris Lybica subspecies of Felis Sylvestris (wild cat)

It is thought that our familiar domestic cat is descended from the tractable and mild-mannered desert-living African Wild Cat and was domesticated some 10,000 years ago.  Although the oldest domestic cat remains are recently uncovered 9500 year old bones found on the island of Cyprus in the Mediterranean Sea, domestication has long been thought to have occurred in ancient Egypt. 

The handy rodent catcher may have hitched a ride and a job on Phoenician trading ships and thus spread through ancient Greece and Rome.  Eventually it made its way through Europe and Asia where subspecies still reside in the wild. 

The African Wild Cat still lives in a wide range of habitats in Africa save for the extremes of the desert and deepest rain forests.  It is slightly larger than the domestic cat but is otherwise very similar.  It resembles a lightly striped tabby with a medium brown coat and banded tail.  It hunts at night and relies primarily on rodents for food although it can can eat other small prey such as insects and reptiles.  Since it breeds freely with domestic cats, it is possible that the modern African Wild Cat is essentially the feral version of the domestic cat. 

If our domestic cat originated in the desert, it can explain why cats are able to tolerate heat well.  It is also worth considering that fish may not really be its 'natural' diet and why cats cannot tolerate excessive amounts of fish in their diet.  

 

 
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