Why do we hate dogs and cats?
The answer may lie in their biology.
The origins of dogs and dogs’ natural aversion to humans are a mystery, as are their physical and mental traits.
But scientists have a hypothesis that they’re more closely related to humans than we thought.
According to a study published in the Journal of Applied Ecology, dogs and cats have different adaptations that help them to cope with their new surroundings.
These adaptations include their high level of stress resistance and their ability to quickly adapt to changes in their environment.
“It is thought that the dogs’ adaptations for survival and their high stress resistance are related to the presence of predators in their surroundings,” says lead author, Dr Jennifer Lichtman from the University of Sydney’s School of Veterinary Medicine.
“So it seems like the cats might be more adapted to their environment than dogs.”
Dr Lichtmann and her colleagues from the Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, the Australian National University and the National Institute of Agriculture and Food and Agriculture (INAF) studied dog and cat DNA samples, comparing their gene sequences with the human genomes of wild and domestic dogs.
Dr Lachtman says the differences between the two groups of animals were striking.
“We found that dogs and other domesticated animals were more closely similar to us than to our own dogs,” she says.
“We also found that the cats had evolved an adaptation to cope more efficiently with their increased stress in a wider range of environments, including their home range.”
Dr Martin Schulz from the Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology (Ixab) says there are several different evolutionary reasons why dogs and their close relatives have adapted to living in a variety of environments.
“The reason dogs are so closely related is because they are similar to other dogs, but we have evolved a different way of communicating with them that we use for social communication,” Dr Schulz says.
“So we also evolved a more efficient way of hunting and hunting dogs.”
The scientists then looked at whether dogs and the cat were genetically related.
The researchers found that they were.
In fact, a total of five genes were identified as related to domestic dogs and five related to wild cats.
“This was really surprising, because we have been pretty good at finding relatedness genes in other species.
But these genes were so similar to each other, it was hard to tell them apart,” Dr Lichtmans says.
The researchers then took DNA from more than 6,000 dogs and found the genes that were related to cats.
Dr Litzmann and Dr Schultz believe that the genes found in cats are different from those found in dogs.
“They are more related to us because they have evolved this ‘gene for survival’ and ‘gendering’ process that allows them to have these adaptations to survive in an environment with a different level of stress than their dog,” Dr Bischman says.
Dr Lachman says that this means that it could be the case that the two species evolved a similar adaptation for living in different environments.
They also believe that dogs may have developed different adaptations in response to different levels of stress.
“Some of the genes were genes that have evolved to adapt to more stress in different situations.
Others were genes with the ability to respond to stress in the same or different situations,” Dr Wachtmann says.
“So in some ways, dogs might have evolved more resilience genes and more adaptive genes than cats.”
The researchers hope that the research can be used to identify the genes responsible for different responses to different types of stress, so they can develop treatments to improve dogs’ health.