Cats are known for their occasionally unsociable and aloof nature, but why are they more independent than dogs?
No one really knows when humans became best friends with dogs but estimates range from 13,000 – 30,000 years ago and in this time, dogs have been bred to control for certain traits. It has taken thousands of years for dogs to be more dependent on humans for their survival. Cats have only shared our homes for 9,000 years, and have only been actively bred for a few hundred years. During this time, we’ve found they haven’t changed much at all. Researchers mapped the DNA of domestic cats to compare with the DNA of wild cats. One of the major differences between domestic cats and their wild relatives is in the genes associated with reward seeking behaviour; domestic cats are more likely to seek rewards from humans, such as food. This is probably because humans first welcomed cats for their hunting skills and in return for pest control; the cats were rewarded with food. As people favoured the individuals with more docile traits, cats adapted to their environment and in a sense, domesticated themselves.
Physiologically, cat genes have remained much the same, with a carnivorous digestive system and the ability to hunt their own food, and for this reason cats have been described as only ‘semi-domesticated’. Is it possible cats will be as domesticated as dogs in the future? In theory once they have been bred in the same way dogs have, over thousands of years, yes. However, some researchers have said cats will never be fully domesticated.