I don’t have any pets now — except my stuffed animals — but when I did, I preferred having a dog. Why? Because I never felt as if Sam was plotting to kill me.
Scientists from the Genome Institute at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis sequenced the first house cat reference genome, and discovered that house cats may not be that genetically different from wild cats. This may explain why house cats seem to ignore their human companions and instead behave like they have their own agenda. Maybe they’re acting like wild cats.
Generally house cats are quite adept at hunting, sharing many of the same genetic traits that make wild cats such effective predators. The genetic adaptations highlighted in the study indicate that house cats still retain many of the characteristics of wild cats, including acute vision, fast reflexes, and an innate desire for murder. Many of the behaviors house cats engage in are thought to be predator learning behaviors – pouncing, kicking with the hind limbs, and chasing prey (laser pointers) and can be seen in wild cats.
These behaviors emerge in house cats within the first 52 days of life before any prey is encountered. This supports evidence of a strong genetic link between house cats and wild cats. Even if given sufficient food, house cats will still pursue prey — though they won’t eat it.
Cats retain more similarities to their wild counterparts than dogs do. The domestication process in cats more than likely started with increased docility, making it easier for cats to interact with humans. These changes would have been a result of ‘self-domestication’, where animals selectively breed to encourage or discourage traits.
Interestingly this is somewhat similar to early genetic modifications in dogs. Some of the first genetic changes in dogs were thought to involve reduced hostility and changes in social cognition. Evolutionarily speaking, cats may still be early in the domestication process — especially when compared to dogs. Over time, as the domestication process continues, it would not be unreasonable to expect cats to become more like dogs.
I wasn’t going to wait for evolution to take its course.