Viking Cats Descended from Cleopatra’s?

viking cat via iheartneedlework on etsy

via iheartneedlework on Etsy

The secret of life, the universe and everything lies in DNA. It’s not just for determining if your ancestors were Vikings, but it can tell if your cat was a Viking as well.

Scientists who recently studied feline DNA found cat remains at a Viking site dated to a period between the 8th and 11th centuries A.D. in northern Germany.

“There are so many interesting observations” in the study, said Pontus Skoglund, a Harvard Med School geneticist. He reports in Scientific American, “I didn’t even know there were Viking cats.”

Well, duh, Pontus. What cat doesn’t own a horny Viking helmet?


In the article, titled How Cats Conquered the World (And a few Viking Ships) Scientific American looks at the highlights of the first large-scale study of ancient cat DNA that tracked mitochondrial DNA from its maternal lineage–a single ancient cat mother*. The study sequenced DNA from more than 200 cats that lived between 15,000 years ago and as recently as the 1700s, examining 30 archeological sites around the world.

The study made a compelling case for Viking cats being descended direclty from the ancient Egyptian cats who lived with the likes of Cleopatra and Tut. Scientists determined that feline populations seem to have grown in two waves, starting with Middle Eastern wild cats whose lineage expanded with early farming communities to the eastern Mediterranean.

Thousands of years later, the pawpularity of the revered Egyptian cats spread quickly around Eurasia and Africa. A mitochondrial lineage common in Egyptian cat mummies from the end of the fourth century B.C. to the fourth century A.D. was also carried by cats in Bulgaria, Turkey and sub-Saharan Africa from around the same time.

Then, eager to wear those pawsome Viking helmets, cats migrated in droves to northern Europe where they mastered the art of pillaging.

Between rowing boats and decapitating enemies, Viking men were sticklers for hygiene. Taking a cue from the viking cats who fastidiously groomed themselves, Vikings used tweezers, razors, combs and ear cleaners fashioned from animal bones (not cat bones) and antlers. Vikings bathed at least once a week (far more frequently than other Europeans), and enjoyed soaks in natural hot springs. Yes, the viking cats had a profound impact on Viking culture.


*Spay and neuter, people!!!!!

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Category: Featured, Feline Science, Last Week, zzz Previous 3 cat articles

About the Author ()

Mousebreath Magazine is an award-winning online magazine that celebrates cats and the cat-centric lifestyle. Editor Karen Nichols is a popular conference speaker and award-winning writer and illustrator, both skills demonstrated in her tour de force "Cat Scout Handbook."

Comments (78)

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  1. It all makes purrfect sense to us! The Vikings could not sail without our ancestors guarding their foodstores and rigging!

  2. Ellen Pilch says:

    Great post. We have a viking helmet 🙂

  3. GAEL BAILEY says:

    Being of Viking heritage myself, I believe several of my cat’s claim Viking backgrounds, there was Kipperwitz the Great, he was a legend. I know have Raspigi the Terrible and Ottarina the Voracious. The all love Lutafisk! Which tells you they were all true Vikings!

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