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cats

From wildcats to furballs: Researchers study the genome evolution of house cats

Who's a good kitty — and what genes make them so?

A team of researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri, undertook a genetic study of modern house cats, NBC News reports, to determine what features have evolved in them as they were domesticated alongside humans.

The key set of changes, it seems, were in the genes linked to motivation and fear: Cats have become more eager for rewards, less afraid of new situations, and not as shy around people.

The fun part: The study began by sequencing the genome of an Abyssinian cat named Cinnamon back in 2007, then adding more genome data for other domestic cats, wildcat species, plus dogs and other animals. The research was published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.