When and by whom were cats domesticated?

Anyone who likes cats knows how special these animals can be. Their secret seems to be the wild side they still have, nine thousand years after learning to live with humans. Or vice versa.

Oct 27, 2023 - 18:01
When and by whom were cats domesticated?
Image by Anja / Pixabay

The domestication of cats is believed to have occurred around 9,000 years ago in the Near East, specifically in the region that is now modern-day Turkey and parts of the Middle East. Unlike the deliberate domestication of dogs, which were bred for specific purposes such as hunting and herding, the domestication of cats appears to have been a more gradual and mutual process.

Cats likely began to associate with humans in agricultural communities where stored grains attracted rodents, providing a source of food for the cats. Over time, people recognized the benefits of having cats around for pest control, and a mutually beneficial relationship developed. Cats helped control the rodent population, and humans provided food and protection.

This process of natural selection and mutual benefit led to the gradual domestication of cats. Unlike dogs, cats still retain many of their wild behaviors and characteristics, making them unique among domesticated animals.

It's difficult to provide an exact number of domestic cats currently existing worldwide, as this population can vary significantly from one country to another, and it's constantly changing due to births and adoptions. However, estimates suggest that there are hundreds of millions of domestic cats globally.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) estimated in 2020 that there were approximately 95 million domestic cats in the United States alone. Considering the global population, the total number of domestic cats likely exceeds 500 million. But, of course, these numbers are only rough estimates, and it's challenging to obtain precise figures for such a widespread and diverse population.

Valérie Tellier EA Global Coordinator