Mitochondrial DNA analysis of Felis silvestris catus, the common house cat, suggests two great waves of expansion. First came the dawn of agriculture, when grain stores attracted vermin. Genetic examination suggests all cats descend from one of five feline ancestors: the Sardinian, European, Central Asian, Subsaharan African or the Chinese desert cat.
The second “cat-spansion” occurred later, as man took to water.From trade routes to diplomatic missions and military raids, men on ships needed food, and that meant rodents. The “ship’s cat” was a feature of life at sea from that day to this, first helping to control damage to food stores, ropes and woodwork and, in modern times, electrical wiring.
A Viking site in North Germany dating ca 700-1000AD, contains the remains of one cat with Egyptian mitochondrial DNA. Once driven nearly to extinction, the Norwegian Forest cat (Norwegian: Norsk skogkatt) descends from Viking-era ship’s cats, brought to…
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