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View Full Version : Cat genetics: how do they work?


Eddy Bentley
May 20th 07, 02:30 PM
I would be interested to hear people's views on the following as I don't
know anything about feline genetics.

I have two short-hairs, "plain ordinary cats" I've always thought.
Basically, one is ginger and the other black. They are twin brothers
from a litter of four. I don't know what colors the other two were. I
have always been aware that the ginger cat is quite independent, and
athletic, and a bit of a "tom" in his behaviour (although both cats were
neutered early on). The black cat has always been incredibly sensitive,
intelligent, and affectionate.

Anyway, a couple of weeks ago a pair of visitors came to the house to
buy something and of course they saw the cats. It turned out that these
visitors were big cat fanciers, into competitions and the like, and they
breed pedigree cats for showing. When they saw both my cats they were
not particularly impressed of course, my cats only being "mongrels", but
when the ginger one sauntered through, the husband said to the wife,
"Red-Spotted". When the black one came in, jumped up on the couch and
into my arms, and started rubbing his face against mine and purring
wildly, the wife enquired "Bombay?" I presumed she was talking about
some breed or other and I replied, "Oh, no, just an ordinary old local
moggie, I'm afraid!"

After they left, I thought about all this and got my excellent cat book
out. In the "Short-Hair" section I found both "Red-Spotted" and
"Bombay". When I looked at the picture of the "Red-Spotted" I saw my
"ginger" cat. Identical! When I looked at the picture of the "Bombay",
there was my "black cat". Furthermore the Bombay is described as
"craving human affection" - this is absolutely true of my black cat.
Also, it said that beneath the black can be seen "tabby markings". I'm
not sure what this means, but I know that when my black cat sits in
strong sunlight I can see that he isn't actually "black" at all, but a
very very dark brown in which there are markings and rings and spots -
similar to those on the ginger cat.

So my question is this. Could it be that my "black cat" actually has
some "Bombay" in him, and that my "ginger cat" is a "Red-Spotted"
although they come from the same litter? Or were the cat-fanciers just
being "sweet" about my ordinary old cats?

Thanks.

Eddy.

Noon Cat Nick
May 20th 07, 03:06 PM
Eddy Bentley wrote:

>I would be interested to hear people's views on the following as I don't
>know anything about feline genetics.
>
>I have two short-hairs, "plain ordinary cats" I've always thought.
>Basically, one is ginger and the other black. They are twin brothers
>from a litter of four. I don't know what colors the other two were. I
>have always been aware that the ginger cat is quite independent, and
>athletic, and a bit of a "tom" in his behaviour (although both cats were
>neutered early on). The black cat has always been incredibly sensitive,
>intelligent, and affectionate.
>
>Anyway, a couple of weeks ago a pair of visitors came to the house to
>buy something and of course they saw the cats. It turned out that these
>visitors were big cat fanciers, into competitions and the like, and they
>breed pedigree cats for showing. When they saw both my cats they were
>not particularly impressed of course, my cats only being "mongrels", but
>when the ginger one sauntered through, the husband said to the wife,
>"Red-Spotted". When the black one came in, jumped up on the couch and
>into my arms, and started rubbing his face against mine and purring
>wildly, the wife enquired "Bombay?" I presumed she was talking about
>some breed or other and I replied, "Oh, no, just an ordinary old local
>moggie, I'm afraid!"
>
>After they left, I thought about all this and got my excellent cat book
>out. In the "Short-Hair" section I found both "Red-Spotted" and
>"Bombay". When I looked at the picture of the "Red-Spotted" I saw my
>"ginger" cat. Identical! When I looked at the picture of the "Bombay",
>there was my "black cat". Furthermore the Bombay is described as
>"craving human affection" - this is absolutely true of my black cat.
>Also, it said that beneath the black can be seen "tabby markings". I'm
>not sure what this means, but I know that when my black cat sits in
>strong sunlight I can see that he isn't actually "black" at all, but a
>very very dark brown in which there are markings and rings and spots -
>similar to those on the ginger cat.
>
>So my question is this. Could it be that my "black cat" actually has
>some "Bombay" in him, and that my "ginger cat" is a "Red-Spotted"
>although they come from the same litter? Or were the cat-fanciers just
>being "sweet" about my ordinary old cats?
>
>

Oh, it's quite possible, methinks. You could have all sorts of kittens
from a single litter, depending upon the genetic makeup of the parents.
If either the tom or queen has that trait somewhere in their genetics,
any of the kittens might well have that trait be dominant. For lineage
purposes, your Bombay and Red-Spotted are still moggies. But those
peculiar traits came out dominant in each cat respectively.

BTW, all cats are descended from the tabby. Hence all cats will carry
tabby markings, although they can be very hard to detect depending upon
the cat in question. The telltale sign is the fur creases on the brow
between the eyes, which form an "M". All cats definitely have this tabby
marking; you just gotta look close.

Another thing is that it's next to impossible to find a genuine black
cat. Many who appear black are, upon closer inspection, really sable or
chocolate. And cats with truly black fur will still have at least wisps
of some other color showing, usually on the underside. This hearkens
back to the days of witch persecution in Europe centuries ago. Many
falsely believed that witches were devil worshippers, and that they
could transform themselves into cats. So cats, by extension, were also
persecuted, tortured and executed. And black cats--black being
associated with Satan--got the worst of it, nearly being exterminated.
Thing is, cats have always been renowned as excellent predators of
rodents, which carry the fleas that harbor disease--in this case, the
plague. Cat kills the mouse or rat, the flea jumps onto the cat for its
new home, the cat is impervious to the plague germ, and so no harm done.
But with the severe decline in the cat population, Europe became ridden
with flea-toting rats and mice. When they died, the fleas hopped onto
the human population, and passed the plague on to them. Result: The
Black Death, which took the lives of one-third of Europe's cat-killing
witch hunters. They shoulda taken lessons from the Egyptians.

Eddy Bentley
May 20th 07, 04:11 PM
Noon Cat Nick wrote:
> You could have all sorts of kittens
> from a single litter, depending upon the genetic makeup of the parents.
> If either the tom or queen has that trait somewhere in their genetics,
> any of the kittens might well have that trait be dominant. For lineage
> purposes, your Bombay and Red-Spotted are still moggies. But those
> peculiar traits came out dominant in each cat respectively.

Thanks!

So it looks like I can say that my two short-hairs seem to have dominant
traits of the Bombay and the Red-Spotted . . . though for lineage
purposes they moggies.

Now, just out of interest. What would be the visible difference(s)
between my dominant-trait-Bombay and a cat of Bombay lineage? Or to put
it another way, why and how could a professional cat-fancier say, "Your
cat is not a true Bombay, he's only got Bombay as a dominant trait?

> BTW, all cats are descended from the tabby. Hence all cats will carry
> tabby markings, although they can be very hard to detect depending upon
> the cat in question. The telltale sign is the fur creases on the brow
> between the eyes, which form an "M". All cats definitely have this tabby
> marking; you just gotta look close.

Thanks again. Very interesting. So is/was "the tabby" original a breed
of cat . . . from which all have descended?

> Another thing is that it's next to impossible to find a genuine black
> cat. Many who appear black are, upon closer inspection, really sable or
> chocolate. And cats with truly black fur will still have at least wisps
> of some other color showing, usually on the underside. This hearkens
> back to the days of witch persecution in Europe centuries ago. Many
> falsely believed that witches were devil worshippers, and that they
> could transform themselves into cats. So cats, by extension, were also
> persecuted, tortured and executed. And black cats--black being
> associated with Satan--got the worst of it, nearly being exterminated.
> Thing is, cats have always been renowned as excellent predators of
> rodents, which carry the fleas that harbor disease--in this case, the
> plague. Cat kills the mouse or rat, the flea jumps onto the cat for its
> new home, the cat is impervious to the plague germ, and so no harm done.
> But with the severe decline in the cat population, Europe became ridden
> with flea-toting rats and mice. When they died, the fleas hopped onto
> the human population, and passed the plague on to them. Result: The
> Black Death, which took the lives of one-third of Europe's cat-killing
> witch hunters. They shoulda taken lessons from the Egyptians.

Thanks very much for this too. I must remember to recount this tale
next time someone points out to me that my black cat isn't really black!
(I bet not too many people know why there aren't many truly black cats
around.)

Best,
Eddy.

AZ Nomad
May 20th 07, 04:34 PM
On Sun, 20 May 2007 13:30:35 GMT, Eddy Bentley > wrote:


>I would be interested to hear people's views on the following as I don't
>know anything about feline genetics.

A good first step would be to search google.
I found the following within 2 seconds.
http://www.netpets.com/cats/reference/genetics/catgenetics.html

Noon Cat Nick
May 20th 07, 05:36 PM
Eddy Bentley wrote:

>Now, just out of interest. What would be the visible difference(s)
>between my dominant-trait-Bombay and a cat of Bombay lineage? Or to put
>it another way, why and how could a professional cat-fancier say, "Your
>cat is not a true Bombay, he's only got Bombay as a dominant trait?
>
>

Check the head and body structure. Those are always telltale signs of a
purebred vs. a moggie. (See
http://www.fanciers.com/breed-faqs/bombay-faq.html.)

You'll also notice from that page that only 1 in 4 Bombays sport sable
coats like yours has. In most Bombays, the sable coat gene is recessive;
most Bombays have black coats (it's a very new breed).

> Thanks again. Very interesting. So is/was "the tabby" original a breed
>
>of cat . . . from which all have descended?
>
>

"Tabby" isn't a breed. It's a coat pattern. The European wild cat, the
earliest ancestor of the domestic cat, has this pattern. The pattern
remained in the other species descended from it: the domestic cat, the
African wild cat, the Caucasian wild cat, and the Asian wild cat.

Lis
May 21st 07, 03:22 AM
On May 20, 12:36 pm, Noon Cat Nick >
wrote:
> Eddy Bentley wrote:
> >Now, just out of interest. What would be the visible difference(s)
> >between my dominant-trait-Bombay and a cat of Bombay lineage? Or to put
> >it another way, why and how could a professional cat-fancier say, "Your
> >cat is not a true Bombay, he's only got Bombay as a dominant trait?
>
> Check the head and body structure. Those are always telltale signs of a
> purebred vs. a moggie. (Seehttp://www.fanciers.com/breed-faqs/bombay-faq.html.)
>
> You'll also notice from that page that only 1 in 4 Bombays sport sable
> coats like yours has. In most Bombays, the sable coat gene is recessive;
> most Bombays have black coats (it's a very new breed).
>
> > Thanks again. Very interesting. So is/was "the tabby" original a breed
>
> >of cat . . . from which all have descended?
>
> "Tabby" isn't a breed. It's a coat pattern. The European wild cat, the
> earliest ancestor of the domestic cat, has this pattern. The pattern
> remained in the other species descended from it: the domestic cat, the
> African wild cat, the Caucasian wild cat, and the Asian wild cat.

Domestic cats are descended from the North African wild cat, not the
European wild cat; in fact it's only minimally changed from the North
African wild cat. Individuals of the North African wild cat continue
to spontaneously "domesticate" themselves, i.e., move in with humans.
Efforts to domesticate European wild cats have repeatedly failed.

In the wild, the natural selection for the tabby coat pattern is very
strong, because it's excellent camoflage, while solid colors and
especially bright colors tend to stand out and make the animal
vulnerable to larger predators.

Lis

Eddy Bentley
May 21st 07, 08:51 AM
Lis wrote:
> Domestic cats are descended from the North African wild cat, not the
> European wild cat; in fact it's only minimally changed from the North
> African wild cat. Individuals of the North African wild cat continue
> to spontaneously "domesticate" themselves, i.e., move in with humans.
> Efforts to domesticate European wild cats have repeatedly failed.
>
> In the wild, the natural selection for the tabby coat pattern is very
> strong, because it's excellent camoflage, while solid colors and
> especially bright colors tend to stand out and make the animal
> vulnerable to larger predators.

Thanks, Lis. My black cat AND my ginger cat sure stand out when they go
walking in the fields. They'd be far better off with some tabby "camo"!

Eddy.

Noon Cat Nick
May 21st 07, 10:21 AM
Eddy Bentley wrote:

>Lis wrote:
>
>
>>Domestic cats are descended from the North African wild cat, not the
>>European wild cat;
>>

You're right, but I confess nebulousness and poor explanation on my
part. Domestic cats are indeed descended from the North African wild
cat. But what I meant, and failed to state properly, is that the North
African, Caucasian, and Asian wild cats share a common ancestor, which
is the European wild cat. And of those, it is specifically the North
African wild cat from which domestic cats are descended. (I also called
them African, rather than North African. I'm not certain the terms are
interchangeable for that species, so that's another error on my part.)

I apologize for my obfuscation. How I delivered my information made it
as erroneous as averring that humans are descended from monkeys, which
isn't true, and which isn't what Darwin wrote. What he said was that
humans and monkeys share a common ancestor.

Eddy Bentley
May 21st 07, 12:22 PM
Noon Cat Nick wrote:
> You're right, but I confess nebulousness and poor explanation on my
> part. Domestic cats are indeed descended from the North African wild
> cat. But what I meant, and failed to state properly, is that the North
> African, Caucasian, and Asian wild cats share a common ancestor, which
> is the European wild cat. And of those, it is specifically the North
> African wild cat from which domestic cats are descended. (I also called
> them African, rather than North African. I'm not certain the terms are
> interchangeable for that species, so that's another error on my part.)
>
> I apologize for my obfuscation. How I delivered my information made it
> as erroneous as averring that humans are descended from monkeys, which
> isn't true, and which isn't what Darwin wrote. What he said was that
> humans and monkeys share a common ancestor.

Noon Cat Nick, I like your style! . . . and your clarity! A pleasure to
find in any newsgroup.

Eddy.

Lis
May 21st 07, 03:05 PM
On May 21, 5:21 am, Noon Cat Nick >
wrote:
> Eddy Bentley wrote:
> >Lis wrote:
>
> >>Domestic cats are descended from the North African wild cat, not the
> >>European wild cat;
>
> You're right, but I confess nebulousness and poor explanation on my
> part. Domestic cats are indeed descended from the North African wild
> cat. But what I meant, and failed to state properly, is that the North
> African, Caucasian, and Asian wild cats share a common ancestor, which
> is the European wild cat. And of those, it is specifically the North
> African wild cat from which domestic cats are descended. (I also called
> them African, rather than North African. I'm not certain the terms are
> interchangeable for that species, so that's another error on my part.)

I believe it's the North African wild cat, and doesn't range south of
the Sahara--but I have to admit, I didn't go check my references
before posting that.:)

> I apologize for my obfuscation. How I delivered my information made it
> as erroneous as averring that humans are descended from monkeys, which
> isn't true, and which isn't what Darwin wrote. What he said was that
> humans and monkeys share a common ancestor.

You realize you can be ejected from the Usenet fraternity for this
outrageous act of, um, graciously admitting and correcting an error?
Don't you know you're supposed to dig in your heels and insist that
you're right?

No?

Maybe it'll catch on and more of us will start doing it.:)

Lis