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Genomes, food and microorganisms in the (pre)history of cat-human interactions

Description du projet

La relation chat-homme

Le chat et l’homme entretiennent une relation de longue date. Les trajectoires biologiques et culturelles à l’origine de cette évolution des interactions chat-homme au fil du temps demeurent toutefois inconnues. Le projet FELIX, financé par l’UE, analysera plus de 800 échantillons archéologiques de chats s’étalant sur une période comprise entre 8000 av. J.-C. et les XVIIIe et XIVe siècles, prélevés sur des sites archéologiques en Europe, au Proche et Moyen-Orient et en Afrique du Nord, afin de mieux appréhender la relation chat-homme. Le projet se concentrera sur trois domaines: les génomes, le régime alimentaire et les micro-organismes, trois variables fondamentales fortement influencées par le processus de domestication. Les travaux menés dans le cadre de FELIX apporteront un nouvel éclairage sur le débat portant sur la domestication des animaux et sur les caractéristiques biologiques et écologiques uniques qui ont façonné la domestication du chat.


Pest-control agent, object and symbol of value in past civilisations, companion animal, and iconic celebrity of the web in the modern society, the domestic cat has an intricate bond with humans. This relationship started more than 10,000 years ago, when cats began scavenging and hunting pests that infested granaries of early farming communities in the Near East. Later in history, cats from Egypt dispersed in the Mediterranean following routes of human trade and connectivity. Cats established a unique and intimate bond with humans, and this, together with their adaptability, determined their global dispersal. Yet, the biological and cultural trajectories behind the development of cat-human interactions, and the implications of the global dispersal and evolutionary success of the domestic cat remain enigmatic.
By generating a complementary set of unique and as yet unexplored multidisciplinary data, from paleogenetics, to organic chemistry and microscopy, FELIX will dig deeply into the past of the cat-human relationship by tackling three fundamental variables strongly influenced by the domestication process: genomes, food, and microorganisms. It will unravel how the increasing bond with humans across a wide spectrum of socio-cultural contexts, from prehistoric farming communities to the ancient Egyptian and Medieval societies, shaped the cat genome, leading to behavioural changes that turned cats into pets. It will examine how cats changed their nutritional behaviour while adapting to anthropized ecosystems, and document the temporal trajectories of pathogen infections in cats, shedding light on the rise of zoonotic diseases. This will offer unprecedented evolutionary insights on the debate about animal domestication, and will raise public awareness on the role of the cat as cherished pet, but also as one of the world’s most invasive alien species in natural ecosystems and host of infectious diseases recognized today as public health threats.

Régime de financement

ERC-COG - Consolidator Grant

Institution d’accueil

Contribution nette de l'UE
€ 1 999 420,00
00133 Roma

Voir sur la carte

Centro (IT) Lazio Roma
Type d’activité
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Coût total
€ 1 999 420,00

Bénéficiaires (1)