International Society For Endangered Cats

A Voice For The Wild Cats of the World

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First Cat – that we know of

The First Known Cat
by Jackie Kerrison

This picture shows one version of the first cat (or pre-cat ancestor). Other pictures of Proailurus include either stripes and or spots, but all cats that we know of are descended from this animal.

Apparently, not a lot is known about Proailurus (dates about 30 million years ago and existing for about 14 million years).  Some paleontologists believe may it may have been the last common ancestor of all modern cats (including tigers, cheetahs, etc.) and might not have actually belonged in the Felidae family.

Some experts place it in the Feloidea family, which includes not only cats, but hyenas and mongooses.

Whatever the family (pre-)history, Proailurus was a relatively small carnivore of the early Miocene epoch. It was probably only a little bit bigger than a modern house cat and stalked its prey from the high branches of trees (an arboreal hunter).

Towards the end of Proailurus’ existence, there are so few felid fossil remains that experts call this the ‘Cat Gap’, which sounds like our feline friends almost didn’t make it.  One probable explanation is that there was a climate shift at the time, one that caused felid-friendly habitat (forests) to give way to savannahs (a more canid-friendly habitat).

Interesting how much they can get from fossils (just bones).

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