Unlike dogs, domestic cats exhibit traits expected of wild animals, raising a question about what their level of domestication:
Dog lovers will find it baffling that cats are the world’s most popular pet. After all, they’re passive-aggressive, emotionally unavailable, and known for their chilly independence—traits that at most qualify felines for the role of “man’s best frenemy.”
It turns out, though, there’s an evolutionary reason for this tense relationship. That is, cats are in many ways still wild.
“Cats, unlike dogs, are really only semi-domesticated,” says Wes Warren, professor of genetics Washington University and co-author of the first complete mapping (paywall) of the house cat genome—specifically, that of an Abyssinian named Cinnamon….
So why have kitties stayed wilder? The genome-mappers theorize it’s because house cat populations have continued to interbreed with wild cats. Also, humans’ “cat fancy”—meaning, our fanaticism about creating weird cat breeds—only began in the last 200 or so years.