Cats and humans have been living together for at least 9,000 years, but how our feline friends became domesticated remains mysterious. New analysis of the cat genome yields some surprising clues.
Cats have a relatively recent history of domestication compared with dogs—canines arose from wolves over 30,000 years ago.
“Cats, unlike dogs, are really only semi-domesticated,” says senior author Wes Warren, associate professor of genetics at The Genome Institute at Washington University in St. Louis. “They only recently split off from wild cats, and some even still breed with their wild relatives. So we were surprised to find DNA evidence of their domestication.”
One way scientists can understand the genetics of domestication is to look at what parts of the genome are altered in response to living together with humans, Warren adds.