Analyzing Kara and her Kittens

Love and Hisses is a blog I have been following for a long time – written by Robyn Anderson, who fosters cats and kittens in Alabama.  I’m not sure  exactly when I started reading the blog regularly, but it might well have been with Kara and her litter of kittens. In the end, the kittens were adopted out and Kara was kept on permanently.

17DSC09103 I thought it would be interesting to look at her and the kittens to see how her and the father cat’s genetics interacted to produce the kittens. All the pictures are from her blog and from her Flickr site and are used with her permission.

To the right is a more or less  undignified picture of Kara, still pregnant.  She is a pretty normal tabby without a lot of exotic features, as are the kittens.  So a lot of the more boutique genes (like wideband or inhibitor) are normal. This will shorten the tables by about half and the text significantly as well.

Kara is a typical “brown tabby”.  She has the normal Black gene, as shown by the color of her tabby stripes. She shows no sign of any Orange, so she is not a tortie or calico  – both of her Orange genes are ‘no Orange’. If she had a mixed Oo pair the odds would be very high that it would be expressed somewhere on her coat.

To find out what her Tabby gene is, we need a better angle…
17DSC09099
The vertical thin stripes show that she has the mackerel tabby pattern.  To display mackerel, she must not have the T[a] dominant ‘ticked tabby’ gene at all.  She could be masking a classic tabby gene.

This also means that she has at least one Agouti gene to keep the tabby pattern from being hidden.  The brownish background color is due to high ‘rufousing’ factors, but is not controlled by a single gene.

The other modifiers are quickly run through – she is short-haired, not dilute, and has no white spotting. In fact, she doesn’t even seem to have any buttons or lockets.  The whitish chin is part of the standard tabby pattern.

Kara’s Genes

Locus Genes Notes
Black B/- “Black”
Orange o/o No Orange
Tabby T/- Mackerel Tabby
Agouti A/a Agouti – masking non Agouti
Dilute D/- No Dilution
Long Hair L/- Short Hair
White Spotting s/s No white spotting

Kaylee

03DSC01094

Well, here’s a kitten that doesn’t resemble Mama.  The first thing that jumps out is the Orange.  Since this could not have come from Mama, then we know that the father cat was Orange.  The black and orange regions are solid, not striped.  This means that she has the non-Agouti factor expressed. Since this is recessive, Kara must have donated one, and the father the other.

The white paws, chest, and face show that the White spotting gene is present.  This also must have come from the father, since Kara herself has no White Spotting.  So at this point we know he is Orange with white. Remember, since Orange is a sex based gene, the male only has one color gene to donate to a kitten.

Kaylee’s Genes

Locus Genes Notes
Black B/- “Black”
Orange O/o Part Orange
Tabby T?/- probably Mackerel Tabby
Agouti a/a non Agouti
Dilute D/- No Dilution
Long Hair L/- Short Hair
White Spotting S/s White spotting (about L2-3)

Zoe

05DSC09992

Zoe, another female, also shows orange patches with white. However, the black patches in particular show tabby stripes – often called a ‘calitabby’.  This means that unlike Kaylee, Zoe has the Agouti hair working. Note that the stripes run right over the orange/black patch boundary undisturbed.  The pigment maker and the tabby pattern maker don’t interact at all.

The white paws, chest, and stomach show that the White spotting gene is present. This also must have come from the father – which we knew already.

The only genetic difference between Kaylee and Zoe is the Agouti gene.  Quite a different look for one genetic change.

Zoe’s Genes

Locus Genes Notes
Black B/- “Black”
Orange O/o Part Orange
Tabby T/- Mackerel Tabby
Agouti A/- Agouti
Dilute D/- No Dilution
Long Hair L/- Short Hair
White Spotting S/s White spotting (about L2-3)

Inara

14DSC07864

Inara is the third girl kitten, is also a calitabby. Genetically she is the same as Zoe, but the random choice of which parts of the embryo select the Orange active gene as part of ‘X inactivation’ and display as orange versus those that select the other and show as black gives her a different pattern.

The father’s White Spotting gene is also showing. In fact, with all four kittens showing white spotting, the odds are about 95 percent that he has two White Spotting Genes. With two genes he probably would be considerably whiter than the kittens.

Inara’s Genes

Locus Genes Notes
Black B/- “Black”
Orange O/o Part Orange
Tabby T/- Mackerel Tabby
Agouti A/- Agouti
Dilute D/- No Dilution
Long Hair L/- Short Hair
White Spotting S/s White spotting (about L2-3)

River

14DSC07928

River was originally also thought to be a girl kitten, but was later found to be male.  One thing that genetics could tell you is that River, if a girl, could not have the same father as the other kittens.

We already know that the father has an Orange gene to donate to a daughter, and no other. So for a female kitten to be all black, all the cells would have to have chosen “No Orange”.  This seems unlikely.

The alternative is that River was a girl with a different father, or that River is male, and thus the father donates the Y sex gene rather than Orange. This leaves Kara’s gene to determine the color.  To sum up, in male kittens the Orange color gene comes only from the mother.  And indeed, it turned out that River was male after all.

I know it is possible for a litter of kittens to have different fathers. I don’t know how common it is.

Even though this picture doesn’t show it, River also shows the white spotting, slightly less than his sisters do

River’s Genes

Locus Genes Notes
Black B/- “Black”
Orange o/y no Orange
Tabby T/- Mackerel Tabby
Agouti A/- Agouti
Dilute D/- No Dilution
Long Hair L/- Short Hair
White Spotting S/s White spotting (about L2-3)

Daddy Cat

Dsc00043

So what do we know about the father? We know he had quite a lot of white spotting, and otherwise was orange.  He could have been dilute, and been creme rather than orange, but most likely not.

He needed to have at least one non-Agouti gene for Kaylee.  If his other one was also non-Agouti, then half his kittens with Kara would show it. Otherwise, only a quarter would. Only one of four did show it, but the odds aren’t large enough to call it either way.

He probably doesn’t carry the ticked tabby version of the Tabby gene. If he had one of these dominant genes, half his kittens would show it. If he had two, all of them would.  He could have had one or more recessive Classic Tabby genes.  These would never show if Kara had two Mackerel genes.

The picture is of Spanky, one of Robyn’s permanent resident cats, who might look very much like the father of the kittens.  I don’t think he had the chance to be the actual father.

Daddy Cat’s Genes

Locus Genes Notes
Black ? unknown, masked
Orange O/y Orange
Tabby ? not ticked tabby
Agouti ?/a at least one non-Agouti
Dilute ? probably No Dilution
Long Hair L?/- probably Short Hair
White Spotting S/S significant White spotting

I’d like to thank Love and Hisses for all the years of kitten pictures and stories, and for the Hisses-o-lanche of last weekend to boot.  Reading her blog is the next best thing to having bunches of kittens of your own – no petting, but you don’t have to clean up the messes either!

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About Oldcat

Engineer with Cats
This entry was posted in Cats, Genetics and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

29 Responses to Analyzing Kara and her Kittens

  1. I feel a little like a nerd cat admitting this, but that was really interesting!

    Like

  2. kerrycooks says:

    Wow! You know so much about cat genetics! That was really interesting, and what cute kitties!

    Like

  3. nadbugs says:

    I imagine I’m feeling a little like Watson. As in, “Elementary, my dear . . . .”
    I imagine the cuteness gene is species-wide, right Sherlock?

    Like

  4. MizRobyn says:

    This is really, really neat! Of all the kittens we’ve fostered, we rarely hear what their mother looked like, and have never gotten to know what their father looked like, so it’s cool to have some idea of what Kara’s babies’ father looked like. (Spanky denies all allegations.)(Well, of course, he was neutered years before even Kara was born, so there’s that! Heh.)

    Like

  5. Juani says:

    This was amazing!I wish you could this type of analysis for all my cats.

    Like

  6. minlit says:

    Dear Oldcat, you are just the blogger I need to talk to. A Gene Genie. My recollection of genetics is very hazy (school is a long time ago!), but maybe you can tell me:
    Mother = long haired scottish fold with flat ears, whiteish colour (persian cross)
    Father = straight earred scottish fold (colour unknown, sorry!)
    Kittens = Shorthaired, straight earred black& white and ginger tabby / white.

    Is this a possible result, or are my kittens just young pretenders to the scottish fold throne. I think I’d prefer it if they were common or garden mogs, to be honest!! But let’s face it, there’s no such thing as a common cat. They’re all highly uncommon.
    Thanks!
    D

    Like

    • Oldcat says:

      The only thing I know about the genetics of Folds is that you don’t breed two “folded ear folds” together because it leads to fatal abnormalities in the kittens – the same way tail-less Manx cats are not bred with each other for similar reasons.

      If the fold is made by one gene, then Mom would have two and all the kittens would be carriers of “foldingness”. If Dad had one, odds are that half the kittens would fold and half be carriers. If Dad was a ‘pretender’ then all kittens would be carriers. So no matter what, your kittens at least carry one Fold gene.

      Since long hair is recessive, a short hair Dad could block that in the kittens easy enough.

      Like

      • Oldcat says:

        Apparently I was wrong – the Fold gene is ‘incompletely dominant’ and having two copies is bad news. So folded or unfolded, carriers of the Fold should not be bred together.

        So perhaps Father was not a fold at all, but a British Shorthair, which is what is often used to get the round head and body and good temperament.

        So if this was the case, Mom would have one Fold and Dad none, so the chances of any particular kitten having the Fold gene is one in two.

        Like

  7. Annie B says:

    This is REALLY interesting! I’ve always been vaguely interested in genetics, and I love cats, so I loved it.

    My grey tuxedo cat had a siamese mother. Two of his siblings looked like siamese and the other was all black. I’ve always found that cool and interesting. I’ve always thought his father was black, but your post tells me it could be more complicated than that.

    Like

    • Oldcat says:

      He could have been orange, since the O gene for a male doesn’t come from the dad.
      He could have been “blue” (grey) like his son – since he had at least one dilute gene, he could have had two.
      He could have been pointed (siamese like) like the mom, since he had to carry the gene to produce pointed sibs – you need to have two pointed genes to express the look.
      Most siamese don’t have white spotting, so presumably dad contributed that.

      I did put a lot of this in my “Fun with Genetics” page at the top of the blog if you are interested in reading more.

      Like

  8. Samantha says:

    I loved reading this!

    Oh how I want to pick your brain about the two I adopted. They were the only two known survivors in their litter and I have photos of the mother. Reading this I would love to get a cloudy picture of daddy!

    Are you going to do this Analysis with the McMaos?

    Like

    • Oldcat says:

      Well Robyn could probably tell you it doesn’t take much inducing to get me to blather on about this kind of thing.

      I haven’t decided who to do next – the McMaos might suffer from all being very similar in general looks. Having the mom
      helps a lot in nailing down options, so that’s an advantage.

      Like

  9. kimkiminy says:

    Fascinating! And the kittens are SO cute!

    Like

  10. Wazeau says:

    Very interesting article. And adorable kittens – Kaylee looks a lot like my Sassafrass (except that huge smily face, Sass is more subdued). And Nekoka, Sass’s brother, is orange tabby with some white – trying to figure out his gene map is making my brain explode though.

    Like

  11. Lurkertype says:

    When I scrolled down to the second photo, I immediately said “Orange and white daddy!” My favorite kind. 🙂

    My tortie girl definitely had an orange daddy (her sister was calico), and my tux boy came from a long line of tux/cow kitties (he was born in my backyard so I knew both his parents and other relatives). His mommy was a tux and his daddy was a huge cowkitty who answered to “Moo”.

    Kaylee shows the classic tortie personality in this picture, and Inara’s tabbico pattern is beautiful.

    I also like the theme in the naming of these kittens.

    Do the Miao Brothers and Nephews! littlemiao knows some of their parentage (Ping, Tashi), but not all.

    Like

  12. minlit says:

    I think you’ve unwittingly stumbled across a huge gap in the market, Old Cat! You’re the Sherlock Holmes of cat genes, and your advice is highly sought after! This is the most enthusiastic and genuinely interested set of responses to a post I’ve seen in a while. This should be Freshly Pressed!

    Like

  13. Kate says:

    That was very interesting. Do more of that with Robyn’s kittens. I love her blog.

    Like

  14. SC Amy says:

    Oh wow that was so interesting!! When I had a rescue litter I was fascinated by their variety (two grey and whites and two brown tabbies) and often wondered what mom and dad contributed to each. Now I am annoying Trixie (one of the brown tabbies) and Jinx (tux from different litter) trying to figure out their genes! 🙂

    Like

  15. littlemiao says:

    Wow, that was fascinating. You must have a degree in kitty genetics!

    Funny how your reconstructed Daddy Kitty is orange with “quite a lot of white spotting”. I would assume it is the other way around, but now I know better. I love the patched on orange on Inara and Zoe.

    For my brother’s 2 litters of kitten kibbles, tortie/calico mother with b&w cowkitty father, I guess they get most of their variety from Mama. She had 7 kittens between the two litters, all boys, one orange cowkitty but no look-a-likes for either parent. I wonder what Sprocket’s parents were like.

    Now I know you are the source to come to for all kitty parentage questions.

    Like

    • Oldcat says:

      Well with all boys and a calico mom, it is no surprise that they don’t look like *her*. It takes some odd genetic tricks to get a calico male. And how White Spotting manifests in a kitten is complicated and not well understood. But it seems agreed that a double white spot dose usually results in more white than a single, if all other things are equal..

      Like

  16. crazytobeme says:

    This was really cool! I reread it today. May I ask, what is your background because this is certainly not high school biology genetics?

    Like

    • Oldcat says:

      I do have a Master’s Degree, but it is in Physics, so the only cat I can claim university-level teaching on would be Schroedinger’s Cat.

      Most of it is high school level, but applied to data I picked up on the web about what genes cats have and how they interact. Some are web pages by breeders, some might well be college course notes. I also picked up a popular book that had a chapter on genetics just to get a hard copy summary. The rest (figuring odds) is just some simple probablility math.

      I don’t claim any expertise that anyone couldn’t duplicate. Much of what I did find is up in the Fun with Genetics page here. You don’t have to be afraid – you can pretty much look at a gene, read the option and what it does on a cat, and decide if your cat has that gene or not. If baby kittens can learn it, we can too!

      Like

      • crazytobeme says:

        I do think the MS in Physics shows a penchant for such investigation and I’m impressed. Now I’m thinking about cat and kittens for whom I may try some detective work (you know, in my spare time)…

        Like

  17. Hinson Katherine says:

    I read with extreme interest and delight since I adopted River and Inara, now known as Nate and Dora. They are a bit over three years old now and just a delight to us. Thank you for sharing your knowledge.

    Like

  18. Christina says:

    Utterly cool!! I need to figure out what my girl is – well, other than a mound of long haired sass and attitude!

    Like

  19. elayne says:

    This WAS fascinating, and now I am fighting the urge to link to a bunch of pictures of my cats and pester you to analyze them! (One is a male who was originally thought to be female because the rescue agency thought he was calico, though the splotches of “orange” look more brownish to me; the other is a rescued stray about whom one of the vet techs said, “Is she trying to be a calitabby?” and the vet said, “Beats me.” A lot of people ask me about their coloration and I’m clueless as to how to answer.)

    I bet you could make a tidy bit of spending money analyzing people’s cats for them – and think of the endless supply of kitten pictures! LOL

    Thanks again for an interesting, informative, and adorable post.

    Like

  20. Anne D says:

    I save these posts on cat genetics to study in depth and hope one day that it comes through to me.

    Like

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