Findings of a new study that revealed the history of domesticated cats have found that it was not until the Middle Ages, after cats lived as human companions for thousands of years, that some of these felines developed fur with patch-like patterns.
DNA Analysis Sheds Light On Origins Of Domesticated Cats
Eva-Maria Geigl, from the French National Center for Scientific Research, and colleagues examined DNA from the remains of domesticated cats that lived between 100 to 9,000 years ago.
Analysis of mitochondrial DNA from the teeth, skin, hair, and bones of more than 200 cat remains that were found at different archaeological sites in Africa, Near East, and Europe offered clues to the origins of modern domesticated cats.
The DNA samples that were taken from the remains of the animals found in Viking graves, Stone Age sites, and Egyptian mummies also showed the coat patterns of ancient felines.
Blotched Coat Patterns In Cats Not Common Until The Middle Ages
By analyzing a single point mutation, or the changing of one DNA letter in the cats' genes, Geigl and colleagues found that striped cats tend to be more common in ancient times and that blotched, or patch coat patterns, only became common by the Middle Ages.
"[We] saw that the point mutation indicative of the blotched pattern arose only after the 13th century in the Middle East, and became frequent in the following centuries," Geigl said.
The researcher added that the findings suggest that cats became a human companion without going through many changes.
Cats Depicted With Striped Coats In Ancient Egyptian Murals
Egyptian murals strengthen the idea that striped cats were more prevalent in ancient times because the Illustrations always depict striped cats.
"This result is in agreement with the iconography from the Egyptian New Kingdom through the European Middle Ages, where cats' coats were mainly depicted as striped," the researchers wrote in their study, which was published in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution on Monday, June 19.
"It was only in the 18th century AD that the blotched markings were common enough to be associated with the domestic cat," the researchers added.
Spread Of The Tabby Cat
DNA evidence suggests that the gene mutation that is responsible for the blotched markings of the animals emerged in a cat in western Turkey in the 14th century.
It became more frequent in Africa, Europe, and southwest Asia and become quite common by the 18th century. Blotched tabby cat coat pattern marks 80 percent of present-day cats
Tabby cats eventually spread around the world as these intelligent felines became prized for their beauty over their utilitarian skills.
Different Cat Breeds, Markings And Coats
Different breeds of cats now feature different markings and coats. Besides popular domestic cats such as the Siamese, exotic breeds with unusual features also exist such as the Bambino, a hairless short cat, and the Cornish Rex, which features a curly coat and Whippet-like body.
About 73 cat breeds are recognized by the International Progressive Cat Breeders Alliance (IPCBA) as of 2016.