Where did our domestic cats come from?

Paleogeneticist Claudio Ottoni and his colleagues from KU Leuven (University of Leuven) and the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences did a study to determine the ancestor of the modern domestic cat. There are five subspecies of the wildcat Felis silvestris that are known today, but all skeletal remains look the same.


Therefore, Ottoni studied the DNA from bones, teeth, skin, and hair from cats found at archaeological sites in the Near East, Africa and Europe. The cat remains were from 100 to 9000 years old.

What they discovered was that all domestic cats descended from the African wildcat Felis silvestris lybica, found in North Africa and the Near East. What Ottoni could not determine is if the cats from Egypt were a separate group of cats or if they descended from the African wildcat.

What is interesting is that most if not all the ancient cats were striped. Few if any had spots or blotches such as today’s tortoise shell or “tortie” cat. Spotted cats did not show up until the Middle Ages. Since cats were taken on ships to control the rodents, they spread across the world and remains have been found at Viking sites near the Baltic sea.


2 thoughts on “Where did our domestic cats come from?

  1. It would be interesting to learn how and why they evolved to be smaller, less fierce, etc. Different prey/food, not having to hunt for all their food, that sort of thing?
    In your book, “God’s Creatures: A Biblical View of Animals” you present a case for separate creation of wild and domestic animals. Maybe we could say evolution and humans cooperated with God in creating a domestic cat. 🙂


    • Dear Catherine,
      Yes it would be interesting to learn how they became the way they are today. But we do not know based on the article, what size the African cat was. Also, selective breeding, such as was done with dogs, could have given us what we have today. I still feel that God created wild and domestic, but that does not mean we cannot alter the physical and mental qualities of the domestic. The changes that we see does not mean that they evolved in the sense that most people believe.

      Liked by 1 person

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