10. That ancient cat may not have been a pet, however. In March, other researchers claimed the Chinese cats were not domesticated, but rather commensal — in a mutually beneficial relationship with humans yet independent.
11. Whether pet or not, those Chinese cats — like all domesticated cats — were descended from a wild cat, Felis silvestris lybica.
12. A 2007 study concluded F. s. lybica was domesticated at least 9,000 years ago, somewhere in the Middle East, as grain cultivation spread and farmers needed reliable pest control.
13. The earliest archaeological evidence of our relationship with cats is a kitten buried beside a human on the island of Cyprus about 9,500 years ago. Boats were too small for stowaways back then, so researchers say the cat must have been brought there purposefully.
14. Cats and sailors have had a long relationship: For centuries, felines have been kept on ships for rodent control and as good luck charms.
15. Those seafaring kitties left their mark. More than 10 percent of cats in coastal cities from New England to Nova Scotia have extra toes (polydactyly). Given the cities’ historical trade networks, researchers believe that this high incidence of the normally rare mutation resulted from a few polydactyl merchant-ship cats taking shore leave as far back as the mid-18th century.
16. A different kind of merchant cat, the world’s richest cat is arguably Japan’s big-headed cartoon Hello Kitty, which earned more than $1 billion in sales and royalties in 2012.
17. According to several studies, psychologists believe Hello Kitty’s appeal is based on kawaii, or cuteness. Hello Kitty’s wide-set eyes and mouthless face convey the character is non-threatening and needs loving care.
18. Not quite as kawaii as Hello Kitty, a painting of a collar-wearing cat found in a 4,400-year-old tomb in Saqqarah, Egypt, is the oldest known image of a domesticated cat.
19. We’ll soon have a complete genetic image of cats. In January, the 99 Lives Cat Whole Genome Sequencing Initiative began collecting DNA samples from cats worldwide.
20. The open-access, cloud-based 99 Lives database will be used to research both feline diseases and some human ailments, including diabetes, which affects cats similarly — and for which we share risk factors such as a sedentary lifestyle. You’ve come a long way, F. s. lybica.