How Has the Domestic Cat Evolved?
avatar

How has the domestic cat evolved over the approximate 10,000 years of its domestication from the Near Eastern wildcat?

Domestic cat evolution

Domestic cat evolution

We have the beginnings of an answer at least. In 2014 scientists collected DNA samples from cheek swabs of 22 domestic cats. Unfortunately (for me) they were all purebred cats of various breeds including the Maine Coon, Norwegian Forest cat, Birman, Japanese Bobtail, Turkish Van, Egyptian Mau and Abyssinian. I would have liked random bred cats to have been analysed but there we are.

From the information gleaned the scientists were able to determine some genetic changes that have occurred in domestic cats during domestication.

They found that there have been genetic changes associated with a better ability to form memories, a better ability to make associations between stimulus and reward (more trainable?) and an ability to not enter so quickly into the fight or flight mode (more docile).

As to physical characteristics, the domestic cat has a smaller body, shorter jaw, smaller brain (wild cat hybrids are the smartest domestic cats), smaller adrenals (which control fight or flight instinct) and lengthened intestines which is an adaptation to scavenging and eating human food and teeth which are more narrowly spaced than those of the wild cats. This is because, it is said, that they are adapted to catching smaller rodents.

Some things haven’t changed at all namely the shape of the cat’s skull. The domestic cat’s skull is very similar in structure to that of lions and tigers for instance. Unless we are referring to selectively bred to extreme cats such as the contemporary Persian and modern Siamese.

We know that the domestic cat’s behaviour remains very similar to the that of the wildcats. Random bred cats choose the cats with whom they will mate. This of course applies to all the community cats of the world. These are the majority of random bred cats as it happens. This randomised breeding keeps the gene pool diverse.

It is said incidentally that domestic cats, where they are allowed to breed, engage in a form of self-selective breeding. They do this because they select mates who more likely to be good domestic cats which fosters the prospect of offspring being better domestic cats thereby aiding survival. I don’t necessarily subscribe to this theory.

I have been unable to find with certainty the study referred to and have relied upon Jackson Galaxy and Mikel Delgado PhD in their book Total Cat Mojo for the findings of the study. I have also added some comments.

HomeCat AnatomygeneticsHow Has the Domestic Cat Evolved?

 

Are Domestic Cats Going to Emulate Dogs and Become Lazy Thinkers?

Cat intelligence

Researchers at Oregon State University have concluded that the 30,000 year domestication of the dog has resulted in man’s best friend being unable to think for himself. The domestic dog has become a lazy thinker and in short, stupid. Or … please continue reading

FB comments (see below)
This entry was posted in genetics and tagged , , , , by Michael Broad. Bookmark the permalink.

About Michael Broad

Michael is retired! He retired at age 57 and at Aug 2018 is approaching 70. He worked in many jobs. The last job he did was as a solicitor practicing general law. He loves animals and is passionate about animal welfare. He also loves photography and nature. He hates animal abuse. He has owned and managed this site since 2007. There are around 13k pages so please use the custom search facility!

Comments

How Has the Domestic Cat Evolved? — 1 Comment

  1. This is very interesting. Especially as the samples were from pedigree cats, where I would not have thought actual & true evolution was possible. Maybe vanity breeding for form not function is now considered the ‘new evolution’?

    Surely these physiological & psychological finds are only the product of managed husbandry?

    A study of long established feral populations in countries nearest to the area where the wild cat was first domesticated, wouldn’t that give a more informative/accurate set of results?

    Ferals manage to self select for optimal fertility, physicality, health etc when resources are available, as do unneutered strays.

    doesn’t using a tiny number of pedigrees for this seems a strange way to study a subject by studying an entirely different subject?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


Please try and upload photos that are small in size of max 500px width and 50 KB size. Large images typical of most default settings on digital cameras may fail to upload. Thanks. Comment rules: (1) respect others (2) threatening, harassing, bullying, insulting and being rude to others is forbidden (3) advocating cat cruelty is forbidden (4) trolls (I know who they are) must use real name and upload a photo of themselves. Enforcement: (1) inappropriate comments are deleted before publication and (2) commenters who demonstrate a desire to flout the rules are banned. Failure to comply with (4) results in non-publication. Lastly, please avoid adding links because spam software regards comments with links as spam and holds them in the spam folder. I delete the spam folder contents daily.