Quirks & Quarks

The Taming of the Cat

Genetics suggests that cats were tamed by bravery and bribes....
copyright Adriano, cc-by-sa-3.0
Listen9:49
 Genetics suggests that cats were tamed by bravery and bribes.Domestic cats are descended from a wild ancestor that is solitary, ferocious and ill-tempered. So, a reasonable question is just how much the domestic cat is different from its wild relative. Dr. Wesley Warren, a geneticist and Assistant Director of the Genome Institute at Washington University in St. Louis, and his colleagues, have been studying the cat genome to try to understand what changed when we domesticated the cat, thousands of years ago. The key seems to be in changes to a set of genes associated with fear, memory and reward conditioning, suggesting the cats that we kept were the ones that were brave enough to accept treats.

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