A cat's wild instincts make it chase mice! (AP)

A cat's wild instincts make it chase mice! (AP)

If a cat lived in the wild, it would have to hunt for food. (AP)

If a cat lived in the wild, it would have to hunt for food. (AP)

Not-So-Tame Cats

Posted: September 1, 2017

Watch out—there may be a wild beast living in your house.  It’s stretching its legs. It’s licking its paws. It’s standing at the backdoor but refusing to go out. Your cat is a wild animal.

“Domesticating” means breeding or training animals to need and accept the care of humans. Humans have domesticated only a few animals. Dogs, sheep, chickens, cows, and goats sometimes depend on humans. The researchers in the cat study looked at DNA to find out how cats came to live alongside humans. But cat DNA tells them something else too. Cats aren’t totally domesticated. They have a serious wild side!

Do you know what a genome is? It’s all the DNA in your body added together. You can think of it as a blueprint design that makes you you. All living creatures with more than one cell have genomes. In 2014, scientists compared the genome of an Abyssinian cat named Cinnamon with the genomes of tigers and other creatures. They also recorded the cat’s behavior. The cat hunted, sensed, ate, and digested just like cats in the wild. Housecats eat mostly meat. They can survive just by hunting. For many years, they did.

Cinnamon’s genome shows only a couple major differences from wild cats. First, her genome instructions give her a tabby cat’s coat. They also tell her to act less aggressively. They tell her: “When someone offers you a reward (like food), stick around.” So  you don’t have to be afraid of your beast. But remember, she probably doesn’t really need you.