Quick: What are your cat’s favorite toys? If you said laser pointer, wand toy and catnip mouse, you might have to restock for your next cat. Also you could have to relearn what cats are all about because they might be unrecognizable.
Cat behavior expert John Bradshaw says genetic engineering could remove domestic cats’ hunting instinct, to align with people’s tastes and values, The Telegraph reports. Bristol University’s Bradshaw, author of “Cat Sense,” told the Cheltenham Science Festival in the United Kingdom last week about how to assuage contemporary cat owners who find the hunting of small creatures abhorrent.
“We need to select cats that don’t hunt,” Bradshaw said.
“If people become more offended by cats bringing prey into their home, then fewer people will want to have cats,” he told the audience. “Cats are such fascinating animals so that would be a pity.”
Tell us about it, guy.
The academic said the domestic cat’s hunting instinct probably comes from only 15 or 20 genes; this means that once those genes are identified, they can be edited to create more sensitive animals.
In addition to quelling the unease of squeamish owners, snipping out the murder gene could protect wildlife. Cats have come under fire for killing birds, even encouraging the entire country of Australia to eliminate millions of cats by 2020.
Bradshaw said that cats rarely eat the birds and critters they catch, preferring the taste of cat food provided by their owners. Not the kind we provide, if our cats’ refusal to eat any new food proves, but whatever.
He says cats are often scapegoated for wildlife decline.
“People who don’t like cats are always going to blame them,” he said. “So to make that go away, we need to do something about it. We need to select cats that don’t hunt.”
Because the entire cat genome already has been sequenced, he said, identifying and altering the responsible genes would be entirely possible. He even said it could be a “commercial product.” So all you home geneticists could have a new item to add to your Amazon cart.
Finally, he said this: “You have then taken away a bit of the catness of the cat, but I think that’s unavoidable.”
It’s nice to imagine a world in which birds and rodents can freely multiply in the wild (well, birds, for sure). It is difficult, though, to imagine a cat without “catness.” Without the predator gene, would these furry little weirdos we’ve come to know and love be the same?