New research with cat DNA shows they originated in the Middle East.
Researchers at the University of California at Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine, used cheek cell samples from more than 11,000 cats from a number of locations, such as Europe, the Americas, the Mediterranean, Asia and Africa.
The cats studied included ferals, "mutts," and 22 pure breeds.
It's the biggest study done on cats, and largely supports earlier theories that cats did, indeed, come from the Middle East.
While earlier studies found that cats belong to one of four genetic sub- groups - European, Asian, Mediterranean and east African - it is now known that the root of this tree is in the Middle East regions.
Not surprisingly, cats that originated in America, such as the Maine coon and American shorthair, are genetically similar to the European strains.
And Persian cats aren't from Persia! Their DNA seems to point to Europe.
The Mediterranean breeds include Egyptian Mau, Turkish Angora and Turkish Van. The Asian cats include the Siamese, Burmese and Korats, but the Japanese Bobtail is linked to Europe. A new breed, the Sokoke, is of African origin.
The importance of these studies is to learn about genetic weaknesses and diseases, such as polycystic kidney disease that is so common with Persians.
Knowing about these things may help prevent certain diseases, as with proper breeding, and may help researchers to develop treatments.
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