Unlike other domestic animals, which were tamed by people, cats probably domesticated themselves, perhaps accounting for the haughty independence of their descendants. “The cats were adapting themselves to a new environment, so the push for domestication came from the cat side, not the human side,” Dr. Driscoll said.
Cats are “indicators of human cultural adolescence,” he remarked, since they entered human experience as people were making the difficult transition from hunting and gathering, their way of life for millions of years, to settled communities.
Until recently the cat was commonly believed to have been domesticated in ancient Egypt, where it was a cult animal. But three years ago a group of French archaeologists led by Jean-Denis Vigne discovered the remains of an eight-month-old cat buried with what was presumably its human owner at a Neolithic site in Cyprus. The Mediterranean island was settled by farmers from Turkey who brought their domesticated animals with them, presumably including cats, because there is no evidence of native wildcats in Cyprus.
The date of the burial, some 9,500 years ago, far precedes Egyptian civilization. Together with the new genetic evidence, it places the domestication of the cat in a different context, the beginnings of agriculture in the Near East, and probably in the villages of the Fertile Crescent, the belt of land that stretches up through the countries of the eastern Mediterranean and down through what is now Iraq.
I'm kind of charmed by this explanation for cat personality. And, of course, it suggests this graphic to illustrate the point: