web analytics

…and another thing…


Here’s how that kitteh study happened. A decade ago, a man in Scotland was taken to court for shooting a protected Scottish wildcat. Remember those? And he got up on the stand and said, “looks like a cat to me.” And they let him go because…well, yeah.

So scientists realized they needed to figure out the whole cat DNA dealio, especially if they wanted to protect some wildcats by law.

So dude went out and sampled almost a thousand cats, wild and domestic, from all over the world. There are five major flavors of wildcat, and the domestic cat can and does merrily interbreed with them all, because she’s a dirty, dirty girl. Which is why it’s so suprising that modern housecats can be traced not just to a single type of wildcat, but five specific individual cats.

Most domestic animals were domesticated simultaneously all over the place, from local wild stock, but not the cat. All the tens of millions of American housecats are the children of cats brought over on ships from the Olde Worlde — despite all our lovely lynx and margays and ocelots, the American domestic shorthair is all lybica. Isn’t that odd?

Okay, back to the Scottish wildcat for a second. One of the reasons they’re endangered is that they merrily interbreed with housecats. What researchers have found, though, is that over time the wildcat genes are stronger. That is, subsequent generations become, genetically, more and more like Felis sylvestris grampia and less like Mister Fluffybutt.

So I’m thinking that must by Lybica‘s trick. That despite inbreeding with some very dubious gentlemen, the line always moves back toward the original. Tabby breeds true.

A lot of cats have some stripeyness. Catch her in the right light and you can see faint bars under the black parts of Charlotte’s fur. But, other than that, Lybica characteristics aren’t usually sold separately. They all come together or not at all — the black lips, the brick red nose and paw pads, the long, blunt, wavy tail. It’s the whole Franklin Mint set, plus the beautiful mahogany display case.

All the slutty behavior and the silly shapes and colors cats have mutated into, it’s extraordinary how common cats like Schroedinger and Damien are — animals that have slap-bang regressed ten thousand years to the prototype.

I think that’s just so cool.

July 29, 2008 — 1:50 pm
Comments: 29