This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click through & make a purchase we may earn a commission. This does not affect the price you pay. Read our full affiliate disclosure here.
Ever wondered if your pet cat is descended from a lion? Read on for our lowdown on cat evolution and whether a “meow” was once a “roar”.
The world’s greatest genetic variety of wild cats exists in Africa. This remarkable fact is the result of wild cat migration and evolution over millions of years. Most zoologists, especially those working with wild animals, acknowledge this evolutionary history. But, just where do our beloved pet cat breeds fit into the eons of feline evolution?
Cat Evolution: What’s The Truth?
Are domestic cats evolutionary marvels? Are they descended from or naturally hybridized out of ancient Eurasian and African wild cats like leopards, lions, caracals, and lynxes? Or, are the familiar pet cat breeds simply the result of our own selective cross-breeding for preferred phenotypes?
Many cat lovers believe the recognized pet cat breeds evolved naturally and directly from wild feline ancestors over many millennia. They think their beloved Tabby is truly evolved from prehistoric African ancestors. Unfortunately, those cat parents would, for the most part, be wrong. But, they might ask, “aren’t house cats strict carnivores that hunt, scratch, and prowl around just like wild cats?” The answer is yes, but they would still be wrong. Please read on to learn more about the heritage of our pet cats.
Cat Evolution: Evolution Marvels? No…Human Intervention? Yes
To be clear, our wonderful house cat breeds are not evolutionary marvels of natural selection. Yes, house cats are indeed one member of the broader Feline Family, but there are 37 known cat species in that family. Most of those species are large wild cats.
Domestic pet cats―including domesticated ferals―are the result of fairly recent human intervention. Certain cat traits that people preferred―hair length, color, size, temperament, mousing, compatibility, playfulness, etc.―have been selectively bred for.
This phenotypic selection of favored cat traits led to our modern pet cats and was probably begun 9 or so millenia ago by the ancient people of the Mediterranean, Thailand (Siamese), and others. But, domestic cats did not genetically morph from ancient wild cats into the modern pets that we know and love. In fact, most of the modern cat breeds we love as pets today have only existed for the last 2 or 3 hundred years. Again, this is due to preferential trait selection by humans and not by natural selection.
Modern Cats Are Awesome Pets
While our modern pet cat breeds aren’t the result of evolution’s natural selection, they are wonderful and prized companion pets for many people. In fact, cats hold a special place in the hearts of lots of families and have done so for many generations. It doesn’t matter that pet cat breeds are modern. They are fun companions that make beloved pets for people everywhere.
Want to Learn More About Your Pet Cat?
You can endlessly read books or watch free videos about cats. But, if you really want to learn more about your own cat’s training, health, and needs then consider buying these affordable online Udemy courses:
You can also gift these courses to your cat parent friends. There are many other Udemy courses on cat training but these two are uniquely good.
So as you can see cat evolution is a complex process. Cats are awesome pets beloved by many folks but the various domestic breeds we know today are modern creations, not ancient evolutionary marvels. This does not mean there is no genetic link between our domestic cats and wild cats. It only means that the cat breeds we think of as pets have only existed because of recent human intervention.
Stay organized and keep track of your pet’s health, grooming, and care with our easy-to-use cat care planner.