Most animals tend to grow smaller as they become domesticated, but the case is apparently not the same for cats. It turns out that cats today are actually 16 percent larger than the cats during the Viking era.
Animal Bones From Denmark
To assess the difference between Viking-era cats and modern-day cats, researchers analyzed bags of animal remains that were found in various archaeological sites across Denmark. The bags had mixed cow, cat, dog, and horse remains from the Bronze era to the 1600s.
Many of the remains were actually from the Viking era when the domesticated cats went from prized companions to sources of fur. True enough, the Vikings were actually known to skin cats for their fur, as evidenced by the cut marks or broken necks of the remains.
Viking-Era Cats And Modern-Day Cats
Evidently, researchers found that modern cats are actually larger than their Viking era counterparts. Specifically, the modern-day cats’ mandibles and limb bones were found to be 16 percent larger, while their tooth size was found to be 5.5 percent larger as well.
This is rather interesting because animals typically get smaller when they get domesticated. For instance, the average dog is 25 percent smaller than the gray wolf, its wild counterpart.
According to researchers, it is possible that the size change might be because of greater food availability, whether in the form of deliberate feedings or human waste or from the shift from treating them as pest control to treating them as cared-for indoor pets.
The study is published in the Danish Journal of Archaeology.
That said, cats are rather unlike other domesticated animals. They still have many of the osteological features of their wild ancestors and have largely remained unchanged for thousands of years. Today, even if many people have cats in their homes, some experts believe that cats are still unsuitable for domestication because of their rather solitary nature, making them difficult to control.
In fact, a 2017 study even showed that cats lived for thousands of years alongside humans and that it was the cats that domesticated themselves for humans without changing much from their wild cat days. In contrast, dogs were specially selected for certain tasks, which eventually led to the many breeds today.