They have lived next to man for 9, 000 years but the process that led to the domestication of the cat, from a wild cat to a domestic cat, is still full of questions. Now, however, a study carried out at the Washington University School of Medicine in Saint Louis has discovered that human action has left its mark, literally, in the genome of these animals. A team of researchers has in fact found some differences between the genetic material of wild specimens and that of domesticated cats, which were completed last summer. And these inequalities are associated precisely with the relationship between them and human beings.

Domestic clues. Comparing the genome of seven breeds of domestic cat and two of wildcat, the scientists found that the parts of DNA that do not fit together are responsible for behavioral aspects linked to fear, the ability to respond to stimuli and the modulation of aggression. According to geneticist Wesley Warren, head of research published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, these features have evolved in wild cats, Felis silvestris, precisely following interaction with humans.

From nomads to farmers, men have adopted the most docile and least impetuous specimens, establishing a mutual collaboration: for farmers, cats were effective allies against mice and for cats men were food and shelter suppliers. This condition has then fixed in their genetic heritage the characteristics that still today distinguish wild felines from domestic ones, which are more docile and more empathetic towards people.

Cats on!