Which animal is easiest to domesticate?
Cats domesticated themselves
The study provides information about the late appearance of the spotted or striped fur pattern, which began to appear in domesticated cats in the Middle Ages. The gene for the tabby drawing goes back to the Ottoman Empire in southwest Asia and later spread to Europe and Africa.
It wasn't until the 18th century, however, that the drawing was widespread enough to be associated with domesticated cats. Then, in the 19th century, cat lovers began to select cats with certain traits to create sophisticated breeds.
By and large, cats became a domesticated companion of humans without changing much, says Eva-Maria Geigl. She is the study co-author and an evolutionary geneticist. Domestic cats look similar to their wild relatives, but they are not as solitary and tolerate both humans and other cats.
According to Geigl, this sets them apart from the first domesticated animal, the dog. Dogs were chosen to do specific tasks, which cats never did. This selection of certain traits resulted in the wide variety and many breeds of dogs that we have today.
"I think there was simply no reason to subject cats to such a selection process because you didn't have to change them," says Geigl. "They were perfect the way they were."
While not everyone may agree on the perfection of cats, they are some of the most popular pets in the world today. According to the last estimate from 2014, there are around 8.4 million domestic cats in Germany alone.
“We are discovering incredible things about where they came from, how far they have spread and what impact they have had on humanity,” says Ottoni.
"I believe that further studies of this kind will reveal even more about the process of domestication."
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