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One of the biggest milestones in the history of the cat-human relationship has always been their treatment as elevated pets in ancient Egypt. As long as 4,000 years ago, they were not only living alongside humans, but they were cherished by them. For a long time, that’s where we thought it all started, until an excavation in the Chinese village of Quanhuccun revealed a slightly different, much older story. An examination of bones from several cats found in the ancient village revealed something startling, especially considering it wasn’t thought that cats were domesticated in China until about 2,000 years ago. The bones are approximately 5,300 years old, and they tell a story that’s much more complicated than just the life of a wild cat. Testing the cats’ bones revealed much more than just the time that they lived, it revealed something about their diet, too. By measuring the isotopes present in the bones, researchers got a feel for what the cats were eating, and part of the finding substantiated what’s largely been thought about how cats and humans first got together. Once humans settled into farming and agricultural communities, they started to store grain and other crops. This, in turn, attracted mice, rats, and other pests. When humans realized that the cats were invaluable at keeping these pests down to a manageable number, a partnership was born and they started wanting to keep the cats around. Suddenly, the cats were no longer pests themselves.