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The first signs of feline domestication date back from 7500 BC, and the archaeological proof was discovered in Cyprus, and cats were first domesticated in China 5000 years ago. But the remains from Cyprus are from the Felis silvestris, what is now known as the European cat, and those from China are from the Prionailurus bengalensis or the leopard cat. This means that the felines have gone through the domestication process twice.
The Prionailurus bengalensis, or the leopard cat, is a common sight in China, and it seems it has been so for 5000 years according to the latest archaeological discoveries. This only suggests that the felines, although they were part of different species, have been through the domestication process twice. These findings are important because they shed new light on the process itself and on the will of the animal that goes through with it.
A team of archaeologists unearthed a couple of bones that appeared to belong to a cat 15 years ago in Central China. The remains were then studied in order to establish the exact species of the feline that was discovered during the digs.
According to a zooarchaeologist, Dr Vigne, the remains were those of a Prionailurus bengalensis, which could only mean that leopard cats were first domesticated in China 5000 years ago. The team is certain that the specimen was domesticated because of the teeth’s wear that was excessive, clear signs of them being fed by humans. And because the archaeologists have found complete leopard cat bodies buried in the area, they reached the conclusion that the Prionailurus bengalensis weren’t hunted, or eaten.
Dr Vigne says that it is only logical that the people accepted the presence of the leopard cat and gave it special treatment because back them everybody lived on a farm and one of the biggest problems were mice or other rodents that were ruining the crops. The leopard cat, being much smaller than it’s cousin, the leopard, managed to approach the farmers and convince them of the benefits of its presence.
Fiona Marshall, zooarchaeologist at the University of Washington says that the fact that leopard cats were first domesticated in China 5000 years ago, totally independent of the domestication process that took place in Cyprus in 7500 BC, is certain proof that the felines actually domesticated themselves and humans had little involvement in the process.
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