Your Cat Is Pretty Much a Wild Animal

Genetically speaking, at least
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 11, 2014 2:21 PM CST
Updated Nov 15, 2014 2:39 PM CST
Your Cat Is Pretty Much a Wild Animal
Cats, genetically, are almost wild.   (Shutterstock)

If your cuddly feline appears to think he's a vicious wildcat—well, he's actually got it almost right. A study finds that genetically, our house cats aren't very different from their wild cousins, despite thousands of years of domestication, Time reports. "We believe we have created the first preliminary evidence that depicts domestic cats as not that far removed from wildcat populations," the study's senior author tells the Los Angeles Times, which calls house cats "only semi-domesticated." Researchers compared the genomes of domestic cats with wildcats, the Guardian reports; the results showed how the "domestic" animals have kept their excellent hearing and vision, among other abilities.

A recent study suggests cats and humans have lived side-by-side for some 5,700 years, though the Times puts the figure closer to 9,000. Living with the animals doesn't, however, mean we made them our own; in fact, it's only in the past two centuries that humans have exerted a strong influence on their breeding. What's more, some domestic cats continue to mate with wildcats. Humans have, however, affected cats' looks, helping to drive selection for appealing colors. We've also made them at least somewhat more docile, the researchers say—thanks, in part, to stroking them. People may have been more likely to breed cats who were into petting and getting treats, the Guardian reports. (But that doesn't mean we should treat them as if they were dogs.)

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