The origin of domestic cats can be traced back to the wildcat species Felis silvestris, particularly the subspecies known as the African wildcat (Felis silvestris lybica). Cats are believed to have undergone domestication around 9,000 years ago, making them one of the first animals to be domesticated by humans.
The domestication of cats is thought to have occurred in the Near East, specifically in regions that are now part of modern-day Turkey, Cyprus, and parts of the Middle East. It is believed that early agricultural societies provided a suitable environment for wildcats, as they were attracted to the rodents that fed on stored grains.
These wildcats gradually adapted to living in close proximity to humans, and humans likely recognized the benefits of having these feline companions around for controlling pests like mice and rats. Over time, a mutually beneficial relationship developed, and cats became more closely associated with human settlements.
The domestication process was different from that of dogs, as cats were not actively bred for specific traits like dogs were. Instead, they largely self-selected by gravitating toward human settlements where their presence was tolerated and even encouraged.
Through centuries of coexistence and natural selection, domestic cats evolved from their wild ancestors, maintaining some of their inherent characteristics but also acquiring traits that made them more compatible with human lifestyles. Today, domestic cats are found worldwide and continue to be cherished as pets and companions in households around the globe.