A recently published study has used microsatelite markers to discover that domesticated cats originated in the Middle East, a finding that reinforces earlier archeological research. The abstract reads:
The diaspora of the modern cat was traced with microsatellite markers from the presumed site of domestication to distant regions of the world. Genetic data were derived from over 1100 individuals,representing 17 random-bred populations from five continents and 22 breeds. The Mediterranean was reconfirmed to be the probable site of domestication. Genetic diversity has remained broad throughout the world, with distinct genetic clustering in the Mediterranean basin,Europe/America, Asia and Africa. However, Asian cats appeared to have separated early and expanded in relative isolation. Most breeds were derived from indigenous cats of their purported regions of origin.However, the Persian and Japanese bobtail were more aligned with European/American than with Mediterranean basin or Asian clusters.Three recently derived breeds were not distinct from their parental breeds of origin. Pure breeding was associated with a loss of genetic diversity; however, this loss did not correlate with breed popularity or age.
Further details can be found here.
Lipinski et al. (2008) "The ascent of cat breeds: Genetic evaluations of breeds and worldwide random-bred populations" Genomics 91(1): 12-21. doi:10.1016/j.ygeno.2007.10.009