Letting the Cat Out of the Bag

Our Genetic Similarities to Wild Things
A brown daschund and gray cat snuggle together on a bed

I was raised with cats. Growing up, there was always a family cat roaming the house, moving from lap to lap and bed to bed. Throughout adulthood, I’ve been catless for a total of 7 years, with felines, canines, and the occasional horse sharing my heart for the rest of my 61 years. I woke up this morning with a dog under the covers and two cats at opposite ends of the mattress. Another dog and two more cats awaited my arrival at their breakfast bowls.

All of this furry familiarity took on a new meaning when I researched DNA comparisons after being told that 50% of the building blocks for trees are similar to human DNA. Learning that chimpanzees match us at 98.8% wasn’t a huge surprise, and maybe the 98% match with pigs shouldn’t have raised my eyebrows, given the strides made in using pig organs for human transplants. However, our 60% kinship with bananas and 70% with slugs did give me an uncomfortable pause. Then, to my delight, I saw that humans and cats share 90% of similar DNA, with dogs coming in at 84%.

Business Insider reports:

“Our bodies have 3 billion genetic building blocks, or base pairs, that make us who we are.

“And of those 3 billion base pairs, only a tiny amount are unique to us, making us about 99.9% genetically similar to the next human.

“A recent TED talk by physicist and entrepreneur Riccardo Sabatini demonstrated that a printed version of your entire genetic code would occupy some 262,000 pages, or 175 large books. Of those pages, just about 500 would be unique to us.

“This is because large chunks of our genome perform similar functions across the animal kingdom.”

We’re more alike with the living organisms on Earth than we believe—or may want to know. In terms of DNA, knowing there’s so little separation between us clears a path toward recognizing our natural affinity for our wild world and lends evidence to the fact that reconnection is not only possible, but it is integral to the decisions we make throughout our lifetimes.

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