The type of Pseudaelurus prehistoric cat that lived in
North America as long as 18 million years ago.
By Jay Matternes
(Scan from the Time-Life book North America)
[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.
We cats have been around for a long, looong time. I mean, an extremely long time. Not just the hundreds or thousands of years I usually talk about, but millions of years. True, the type of domestic cat currently walking across your computer keyboard was not around millions of years ago, but her ancestor was.
That ancestor was a prehistoric carnivore called Proailurus (“first cat”). Proailurus lived in Europe and Asia some 25 million years ago. It was larger than a modern domestic cat, had a long tail, sharp claws and teeth, and probably spent some of its time in trees.
Next came Pseudaelurus, which lived some 20 million to 8 million years ago in Europe, Asia, and even North America. Pseudaelurus was actually the first cat in North America. It was a slender, short-legged cat, and was probably a good tree climber. The first Pseudaelurus species was about the same size as a domestic cat, but some later species were larger: the European Pseudaelurus quadridentatus was about the same size as a cougar. All modern cats, big and little, wild and domestic, trace their ancestry back to Pseudaelurus.
So next time you’re about to shoo your cat off your keyboard, first stop and think of her ancient and distinguished prehistoric lineage. Then let her do whatever she wants.