The Oldest Cat Breed In The World

Sure, there are cat people and dog people. Fish, ferret, bird, iguana, horse — even de-scented skunks are said to be quite pleasant companions for human beings who perhaps want something sentient in their lives who doesn't actually talk back. Or eat the last of the ice cream without buying more.

Most research tends to list the dog as the first domesticated animal, as reported by Slate. No one knows exactly when the dog became our best friend — somewhere between 13,000-30,000 years ago — probably starting out as wolves attracted by human food supply, and then one thing leads to another, including sheep and goats about 11,000 years ago. Beasts of burden — oxen, donkeys, camels — helped us transport goods (and probably our ancestors) around 4000 BCE. Cattle and cats show up at around the same point in human history: 7000 BCE, more or less. One theory is that the rise in agriculture meant storing grain, which meant mice, which meant cats.

And the winner is: the Egyptian Mau

Part of the problem with determining the kitty domestication timeline is that domestic cats and not-domestic cats share similar skeletons. According to Smithsonian, some research from the island of Cyprus indicates domesticated cats dating back 8,000 years. Still other scientists make the claim that the ancestors of Mister Whiskers started out 12,000 years ago, in the Near East. Which makes sense, given that agriculture (which leads to grain which leads to storage which leads to .... You do the math) seems to have started around that time, too. There are those who would suggest cats haven't actually been domesticated anyway — as Mentalfloss tells us, it's more a case of cats domesticating humans to do their bidding; As George F. Will is said to have observed, "The phrase 'domestic cat' is an oxymoron."

Nobody seems to agree how many breeds of cat exist these days — depending on the organization, anywhere from 40-ish to 70-ish, says Hill's Pet. Within that range, which came first? As Animal Wised tells us, there are several contenders: the Turkish Angora; the Persian; the Japanese Bobtail. But most experts agree that the oldest present breed of domesticated cat is the Egyptian Mau, which seems to date back to around 2000 BCE in, yes, Egypt. The breed wasn't introduced to the United States until the 1950s. They're said to have a "caring character" (remember, we're talking about cats), so your ice cream is probably safe.