On December 19th, 2013 we learned about

Finding the missing link between Felix and other feral felines

This is sort of the “missing link” for cat domestication, filling in gaps between Near Eastern wildcats and the furballs we have shedding all over us now.

The bones outdate previous assumptions of cat arrival in China by about 3,000 years and also provide what seems to be the first concrete evidence bridging wildcats with domesticated cats, the researchers report in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

What were the cats doing there? Since the village at the time depended on farming millet, they were probably making friends with people by catching mice and birds. But some were possibly getting handouts:

The authors performed isotope analyses on bone collagen from the feline remains, which turned up markers indicating a diet rich in millet-based foods. One cat in particular seemed to enjoy a particularly high vegetable-based diet than the others (perhaps it was the most spoiled one of the bunch?). The millet-rich cuisine indicates that the cats either scavenged on human garbage or else were intentionally fed by people, the authors think.

They also found some pretty worn down teeth, meaning at least one of the cats had a cushy-enough life to live to a relatively old age.

Source: Domestic Cats Enjoyed Village Life in China 5,300 Years Ago Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/domestic-cats-enjoyed-village-life-in-china-5300-years-ago-180948065/#WCI5GlJjuG42vd8P.99 Give the gift of Smithsonian magazine for only $12! http://bit.ly/1cGUiGv Follow us: @SmithsonianMag on Twitter by Rachel Nuwer, Smithsonian Magazine

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