(ORDO NEWS) — Have you ever felt like your cat might know a little more than they let on? Well, maybe you messed something up.
A new study suggests our little feline friends could be surprising sources of evidence when a crime was committed.
In particular, a cat’s fur can retain enough DNA left by a person who was nearby to serve as evidence of a fleeting meeting between them.
This could mean that even though cats cannot be interrogated, they can still help identify perpetrators of a crime.
The new study is the first to look at how pets can facilitate DNA transfer. This discovery represents a positive step towards the future collection of more complete forensic evidence, which would obviously be useful to police investigations.
“Collecting human DNA should become very important in crime scene investigations, but there is a lack of data on domestic animals such as cats and dogs in relation to human DNA transfer,” says forensic scientist Heidi Monkman from Flinders University in Australia.
“These companion animals can go a long way in assessing the presence and activity of home occupants or any recent visitors to the scene.”
In recent years , DNA analysis technology has become so sophisticated that even the smallest trace of genetic material can make a difference in a crime scene investigation
And we humans leave our DNA everywhere. Even brief contact with an object can transfer traces of our genetic material. So-called sensory DNA alone is not enough to positively identify a suspect, but it can be used to confirm other leads or rule out people.
Touching DNA obtained from a surface does not even require that a person necessarily touch that surface. It can be transmitted in a variety of ways, such as in skin cells or hair that radiates from the passing body. This is where pets can play a role.
So Monkman and her Flinders University colleague Maria Gorey, an experienced crime scene investigator, teamed up with forensic scientist Roland van Orschot of the Victorian Police Forensics Unit in Australia to see if they could extract traces of human-readable DNA from domestic cats.
Their study was conducted on 20 cats from 15 households. At the homes of the study participants, the researchers swabbed the fur on the right side of each cat twice and collected DNA samples from most of the study participants (one of them had a minor child who was not sampled). Cat swabs and human DNA samples were then processed.
DNA was found in 80 percent of feline swab samples. For all cats , there was no significant difference between the amount of DNA present and the time since last human contact, or the length of the fur on the cat.
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