Analyzing the Peppers Kittens

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The Peppers kittens are one of the current sets of foster kittens over at the wonderful “Love and Hisses” blog.  There’s three black kittens, a ‘brown’ tabby kitten, and…what’s with that one in the middle there?  It sure looks interesting enough for a closer look.

The three black kittens are Sally, Everett, and Lucy. Harlan is the brown tabby and the last kitten is Molly Peppers.

Harlan Peppers

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Harlan is a brown tabby – the brown comes from ‘rufousing’, where the ‘background’ pigment on the agouti hairs has a lot of orange pigment making it appear brown. This is controlled by ‘polygenes’ which is genetic-speak for “It’s complicated” and “We aren’t sure right now”.

Rufousing doesn’t appear simple enough to be the result of a single gene, yet it can be selected for in breeding – cats with a lot tend to produce kittens with a lot. There are a couple of breeds where high rufousing is wanted. One is in trying to make a “solid” ginger cat.  The ‘non-agouti’ gene is not able to cover the tabby pattern in Orange cats.  Therefore the striping can be muted by making the background color as orange as possible.  The other example is the “Golden Persian” where virtually the entire hair is the brown-gold color.

Harlan’s striping, his paw pads and the bottom of his feet are all black, so he is not dilute. The Orange gene must also be non-Orange (‘o’).

The visible tabby pattern means the Agouti gene has at least one ‘A’. The tabby markings are in the Mackerel vertical stripe mode. They haven’t joined up into a solid stripe and possibly they might not, but even so this would probably be due to the action of another gene — not a ‘spotted Mackerel’ gene.

There is no white spotting and the short hair fill out the table. A fairy common look for a cat, but one of the prettier ones in my opinion. I love the house tigers.

Harlan’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/l Short Hair
White Spotting s/s No white spotting

The “All Black” Peppers

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Happy Halloween! This picture was taken when one of Robyn’s gentler resident cats came into the kitten room to steal their kitten food. No spitty kitty was harmed in this incident.

Three of the Peppers kittens are very similar in looks, so we will handle them together – and the picture shows that they stick together!.  The black color is apparent, and so this means that there is no dilution.  The solid color hides the tabby markings, so the a/a “non Agouti” gene is required.  The type of tabby is masked, although mackerel is likely due to the other tabby kittens showing it, plus it is the most common pattern here in the USA.  The hair is short, and there is no spotting.  Aside from the solid color, these are ‘average Joe’ genes for cats, and the non Agouti is hardly rare either.

Sally, Everett, and Lucy’s Genes

Locus Genes Notes
Black B/- “Black”
Orange o/o (o/Y) No Orange (Everett has a Y sex gene)
Tabby ?/- masked
Agouti a/a non Agouti
Dilute D/- No Dilution
Long Hair L/l Short Hair
White Spotting s/s No white spotting

Molly Peppers

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Here’s Molly!  This is a very interesting cat.  The first question is why does she look so different from her brother Harlan?  One theory I wanted to confirm or deny right off is to find her ‘basic color’. The stripes and the nose do look dark, but this picture below that shows off her paw pads and the bottom of the feet confirms that she is a ‘black’ tabby and not a dilute.  Nor is she one of the rare alternate forms of black – chocolate or cinnamon. The black is pure black, but the other hairs are much lighter.
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The answer is in a new gene I haven’t mentioned much before because it is pretty uncommon, the “Inhibitor” gene.  The dominant gene produces the Inhibitor effect, so Molly only needs to have one to get the look.  As you might know from looking at your own cats, the pigment on a cat hair is not uniform on the shaft of the hair, even on a solid hair. The pigment on the base of a solid hair, and between the bands of color on an agouti hair is laid out differently – I’ve read it as ‘shredded’.  This is why the orange pigment on agouti hairs, the same ‘ink’ as on a ginger cat, looks brown instead of orange on brown tabbies.

The Inhibitor gene blocks the production of these shredded colors entirely, leaving the hair white at the base – even on the ‘solid’ hairs.  I asked Robyn to check and she confirms that Molly has a white base on all of her hairs, even under the stripes.  This is what produces the very pale background, and the nickname of ‘silver tabby’.

A solid cat with this gene is called a ‘smoke’. The picture to the right shows a British Shorthair Black Smoke and Silver Tabby. Since the Inhibitor is dominant, one of Molly’s parents probably looked much like one of these two.  The hint of light color in a smoke looks even more striking in a longhaired cat than a short hair.

An interesting kitten indeed!
Molly’s Genes

Locus Genes Notes
Black B/- “Black”
Orange o/o No Orange
Tabby T/- Mackerel Tabby
Agouti A/- Agouti
Dilute D/- No Dilution
Long Hair L/l Short Hair
White Spotting s/s No white spotting
Inhibitor I/- ‘Background’ color inhibited

The Peppers Parents

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When I was looking through the pictures of the kittens looking for pictures to illustrate this post I came across two pictures of an adult cat – presumably the mother.  I think Robyn mentioned that the mother cat was taken in by someone to give birth, and afterwards they adopted the mother and put the kittens out for fostering.  And frankly, something about the face kind of looks like the kittens!  So this is Mama Peppers.

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One surprise is that the mother seems to have long hair!  This probably means that the father had a double dose of short hair to make sure that none of the kittens developed long hair.  But I can go back and add an ‘l’ to all the kittens regardless.  Aside from this, she seems to be a brown tabby like Harlan. This means she is not the source of the Inhibitor gene that Molly inherited, so it must have come from the father.

Since several of her kittens are solid, she must have a non-Agouti gene too. So must the father. If he also has an A gene, then a quarter of his kittens on average would be solid. If he has the (a/a) pair and is a solid smoke, then half his kittens would be solid.  Since 60 percent were solid, this fits the kittens a little better.

There’s not a lot of additional information on the father.  He must have the Inhibitor, one ‘a’ non-Agouti and probably two, one ‘L’ shorthair and probably two.  He can’t have a ‘O’ Orange gene, since he would have passed it to all three girls. He must have an ‘o’.  He also does not have any White Spotting.  We can’t really tell anything about the other genes from these kittens, so they are omitted. So he probably looked like that black smoke kitten in the picture above.

Mama Pepper’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/l Long Hair
White Spotting s/s No white spotting
Inhibitor i/i ‘Background’ color not inhibited

Daddy Pepper’s Genes

Locus Genes Notes
Orange o/Y No Orange
Agouti a/a probably non-Agouti
Long Hair L/L Short Hair (probably 2)
White Spotting s/s No white spotting
Inhibitor I/- ‘Background’ color inhibited

Thanks to Robyn for letting me use her pictures. If anyone else has a cat or cat family with an interesting mix of traits, put information about them in a comment and they might end up in a future post.  I’m still working on the ‘do it yourself’ pages as well.

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About Oldcat

Engineer with Cats
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15 Responses to Analyzing the Peppers Kittens

  1. minlit says:

    So cute – I think you’re onto a winning formula here!

    Like

  2. MizRobyn says:

    Very interesting reading – thanks for the analysis! 🙂

    Like

  3. Cynthia M Suprenant says:

    Wow, that was truly fascinating!! Thanks for all that!

    Like

  4. SC Amy says:

    This is just fascinating to me! And that you used my favorite poofy Peppers picture is an additional treat!

    Like

  5. Edna says:

    My friend is is the one that took Scarlett (momma to the Peppers) in two week before she had the kittens. She had six kittens but one was born dead. It was also a silver tabby but much bigger that Molly. I thought about keeping Molly (Sweet Pea) which to me was so pretty. I am glad you shared this and will show it to Scarlett’s owner..

    Like

  6. kimkiminy says:

    I love how all three of the black ones managed to turn away from the camera. They learn young!

    Like

  7. Oooooo, this is so interesting! Way beyond the Punnett squares of my sophomore year in high school (many gazillions of moons ago).

    Would you do Miss Dorfy Kitteh? I am dying to know what her parents looked like. Shoot, I want to know what all of my kitties’ parents looked like, but since Dorfy just suddenly appeared one day under a truck after a tornado, I want to make sure her father was not a Ford F150 and her mother wasn’t a storm cloud. 😀

    Like

    • Oldcat says:

      Perhaps… – but a problem with a single kitten is that there usually isn’t enough information to lock down the look of the parents. You saw in this one how even
      with five kittens Mama’s long hair was unsuspected!

      A solution I am working on for those who want to do their own cat is some pages that guide you though the process bit by bit, filling in the gene table as you go.
      It is a work in progress at the moment.

      Like

  8. limr says:

    Ooh, I’d love to learn more about my two girls. They are sisters and I adopted them from a local shelter. They’d been found in a garage when they were about 2 weeks old, no sign of the mother. I got them at about 10 weeks. They are now a year and a half old. I’ve always wondered about how to describe them.

    Zelda is all white with a patch of color on her head. It’s a mixture of grey, black, orange and tan. She also has a grey patch toward the end of her tail. Her pads and nose are pink, but she has a few black freckles on one or two of her paws.

    Mrs.Parker is mostly brown and tan with black stripes and little patches of orange, the most prominent one being on the top of her head. Her paws and nose are black and she’s got a patch of orangy-pink on one of her paws.

    I do have pictures of them on my blog but I have some better ones that I just have to get off of my camera. I can put them online if you’d like.

    I love Robyn’s blog, which is how I found yours, btw.

    Like

    • Oldcat says:

      Sure, I’d like to see the pictures.

      From the description it sounds like these might both be a Calitabby with a whole lot of white spotting – the dark and light of each color being the stripes and the gaps between the stripes. There was a recent Question of the Day on white spotting – when at high levels of spotting the color tends to be on the head and tail. But that’s just a guess before I see the pics.

      Like

  9. Pingback: Off a-visitin’. | As a Linguist…

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