According to new genetic research, the domestication of cats can be traced back to nearly ten thousand years ago.

An international research team studied the genotypes of over a thousand randomly bred cats from Europe, Asia, and Africa, focusing on nearly two hundred genetic markers associated with geographical regions and breeds.

They speculated that the connection between humans and cats was likely triggered by the lifestyle changes of our ancestors.

Leslie Lyons, a feline geneticist at the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine, stated, "One of the main DNA markers we studied is microsatellites, which are DNA sequences consisting of a few nucleotides repeated multiple times in tandem and mutate very rapidly, providing clues about the population and breed development of cats over the past few hundred years.

Another important DNA marker is single nucleotide polymorphisms, which are single-gene variations in the entire genome, providing clues about ancient history thousands of years ago."

The team traced the earliest signs of domestication to the Fertile Crescent region, the areas along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in the Middle East. This area is considered the birthplace of the domestic cat story, also known as the "cradle of civilization."

As the current Holocene epoch began, humans transitioned from nomadic hunting and gathering to settled farming, and the pest control services provided by cats contributed to this new role, leading communities to actively encourage their presence.

According to the latest evidence, these domesticated cats likely spread worldwide with humans, rather than being independently domesticated elsewhere. Thousands of years later, the genetic composition of cats shows signs of "distance isolation," meaning that as geographical distance increases, genetic similarity between populations decreases. For example, there are significant differences in the genetic composition of cats between Western Europe and Southeast Asia.

Researchers emphasized the differences between domestic cats and other animals such as horses and dogs in terms of domestication and cohabitation with humans. Lyons said, "We can call cats semi-domesticated animals because if released into the wild, they can still rely on natural behaviors to hunt, survive, and mate." Unlike dogs or other domesticated animals, we haven't truly altered the behavior of cats, proving they are a unique species.

The team established a genetic database of hereditary conditions shared between cats and humans in this and previous studies, including blindness and specific types of dwarfism, as the genetic structure of cats is more similar to humans than most other non-primate mammals.

Additionally, polycystic kidney disease is a disease that can be combated through genetic information, and researchers significantly reduced its levels through genetic testing in Persian cats, with current dietary-based treatment trials for humans underway.

Lyons stated, "If these trials are successful, we may be able to offer humans a more natural, healthier alternative than taking drugs that may lead to liver failure or other health issues. Our efforts will continue to be helpful, which is fantastic."

With a deeper understanding of the history and genetic structure of cat domestication, we have a clearer understanding of these mysterious companions who share our lives. From the Fertile Crescent to various parts of the world, the story of cats intertwines with human civilization, becoming an indispensable part of our lives.

Through the study of hereditary conditions, we can improve not only the health of cats but also contribute to medical advancements for humans. In the future, we look forward to uncovering more secrets about cats.