Why are cats largely free of inherited disease, deformity and defect?
Steve Jones, professor of genetics at University College London, says the answer is that they are not as inbred, and that most domestic cats are almost identical, in every aspect, to their wild cousins in the deserts of Libya.
A Professor Jone notes in an editorial in today's Telegraph:
The domestic cat's spirited good health turns on what Darwin called its "nocturnal rambling habits"; its interest in controlling its own sex life rather than following instructions.
At night, all cats are – to other cats – more or less grey; they mate with whom they choose and their owners can but try to sleep through it. The animals retain much of their personality, and their wellbeing, as a result.
Jonathan Ross has a dog, a pug called Mr Pickle. As I pointed out in this column in September, that breed is so inbred that the 10,000 such creatures in Britain descend from only around 50 recent ancestors.
Their flat faces lead to respiratory problems, and to scratched eyeballs when they bump into things (sometimes, those bulging orbs actually fall out). The pug, like many other breeds, needs to get out more and to find a partner outside the incestuous world in which it lives.