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Fri, 14th Nov 2014

How wildcats became kitty cats

Kitty Cat (c) Laurinha Lii

Just a handful of genetic changes are what turned wildcats into domestic pets, scientists have now shown. Many of these changes are linked with genes that affect how the brain processes rewards and pleasure. In other words, humans won over cats by appealing to their desire for kitty treats and stroking. Over time, those that responded best to this nurturing were more likely to be bred by humans, leading to increasingly docile and more domesticated pets. Graihagh Jackson has been hearing from some cat lovers but first she spoke to one of the researchers, Bronwen Aken from the Wellcome Trustís Genome Campus.Ö

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I wonder if there isn't also a developmental imprinting window of opportunity. I notice with batches of kittens that wind up in our barn, if you start handling and  playing with a kitten early enough, he becomes tame and even seeks out human interaction and affection. After a certain point, with out handling, kittens become or stay feral and no amount of coaxing or bribing seems to change their disposition or fear level. It's not just about food, because my husband always fed the barn cats to keep them around for mouse control. The untame barn cats would scatter and hide, and then come out and eat as soon as he left. (If he was late, they would sit about 50 feet away from the house, watching for him, but you could never get very close to those cats, even when they were very hungry.) cheryl j, Fri, 14th Nov 2014

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