Origin of the domestic cat

The cat family tree from Scientific American.

The evolution line for domestic cats is not as straight forward as the line for dogs. All cats are in the Felidae family. There are two living subfamilies within the felidae family: Pantherinae and Felinae. The third subfamily, the Machairodontinae, which included the saber-toothed tiger, has died off. The most recent ancestor of the three families was the pseudaelurus. The pseudaelurus lived in Eurasia and North America about 20 million years ago. It had slender proportions and short legs. The next link was the proailurus and was only slightly bigger than a domestic cat.

It is believes that cats traveled from Eurasia to North America and back again multiple times through prehistory. Originally scientists used to believe that Egyptians were the first people to domesticate cats, but new evidence puts domestic cats in the Fertile Crescent. That is several thousand years earlier than was originally believed. Scientists have used DNA evidence to chart lineages of all cats, and they have identified 37 species which all evolved from pseudaelurus and proailurus. All species of cats have common traits. Cats are carnivores, social creatures, no taste receptors for sweetness, and often nocturnal.

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