Monday, April 30, 2012

Featured in May: Dilute Calico

Safe Harbor's  special for the month of May is the dilute calico. Ordinary calicos are orange, black and white, and dilute cailcos are cream, gray and white.

Safe Harbor is located at 359 Cree Lane (phone 573-243-9823) in Jackson.

Each month, the facility runs a "special" on a certain kind of cat. In May, dilute calicos will be $35 instead of $50. Declawed cats are $50, down from the regular $75.

Calico cats are usually female, because color is carried on the X chromosone. The two main color genes of a cat are red and black , so normally a male can be either black OR red (yellow). White comes from another gene, the Dominant White gene, that masks all the color on the parts of the cat it affects.
Calicos vary a great deal in their looks, because these three colors can combe in soany different ways.

In rare cases, a male cat may have two or more cell lines, and if one is for red color and another for black color, and the cat also has the white masking gene, then you can get a male calico. Such genetic abnormalities usually result in a sterile animal. To learn more about calico cats, check out Cats Are Not Peas, by Laura Gould, a very excellent and readable book on calico cats and genetics, available at Riverside Regional Library in Jackson.

None of these rare male animals have turned up at Safe Harbor. All the calicos, dilute or otherwise, are female.

Friday, April 27, 2012

The Jungle Cat?

In Luang Prabang, I saw many cats like this one, with  big round eyes.

The little black and white cat was typical of many street cats in Luang Prabang:  small, lanky, and enormous round eyes. These wide-eyed cats came in all colors, and most of them had kinked tails. (Not surprising--nearly ALL the native cats in Luang Prabang had kinked tails.) In an earlier post, I had speculated that the jungle cat of Malaysia might have had some genetic influence on the domesticated cat of Southeast Asia, but I didn't expect to see such an obvious clue.

Siamese cats are noted for their "hooded" eyes, and I saw this feature among some of the cats in Luang Prabang. They had small, very slanted eyes, very often blue. Not purebred Siamese, they still definitely had the albino gene, and that seemed to go with the hooded eyes. I've posted pictures of the white cat See Cao several times--he is the most typical Siamese-type cat that I saw. But these round-eyed cats are different.

Minie's eyes are more round than her mate's Siamese eyes.
Hmmm...Weir's Siamese cat, 1888:
its eyes look more round than hooded.

Jungle Cat

Monday, April 16, 2012

More Lao Cats--But No Siamese!

I'm in Luang Prabang, visiting my son. Here are more pictures of Lao cats. The cats appeared in every color and variety seen here in the United States, except that a large percentage of them had the lanky Siamese look. But as more foreigners move in, Western cats and dogs are coming with them. For example, I saw a Shitzu in downtown Luang Prabang.

This cat had the blue eyes of a Siamese. The shop owner was giving her
 away because she didn't have a friendly personality.

The Siamese is not the mother of
these kittens.



This calico expectant mom lived in a remote village, looking
 very Siamese despite her coloring.

Here is See Cao again, the Siamese daddy of my son's cats. I'm posting his picture again because he is still the most Siamese cat I personally saw in Laos. The tan on his legs, tail and ears tell me his white does not come from the Dominant White gene, but from temperature-sensitive albinism which causes the fur to darken at the extremities.

Albinism is recessive to full color. Without careful breeding, temperature-sensitive albinism loses to full color. 

So what happened to all the Siamese cats in Siam? I suspect they were mostly in the palaces and temples of the aristocrats. The king in Laos is gone. His palace is a museum. And there are no cats.

Many of the cats in Laos had crooked tails. Some were little stumps, like Scooter's; about half the length of a normal tail, like Minie's; or full-length but twisted like a paper clip, as in the case of See Cao. But See Cao and Minie produced a daughter, Sarah, with a normal tail. Her coloring was so much like Scooter I had to look at the tail to tell them apart.

Where did the normal tail come from, since both parents had kinks? Ironically, from recessives. A straight tail is recessive to a kinked tail. Mom and Dad must be heterozygotes; i.e., they both carry a recessive gene for a straight tail.

It seems strange that kinks would be dominant over straight tails. Polydactylism, having more than the normal number of fingers or toes, is also dominant.  That is the case for humans as well as cats. But you rarely see people with extra fingers. One can understand why; many people would find it objectionable in a mate. 

Here is what happens:  People with the dominant trait can carry a recessive for the "normal" trait; they're called heterozygotyes. Heterzygotes have a 25 percent chance of producing offspring with the recessive trait, so with a little selective breeding, the offensive dominant trait has all but disappeared in humans. Cats are not as selective.


My daughter-in-law, who has traveled many times to Thailand, says she has seen quite a few Siamese csts in Thailand. But I cannot verify if any of these cats are directly descended from the original Siamese that lived in the palace.