According to the latest scientific evidence, cats were domesticated about ten thousand years ago in the Middle East. Their ancestors were wild Libyan cats (Felis silvestris lybica), and the first cat owners were the farmers of Egypt and the Levant.
Scientists suggest that among the first tamed cats, there were no animals with bright spots on the head and paws – genetic variants of this color appeared only in the Middle Ages. Breeds of cats that have not seemingly changed for thousands of years confirm this hypothesis, RIA Novosti writes.
Among the oldest breeds of cats still existing is the Van cat (Armenian: Վանա կատու, vana katou), a white long-haired cat with spots behind the ears. Van cats are considered one of the oldest cat breeds in the world. A study of their DNA showed that these furry animals settled several thousand years ago around the Lake Van in the Armenian Highlands.
“There are several mutations in their genome that helped them adapt to life on the shores of the water reservoir. Representatives of this breed love water, swim well, and are able to fish in shallow water. They have no undercoat, and their fur has a water-repellent ability, allowing for quick drying.
The Van cat is characterized by low genetic diversity since it has for a long time lived in isolation and almost did not contact other breeds. At the same time, Van cats do not have hereditary diseases. However, attempts to breed absolutely white Van cats with multi-colored eyes (the so-called van kedisi) has periodically lead to deafness in offspring.
According to the studies of Finnish scientists, the Van cat is more aggressive towards people and animals than other cat breeds. They are considered cats of a single owner and are more like dogs in behavior, RIA Novosti writes.