Years of domestication result in the shrinking of cats’ brains

We love our cats so much so that we even toss them around in microgravity. But our love and domestication may not be the best thing for them, according to a study in the journal Royal Society Open Science. The research suggests that years of domestication and coddling have resulted in cats with much smaller brains.

Cats’ brains shrinking

Researchers studied the cranial measurements of house cats as well as African (Felis Lybica) and European wild cats (Felis silvestris). The last two are species of wild cats which are currently the closest ancestors of domesticated cats.

What the scientists found is nothing short of extraordinary. Cranium size in house cats has diminished over the past 10,000 years especially compared to that of their wild ancestors. But does cranium size equal brain size? According to the researchers, it seems it does. “Selection for tameness in the domestication of animals may have caused a downregulation in the migration and proliferation of neural crest cells, leading to decreased excitability and fear,” the scientists wrote in their research. “However, this downregulation may also cause correlated changes to morphology, stress response and brain size.”

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