Any cat lover will tell you that even though their furry friend doesn't care too much about pleasing the likes of her human companions, she can be sweet when she wants to be. Meanwhile those on team dog go as far as insisting cats are untrustworthy, even flat-out wild. Well, a new study suggests they're both partly right.
To reach their findings, researchers analyzed the genome of an Abyssinian cat named Cinnamon and compared it to that of humans, dogs, cows and other cat species like tigers and birman, another breed of domestic cat.
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While they found (unsurprisingly) that domestic cats have retained most of the same genetic traits as their wild ancestors—hence your kitty's persistent hunting despite a full bowl of kibble—researchers also made note of a few changes to the genes associated with brain regions involved in reward and pleasure, which were likely caused by human influence. The theory is that humans first started keeping cats to get rid of pests around 9,000 years ago, which lead humans to selectively breed the most docile, friendly cats (i.e. the ones who responded the most to food rewards and petting). This lead to changes seen in the brains of today's cats, which makes them not only unafraid of humans but interested in a good scratch behind the ear every now and then.
Part of the reason cats have made less genetic progress than say dogs, is that humans didn't really start breeding cats in earnest until a little over 200 years ago, and to this day interbreeding between tamed and wild cat species continues, lead study author Wes Warren, PhD, explained to the Los Angeles Times.
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This may not explain why your cat insists on knocking things over or why she keeps pointing his rear end at your face, but it certainly sheds some light on other behaviors—namely, why your cat can be a vicious killer one minute, and a sweet little angel the next.