Cats Have Actually Grown Larger Over Time

Cats Have Actually Grown Larger Over Time
Perhaps the most surprising find detailed in a new Danish Journal of Archaeology study is the domesticated feline’s growth over time.

During the Viking Age, domesticated cats were popular companions prized for their pest control abilities and in a dark turn of events, their pelts, which the Norse seafarers often donned as clothing. The idea of feline fur fashion may sound disturbing today, but as Emily Underwood reports for Science magazine, the practice yielded a bevy of ancient cat skeletons that have actually enabled modern scientists to better understand the long history of human-cat relations.

Perhaps the most surprising find detailed in a new Danish Journal of Archaeology study is the domesticated feline’s growth over time. Although most animals tend to shrink as they become domesticated (the average dog, for example, is around 25 percent smaller than its wild relative, the gray wolf), Julie Bitz-Thorsen of the Arctic University of Norway and Anne Birgitte Gotfredsen of the University of Copenhagen recorded a 16 percent jump in size between Viking Age and contemporary cats.

The reasons for this hefty increase remain unclear, but according to the study, plausible explanations include greater food availability in the form of either human waste or a higher rate of deliberate feedings and the shift in culture from treating cats as “fur providing and rodent catching” animals to “the present-day pet invited indoor, fed and cared for.”

To assess the differences between ancient cats and those of today, Bitz-Thorsen, then an undergraduate at the University of Copenhagen, extracted cat skulls, femurs, tibas and miscellaneous bones from dozens of bags filled with a mixture of dog, horse, cow and cat remains discovered at archaeological sites across Denmark. The samples dated from the late Bronze Age to the 1600s, with many originating in Viking era mass graves filled with the carcasses of hapless, de-furred cats.

This article is take from smithsonianmag. (www.smithsonianmag.com).