A recent study conducted at the Washington University School of Medicine Genome Institute in St. Louis, Missouri found that cats may only be semi-domesticated.
Scientists have discovered in researching the domestic cat’s genome (the complete set of genes or genetic material present in a cell or organism; a complete set of DNA with all its genes) that they still possess many of their wild cousins’ traits such as their method of hunting, digestion and more, even after living with humans for about 9,000 years. Of course this is a relatively short time compared to dogs’ relationship with humans which is about 30,000 years. Dogs are also considered completely domesticated.
Researchers believe that cats and humans became involved with each other for their mutual benefit. Cats with their great hunting skills kept the rat and mice population down and humans rewarded them. According to Wes Warren, senior author of the Genome Institute, cats “only recently split from wildcats and some still breed with their wild relatives.”
Cats, unlike dogs who are social animals, are basically solitary creatures. Breeding cats for specific traits only began about 150 years ago. There hasn’t been much change in their genome from those of their wild cousins since they began a relationship with humans. They have retained most of the traits.
The discovery of a cat’s semi-domestication doesn’t really change how much we treasure them, but it might explain some of their behavior. Dogs may be completely domesticated, but we cat lovers say “Vive la Difference.”