"I would say cats chose human company, but it was a commensal relationship - it was profitable to both sides", explained Dr Geigl, of Institut Jacques Monod in Paris.
In the second wave of colonisation several thousand years later, Egyptian cats spread to Europe during the Roman era and became more common than the cats from the near east. In short, people did not domesticate cats - cats chose to allow themselves to become domesticated, he said.
TRT World's Chelsea Carter reports. It's likely that cats lived around humans for many centuries before succumbing to the lure of the fire and the cushion, and coming in from the cold to become true companions to humans. Their genes aren't very different from those of wild cats, nor are their bodies or features - they don't, for example, have the floppy ears and curly tails common to many domesticated animals.
Scientists from the Royal Institute for natural Sciences of Belgium, together with colleagues from Institut Jacques Mono in Paris found that cats were domesticated almost ten thousand years in the middle East. Researchers previously had only modern cats' DNA to go on.
The analysis looks specifically at how cats were domesticated by examining DNA from cat remains across time and geography. Some cat owners would even say their pet is the one in control.
An illustration of F. s. lybica shows how similar the wildcat is to today's house cat, due to continued hybridization between populations.
But sometimes you have to wonder, who's really in charge.
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To unravel the mystery, University of Leuven geneticist Claudio Ottoni worked with a large global team of researchers to analyze mitochondrial DNA of over 200 ancient and modern cats, spanning 9,000 years.
"We don't know the history of ancient cats. We don't eat cats for food, so their bones don't end up in ancient trash piles the way pig or chicken bones do", she further added. The first European cats found bearing a mitotype associated with domestication were a 6,400-year-old Bulgarian cat and a 5,200-year-old Romanian cat both with mitotype IV-A* - previously seen only in what is now Turkey.
Tabby cats first appeared in the Middle Ages. The researchers found that a cat that died in the Viking trading port of Ralswiek on the Baltic Sea in the seventh century A.D. belonged to a genetic subtype hailing from Egypt. They found that wild cats typically have striped tabby patterns, while domesticated tabbies have blotchy fur coats.
According to the researchers, this natural domestication occured as mice and rats were found near human crops thus leading the cats there.
"The increasing popularity of cats among Mediterranean cultures and particularly their usefulness on ships infested with rodents and other pests presumably triggered their dispersal across the Mediterranean", the researchers wrote in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution.
When were cats first domesticated?
Moving about on ships as seafaring rat patrol was probably what spread domestic cats all over the world. Looking back at today's fancy breeds, they originate from 19 century France, and were born as a result of selective breeding.
In addition to figuring out where cats came from, the scientists checked the origins of one specific type of cat: the tabby.style="text-align: center;"