Has the Cats' Hunting Gene Been Erased from Domestication?

Posted by Stacey Venzel

Selective breeding could result in non-hunting cats, as some individuals already appear to have lost the instinct.

Cats that live strictly indoors rarely, if ever, catch prey. They have mere bugs to hunt, provided the house is squeaky clean and no rodents roam the rafters.

Indoor/outdoor felines might occasionally drop a furry or feathery gift on the doorstep, but many don't eat the prey because they prefer the catered meal from their owners. Sometimes the prey isn't even killed, leaving rats scampering through the kitchen.

Feral cats, though, fulfill their purpose well, controlling the barn mice population.


The eating habits of these three types of domesticated felines suggests some cats have already lost their instinct to hunt. Scientists could take things a step further and selectively breed only those whose genes lack the innate trait.

The entire cat genome is already known; the hunting instinct is predicted to be only a small number of genes in comparison, projected at 15 to 20.


Many owners are disgusted when they encounter a dead animal on the floor, courtesy of Fluffy. These owners could be in the market for a cat that won't leave corpses lying around.

Additionally, wild populations of animals can be protected. A continuously increasing number of domesticated cats threatens native songbird and small mammal populations. Unlike their wild cousins, the house cat does not need to feast on these creatures to survive.

Instead, a can of Fancy Feast will suffice.

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Has the Cats' Hunting Gene Been Erased from Domestication?