Skip navigation
The origins of cat domestication


Narrator:       
This is Science Today. Anyone who has a feline in the house may not be too surprised to learn that, unlike dogs, cats somewhat domesticated themselves. Cat geneticist Leslie Lyons of the University of California, Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, says ancient man had to capture dogs and horses first, then tame them. Cats, it seems, had their own plan.

Lyons:             They somewhat domesticated themselves by coming into being basically rodent control when we developed refuse piles, when we're having large grain stores for our food, then in come rodents. Well then, cats come in for their free meal, too. So, we live in this nice, symbiotic relationship with them.

Narrator:        Lyons recently discovered that the domestic cat's family tree is rooted in the Fertile Crescent, one of the first places for agricultural development.

Lyons:             So, you want to look in areas from Egypt, up the Mediterranean coast through Israel, through Turkey, down the Euphrates and the Tigris, but then also, India was an early site for agricultural development on its own and so was China.

Narrator:        For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.