Nomads who kept herds of cattle along the Silk Road more than a thousand years ago may have kept cats as pets. This is unique, say the scientists in the journal Scientific Reports , because these specific nomad tribes actually only kept animals that were of practical use to them.

The Silk Road has been a network of trade routes through Central Asia for centuries. Traders from Europe, the Middle East and Asia found each other via the Silk Route.

In modern-day Kazakhstan, scientists found the bones of a domestic cat as it is known today. The fossils were unrelated to the wild steppe cat from the region and the animal, according to the discoverers, had a lot of protein in the diet. The latter implies that the cat was fed by humans.

The cat's skeleton was in pretty good condition. The animal was probably buried by hand about eight hundred years ago.

Tribes only kept animals of practical use

The fact that cats were kept as pets by local tribes at the time is special, the researchers believe. These peoples actually only kept animals that were essential to their lives. They also kept dogs, because they could help guard herds of cattle.

These Kazakh peoples did not have a clear use for cats, but they probably took over the keeping of domestic cats from other cultures along the Silk Road.