Curiosity may have killed the cat, but maybe a cat's curiosity could also implicate the wrong killer.
Cats are known for not really minding their own business, getting their furry paws on just about anything they can.
And it turns out, this makes them effective vectors for DNA evidence, according to a study published last month in the journal Forensic Science International: Genetic Supplement Series.
Researchers collaborating with the Victoria Police Forensic Services Department in Australia found detectable human DNA in 80 percent of the samples collected from 20 pet cats, with 70 percent of the samples strong enough that they could be linked to a person of interest in a crime scene investigation.
"Collection of human DNA needs to become very important in crime scene investigations, but there is a lack of data on companion animals such as cats and dogs in their relationship to human DNA transfer," said study lead author Heidi Monkman, a forensic scientist at Flinders University, in a statement.
"These companion animals can be highly relevant in assessing the presence and activities of the inhabitants of the household, or any recent visitors to the scene."
One possible takeaway is that cats — and other companion pets like dogs — could be harboring DNA that could help solve a case.
The bigger issue, though, is that pets could introduce foreign DNA that muddles a crime scene, possibly leading to an innocent person being implicated. A pet could be carrying the DNA of a complete stranger, or it might bring the DNA of its owner into a crime scene that they had nothing to do with.
Monkman's colleague and co-author of the paper, Maria Goray, is an experienced crime scene investigator and an expert in DNA transfer. She believes their findings could help clear up how pets might tamper a crime scene by carrying outside DNA.
"Are these DNA findings a result of a criminal activity or could they have been transferred and deposited at the scene via a pet?" Goray asked.
It's a question worth asking — especially because innocent people have been jailed off botched DNA science far too often.
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