Behavior of Exotic Cats - is it in the genes?


Site Owner
Staff Member
Coming from the thread about raising exotic cats... I wonder, can wild cats be tamed to become as docile as pet cats? Or do they have behavior traits that are simply genetically different than those of pet cats?

I have heard that with canines there's very much a genetic issue, so that even wolf and dog hybrids are not considered safe, no matter what environmental conditions they were raised in. I once heard that even an animal that is one eighth wolf and raised with people, may still exhibit wild tendencies that make it too dangerous to keep. I wonder if there's similar data concerning cats?

elizabeth a.

TCS Member
Young Cat
Good question and I think the answer relates to that history of domestication.
We selected all our domestic species for traits that made them easy to live around and to manage. Cats have only 5,000years of this, compared to over 12,000years for dogs. Also, as we've already talked about, dogs were selected for many more behavioral variations than were cats.
A lot of genetic change went on as this domestication continued, so you're right.......a tame wolf is not a domestic animal and will react very differently in many situations. And the same is true of those wolf-dog hybrids. "Tame" and "domesticated" do not mean the same thing at all!
Yes, we can "tame" a wild animal like a wolf or a big cat, but look what happens eventually. There are 2 very high-profile cases in the US news right now that illustrate the results. Sooner or later, the non-domestic behavior overrides the effects of taming, and someone is mauled.
Genetically, domestic animals and their wild ancestral species have most of their genotypes in common, but there are some critical differences that have resulted from selection for tameness throughout domestication.
There's data on dogs and silver foxes that relate to this, but I'm not aware of any for cats.

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