How Closely Related Is a Domestic Cat to a Lion?

Matthias Clamer/Stone/Getty Images

Though they are different in many ways, including levels of hostility to humans and overall body size, domestic cats and wild cats such as tigers actually share about 95 percent of the same DNA, meaning the two types of animals are very closely related on a basic genetic level. According to a study published in the journal ‘Nature Communications’ in 2013, researchers sequenced the genomes of three big cats, tigers, lions and snow leopards, and found that, from a genetic point of view, these wild creatures actually have a lot in common with house cats. Specifically, it was the tiger that was found to be a close relative of the furry human pet, but the research published in ‘Nature Communications’ did provide new insight into the genetic makeup of critically endangered animals.

While the tiger was found to have a high proportion of DNA in common with the humble domestic cat, this big cat had a lot of genetic traits in common with lions and snow leopards, indicating that those big cats are also quite closely related to the domestic feline. The bulk of this research focused on the big cats, though, with the goal of providing new genetic information that can be helpful in conservation efforts. Predatory cats in the wild face dire conservation challenges, with less than 4,000 tigers left in the wild as of 2013.