Neoteny also called juvenilization, is the delaying or slowing of the
physiological (or somatic) development of an organism, typically an
animal. Neoteny is found in modern humans (compared to other
Both neoteny and progenesis result in paedomorphism (or
paedomorphosis), a type of heterochrony. It is the retention in adults
of traits previously seen only in the young. Such retention is
important in evolutionary biology, domestication and evolutionary
Humans are neotenous chimps. We bred ourselves. Dogs are neotenous wolves. It is pretty obvious that golden retrievers stay puppies even as they get huge. Cats are less neotenous than dogs because they have not been bred as long and the interaction is different. They are still pretty neotenous.
How Wild Cats Became Domestic Cats
It would have been the friendliest, tamest, most adaptable, sociable
feline risk takers that ventured into human settlements for the first
time. In other words, adult cats with kittenish qualities
self-selected for domestication. Rewarded with food for their useful
rodent-killing abilities, these cats became accustomed to being fed by
humans, creating a pseudo parent-child relationship. The feline
ancestors of the modern domestic cat were those most willing to be
held and groomed, and to live in groups with members of other species.
The cats that made first contact and their descendants are
temperamentally different from the average wild cat. Wild cats tend to
be solitary, while housecats and domestic cats that have gone feral
are usually sociable. Wild cats tend to be more high-strung and
hyper-alert, whereas many housecats are relatively easy going. People
would have preferred friendlier, calmer, more playful cats, and so
these individuals were favoured and fed. Better-fed cats dwelling in
close proximity to other sociable cats would have lived longer and had
more opportunities to pass their kittenish genes on to future
The famous modern example of this is the Russian fox experiment - the friendliest foxes on the fur farm did not get made into coats but were kept for breeding stock. The result is foxes that look and act like juveniles their whole lives. They are very cute and per Youtube make good pets.
I suspect that some companion cat breeds (examples Scottish Fold, Exotic shorthair) have been bred for neotenous behaviors (sociability etc) in addition to skeletal mutations that make them attractive - and not coincidentally more juvenile appearing.
This is what you will do with the big cat of your choice. You will select for friendliness and playfulness into adulthood. You might need a fairly large breeding stock. A byproduct of this endeavor will be many beautiful fur coats. You could also select for skeletal mutations to produce a cute flat juvenile appearing face.
Ok maybe not that.