Can anyone tell me where the domestic cat comes from and how did it evolve to where it is now ? Is it at all related to the Big Cats (Lions, Tiges, Panthers, etc )??? What is it’s closest living relative ?
Key Concepts from a Scientific American article for July, 2007:
"The family history of the cat has been murkey because cat fossils are sparse and difficult to tell apart. But advnaces in the study of DNA have made it possible to construct the first clearly resolved family tree for cats.
The DNA evidence shows that all living cats trace back to a pantherlike predator that lived in Souteast Asia 10.8 million years ago. The great roaring cats were the first to branch off; seven other lineages followed.
As sea levels rose and fell, cats migrated to new continents and developed new species. A diminutive wildcat in the Near East was domesticated 8,00 to 10,00 years ago.
Despite their evolutionary success, almost all wild cats are now threatened with extinction."
So the long-held belief that our housecats were descended from a small African wildcat and domesticated by the Egyptians about 5-8,000 years ago has been put to rest.
Though they are part of the family of cats (felidae) they were never believed to be "descended" from lions. Having a common ancestor ten million years ago as not the same as being direct descent. We had a common ancestor with the chimpanese and all the great apes and we are not descended from them.