Strange shipmates: Vikings had cats on board their ships as they set sail to conquer the world

Ian Harvey
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Nowadays it seems like cats are all the rage. Everywhere you look, it seems like there is a new cat meme or a new cat story that people are obsessed with and want to hear more about.

People are into cats, and for some, it truly seems like a newer phenomenon that was developed for and by the internet-savvy younger generation.

But apparently, obsession with and love for cats is far from a new thing.  The Vikings on their quest to conquer the world also brought along the furry felines on their ships.

Ship's cat

Ship’s cat

In a recent scientific study, scientists have revealed that cats were worthy passengers on many of the Viking ships in their attempt to conquer the world.

Through the first significant study of ancient cat DNA, scientists have been able to ascertain that felines were domesticated in both the Near East and Egypt around fifteen thousand years ago.

This was thousands of years before cats became domesticated and a mainstay in most American homes. The percentage of cats in American homes now outnumbers the percentage of dogs that are domesticated and housed within American homes.

There was testing done in Oxford, UK and through that testing, it was ascertained that cat origins do go far back and can certainly be traced to those that accompanied the Vikings.

The specimens used for the study were found in more than thirty archaeological sites located throughout Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.

All of the specimens that archaeologists were able to recover from these various sites across the world have helped scientists put together some missing pieces about the origination of these domestic cats that most of us have or have grown to love over the years.

Given just how popular cats are in this day and age especially its surprising to see just how little knowledge we have about where they came from and what the beginning of their timeline looked like.

Looking through the various strands of DNA that scientists were able to extract from the several sites that they went to, it was discovered that it is more likely than not that cats experienced not only one but two waves of expansion during the early periods of their history.

The first wave is not something that should be unfamiliar to most people. When the researchers looked at the genetic information of the cats that they were researching, they focused on mitochondrial DNA, which is the genetic information that is passed on to offspring only from the mother.

Through this research, they ascertained that wild cats that were from the Middle East and wild cats that were in the eastern Mediterranean shared a fairly similar mitochondrial lineage.

From this, researchers were able to ascertain that small wild cats spread throughout early agricultural communities because they were attracted to the mice that resided there because the mice wanted the grain.

It is also more likely than not that the farmers who owned these lands were happy to see the cats, as they served to deter or get rid of the mice population that could really put a dent in the grain supply at times.

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