Genetics Reveals How Cats and Humans Became Forever Friends
A new genetic study from the University of Missouri has traced the beginning of cats as pets to ancient Mesopotamia approximately 10,000 years ago.
This happens to coincide with a major shift in human history as populations began to move from a migrating, hunter-gatherer lifestyle to agricultural settlements in the fertile land near the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in the Middle East. In this context, it’s not surprising that this is the time when people and cats began living together.
Farming created a food surplus that attracted mice and rats, and in turn, attracted rodent-eating cats. People couldn’t resist the combination of pest control and those cute kitty faces, and from then on, humans brought cats wherever they traveled across the globe.
The study, published in the Nature journal Heredity, studied 200 different genetic markers from cats in the Middle East, Europe, Asia, and Africa. Among other findings, the research showed that cats’ genetic makeup has not drastically diverged from their wildcat ancestors, which calls into question if cats have realistically been “domesticated” by humans.
“Unlike dogs and other domesticated animals, we haven’t really changed the behaviors of cats that much during the domestication process, so cats once again prove to be a special animal,” said study author and feline geneticist Leslie A. Lyons.
While we have learned much from previous genetic studies of cats, the goal of this new study is to use the results to reduce genetic diseases that have plagued our feline friends, such as polycystic kidney disease, and other hereditary conditions.
Tags: · agriculture, cats, dna, domesticated, farming, genetic diseases, genetics, hereditary conditions, Heredity, hunter-gatherer lifestyle, Leslie A. Lyons, Mesopotamia, mice, migration, nature, pest control, pets, polycystic kidney disease, rats, research genetic study, rodents, top, University of Missouri