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Cat Domestication

April 2, 2008

A listener asks: where and when were cats first domesticated?

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BOB HIRSHON (host):
The feline family tree…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Our furry feline friends have kept us company and controlled rodents for centuries. Listener Casey of Wichita, Kansas wrote to ask where and when cats were first domesticated. We consulted feline geneticist Leslie Lyons of the University of California, Davis. She says contrary to popular opinion, cats didn’t originate in Egypt, but instead were probably first bred in Turkey.

LESLIE LYONS (University of California, Davis):
Cats were probably domesticated in the near east, which is the Fertile Crescent region.

HIRSHON:
She says our symbiotic relationship with cats began when farmers started storing grain for long periods, attracting small rodents.

LYONS:
It has to occur within the past 10,000 years because it’s associated with our agriculture development.

HIRSHON:
I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.