Pioneering Study Suggests Cats Could Be An Overlooked Forensic Resource
When you think about studying crime scenes and what evidence should be carefully catalogued and collected, people’s pets probably aren’t the first thing to come to mind.
Researchers from Flounders University asked the question of whether or not human DNA could be extracted from a cat’s fur – and if so, could it help place potential criminals at a crime scene when other methods fail.
The preliminary answer, at least, seems to be yes – 80% of the cats sampled contained DNA of the people they lived with, and the samples largely had enough integrity to be able to be matched with the source.
The idea came out of Heidi Monkman’s PhD research.
“I love animals. When I pitched the idea to (co-author) Dr. Mariya Goray we discovered there was very little research in the area so we couldn’t wait to get started.”
Now that they’ve established the fact that cats do keep bits of the humans they’ve contacted in their fur, scientists are keen to run more tests in the future.
First, they would like to know if other pets, like dogs, do the same. They would also like to test how long a person has to be in the house before their DNA could catch on cat fur – could a burglar’s cells show up, for instance, and not just the people who live there.
Monkman says future experiments will also have to attempt to control for different feline personalities, as well.
“They [the cats] were selected for friendliness and not being stressed by new people.”
The more cats the more personalities, and the harder testing procedures will likely be.
The researchers also believe they could find out whether or not the contents of a cat’s fur could potentially contaminate a living environment.
“Are these DNA findings a result of a criminal activity or could they have been transferred and deposited at the scene via a pet? Transmitted DNA from someone who patted them outside so it appeared the individual had been in the house around the time of a crime seems like just the sort of thing certain cats would love to do.”
Be careful when you insult a cat. It would seem they have many ways to exact their revenge.