There are many DNA tests for dog breeds, but cats? Not so much.
This isn’t anti-feline discrimination.
It has taken us thousands of years and lots of selective breeding to turn gray wolves into chihuahuas. But fanciers have been focusing on cats only since the 1870s.
There just hasn’t been enough time to develop DNA changes that register on today’s testing.
Geneticists are off to a good start, though–they’ve identified multiple feline races. But along the way, they have also uncovered evidence that intensive breeding has erased the genetic heritage of some fancy-cats.
House cats have races?
Short answer: It involves molecular markers in their genes, not fur color or length. Because of the way domestic cats first spread across the world, they now show differences that can be traced back to Asia, the Mediterranean region, Western Europe, or Africa.
More specifically, geneticsts have found eight original populations (a/k/a races):
- Egypt (of course)
- Eastern Mediterranean
- Western Europe
- Arabian Sea
- Southern Asia
- Eastern Asia
Details: The early history of domestic cats is strictly an Old-World story. This particular group of small kitties is not native to the Americas.
In the Old World, after the last ice age had ended, some African wildcats began the long journey into domestication alongside people in the Fertile Crescent, which includes much of what we call the Middle East today.
A few millennia later, thousands upon thousands of domestic cats were living in private homes and temple catteries along the banks of the Nile River. Some of the glory of Ancient Egypt rubbed off on these pets, and they became must-have status symbols for the international elite.
As early as 1700 BC, pharaohs outlawed cat exporting, and even sent officials out to retrieve smuggled felines. Nevertheless, geneticists say, Egyptian cat lineages spread around the eastern Mediterranean, starting around the 8th century BC. By the 5th century AD, they were fairly common here and in Asia Minor.
Back then, the equivalent of our Internet was a network of trade routes. It ran on plodding beasts of burden and harnessed the restless wind on rivers from Continue reading