Source: BBC News

The domestic cat is descended from wild cats that were tamed twice - in the Near East and then Egypt, according to the largest study of its kind.

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TL;DR Version
  • Cats spent thousands of years working as rat catchers on ships and farms before becoming fully domesticated
  • In a study, researchers extracted mitochondrial DNA (passed down the maternal line) from >200 ancient cat remains gathered from Viking graves, Egyptian mummies and Stone Age sites
  • DNA evidence shows cat domestication began 9000 years ago in Near East, where farming started
  • Second wave of cat domestication happened in ancient Egypt
  • Cats spread to Europe during Roman era and went even further during Viking period
  • Egyptian cat DNA found in a Viking port suggests cats were carried on maritime trading routes to northern Europe
  • Tabby cats appeared only in Middle Ages; but over next few hundred years, tabbies spread around the world as cats became prized for their beauty than utilitarian skills
  • Today there are many breeds of cats, including exotic breeds