A recent study revealed how cats evolved from wild and ferocious felines into the domesticated cats we love to snuggle up with today.
Cats have certainly existed for thousands of years – and how long that stretches is a disputed matter. Some trace their presence back to 9,000 years ago among the Chinese, while others point out that they came about the Far East around 5,000 years ago. But either way, they have existed for a long time.
However, it was not until 200 years ago that they started to become domesticated and began to interact with humans on a more docile level. Very few animals have evolved this way. Today, cats seem to be everywhere – they have even glorified the Internet with their presence. So how did that end up happening?
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Thanks to research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, it is understood on a genetic level that cats are more suited to interact with humans. Through genome sequencing, scientists have understood that cats' genes related to fear and motivation have evolved a whole lot over time. So in a manner of speaking, these mutated genes have led to cats being less afraid of humans and more driven for rewards.
However, understanding cats is not the only positive that can be drawn from this.
Genetic scientists are now very excited to see how this will affect medicine, as cats suffer from many of the same diseases as humans, including diabetes and HIV/AIDS. According to Stephen O’Brien, one of the paper’s authors, this development in the understanding of feline genetics has the potential to help better treat humans of those same diseases.