The second possible lineage began around 1500 B.C.E. when the Egyptian cat successfully spread throughout the “Old World.” These cats were known for their “sociability and tameness,” which is likely what attracted humans. Flash forward to the middle ages — the first time researchers found a distinct change in this cat’s genetic makeup. Tabby cats with “blotched or striped coat markings” date back to the Ottoman Empire in Southwest Asia, then became common in both Europe and Africa. Their coat only became associated with domesticated cats in the 18th century, then people started breeding house cats for specific traits in the 19th century.
Unlike with dogs, humans didn’t attempt to breed cats for specific tasks (thus, leading to more diversification in breeds). Evolutionary geneticist and article coauthor Eva-Maria Geigl is clearly a cat lover, elaborating that “there was no need to subject cats to such a selection process since it was not necessary to change them. They were perfect as they were.” Seeing as there are more than 74 million cats living in U.S. homes today, Geigl might be onto something.
Now, if you could reach into that treat bag and fulfill your purpose as food-giver, Jinx will stop staring you down. Hurry, human!