Unlike Dogs, Cats Chose Us, Not the Other Way Around
Lifestyle| | By Jason Owen
According to researchers, cats essentially chose to live near us and domesticated themselves. From Science Mag:
“Cats first entered human society about 9500 years ago, not long after people first took up farming in the Middle East. Drawn to rodents that had invaded grain stores, wildcats slunk out of the deserts and into villages. There, many scientists suspect, they mostly domesticated themselves, with the friendliest ones able to take advantage of human table scraps and protection. Over thousands of years, cats shrank slightly in size, acquired a panoply of coat colors and patterns, and (largely) shed the antisocial tendencies of their past.”The researchers discovered at least 13 genes that evolved in cats to change them from “feral to friendly,” some having to do with cognition and behavior, while others have to do with memory and learning, Science Mag notes. As co-author of the study, William Murphy, a geneticist at Texas A&M University, said, “There are homes where cats just sit on the couch, ignoring the dogs and primates that should be a major threat to them. That’s asking a lot of a wild carnivore.” And these changes mesh well with the notion that dogs are actually friendlier to humans than cats. Humans and dogs have interacted for roughly 20,000 years more compared to just the nearly 10,000 years for humans and felines. “Cats were not selected for a purpose like dogs and other domesticates [like cows],” Murphy speculates. “They just hung out, and humans tolerated them.” So, you see? Cats really do love us. They just have a funny way of showing it (that hasn’t likely evolved yet).