Humans have been in a relationship with cats for far longer than previously known—some 5,700 years in fact, according to new research that predates the oldest feline finds in China. Most evidence has pointed to cat domestication in Egypt circa 1950 BC, but excavations at an ancient Egyptian city turned up the remains of a young adult jungle cat that "had been tended to for several weeks prior to its sacrifice," as evidenced by a bone fracture that had healed. That burial dates to 3700 BC, and the cat-related evidence doesn't stop there, reports Pacific Standard.
A later excavation of the site turned up six more sacrificed cats—and the study, published in the Journal of Archaeological Science, found that the animals' ages at death indicated the expected spring birth cycle hadn't been followed, "a phenomenon that has been observed in Africa among free-ranging wild cats that were hand-reared by humans." Further, analysis of the cats revealed they weren't all from the same litter. If they were taken from the wild, as many as "four different captures" would have had to occur. "It seems unlikely that sufficient opportunities for successful capture would have occurred in a short period of time prior to the sacrifice," notes the study, thus, "at least some of the cats may have been kept in captivity prior to the burial." While the team doesn't have iron-clad proof, it feels "it is clear there was close interaction." (More cool cat news: They may see things that are invisible to us.)