The fallow cat as an ancestor of the domestic cat

The fallow cat as an ancestor of the domestic cat

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The exact pedigree of the domestic cat is still puzzling, but it seems certain that the falcon cat from Africa is its ancestor. But how did the wild cats become tame room tigers? The fallow cat from Africa is the ancestor of our domestic cat - Shutterstock / Maggy Meyer

Archaeological finds from Egypt, around 9,000 years old, suggest that the African hawk was kept as a domestic cat at the time. The ancient Egyptians worshiped the velvet paws as gods and appreciated their skills in mouse hunting. The further pedigree and the history of domestication of the domestic cats are, however, not entirely clear.

Pedigree of the falcon cat

The African falcon cat looks very similar to today's domestic cat: it is small, slender, has a narrow head and large ears, and a long tail that tapers to a point. Her legs are slightly longer than the legs of the domestic cat and the nose is slightly larger. The African cat breed is available in different subspecies in different fur colors from reddish to light brown to gray. The fur can be unpatterned, spotted or striped and is short.

It is believed that people started to tame this type of cat when they settled down and started farming. The cats' predilection for mice, which tampered with grain supplies and could ruin the harvest, made them valuable for the farmers. Conversely, it was also useful for the cats to get food and a safe home so easily.

When the domestic cat came to Europe

The cats probably came to Europe with the Romans, because even the citizens of the Roman Empire quickly understood how the domesticated cat could protect their supplies from uninvited guests. The cat was first mentioned in the Romans about 2,000 years ago. Little by little, the domestic cat spread throughout Europe, although it cannot be ruled out that the offspring of the fallow cat on our continent may have mixed with native wild cat species. In contrast to the fallow cat, which is considered to be relatively trusting for a wild animal, the European wildcat is extremely shy.

Please do not pet: 10 European wildcats

Breeding pedigree cats only for 150 years

The deliberate breeding of certain pedigree cats has only existed for around 150 years. The different cat breeds do not differ from each other as much as the different dog breeds do. The size differences between a Maine Coon cat and a Singapura are clear, but not as extreme as between Great Dane and Chihuahua. There are essentially differences in the fur colors and patterns as well as in the fur lengths and structures. But with every pedigree cat, the resemblance to our domestic cat and its wild relatives of the fallow cat is unmistakable.

Where does the falcon cat live today?

Nowadays, wild cats can be found mainly in deserts and scrublands as well as open rock regions and cultivated lands. As followers of culture, they still like to live close to people and their homes. Falcon cats have not usually settled in rainforest areas, but it may still be that overgrown domestic cats live there, some of which have mated with falcon cats. The animals are hardly distinguishable from each other. In addition to rodents such as mice, the falcon also likes to eat a scorpion, birds, amphibians, spiders and insects. Even small young antelopes can catch the wildcats, even if this happens rather rarely. Unfortunately, overgrown domestic cats compete with their relatives in some areas, so the animals have to fight over food.

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