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article imageCats have been domesticated for over 5,000 years

By Tim Sandle     Dec 21, 2013 in Environment
Unlike the domestication of dogs, which has been well studied, little research has looked into the domestication of cats. A new study suggests that humans domesticated cats over 5,300 years ago.
Researchers have examined cat bones found in the early agricultural village of Quanhucun in China, according to The Atlantic. From their examination, the U.S.-Chinese team have suggested that cats likely did become domesticated through a gradual process. Over time wild cats became a part of early agricultural societies based on their attraction to the rodents that fed on stored grain.
This itself is unsurprising. What has surprised the research team is how long ago this domestication began to happen. The researchers found found evidence of rodents and eight felid bones at an archaeological site in Quanhucun, China. They carbon dated two cat skeletal samples and showed that they spanned a two hundred year period from approximately 5,300 years ago.
Further evidence that these cats were indeed domestic came from signs of wear on several of the samples, which indicated an advanced age in at least one of the cats (this points towards domestication). The scientists also analyzed the carbon isotopes found in the felid and rodent bones, and found evidence that these cats ate rodents that fed on millet, a common crop grown by Quanhucun’s ancient inhabitants.
The lead researcher, Fiona Marshall of Washington University in St. Louis. told the LA Times that the cats were probably not yet living in people's homes: "There’s nothing to show us that there was anything more than an alley cat type of relationship in this village."
The research has been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in a paper titled "Earliest evidence for commensal processes of cat domestication".
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