Can Cats Transmit Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) To Humans?

Can cats transmit coronavirus?

The world is currently in the grip of a coronavirus outbreak (renamed COVID-19 World Health Organisation), which was first reported in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China on 31st December 2019. The virus originated from Chinese horseshoe bats and jumped species via an intermediate host, thought to be the pangolin – a delicacy in Chinese culture and the world’s most trafficked animal – and from the pangolin to humans.

COVID-19 produces flu-like symptoms in people, the elderly and people with an underlying medical condition are at the greatest risk.

Read moreCan Cats Transmit Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) To Humans?

Male Calico and Tortie Cats: How Does This Happen?

Reviewed by Dr Sam Kovac – Southern Cross Veterinary Clinic

How are some male cats calico or tortie?

Calico and tortie cats are almost always female, which we have covered in our article on calico cats. To recap, cats have 19 chromosome pairs, 18 autosomes and the sex chromosome pair of XX or XY. The chromosomes are located within the nucleus of every cell. Each chromosome is made up of matching pairs, which provides information from the mother and the father. Genes are located on the chromosomes and are tiny segments of DNA which act as a code that specifies the production of a protein, which do most of the work within the cells and are essential for the function and regulation of the body’s organs and tissues.

Chromosome and DNA

Read moreMale Calico and Tortie Cats: How Does This Happen?

Types of Tabby Patterns & Colours in Cats

Ginger and brown tabby cats

At a glance

What is a tabby cat?

Tabby is a coat pattern and not a breed, it consists of four patterns, mackerel, spotted, classic and ticked. The background hair consists of light and dark bands, intermingled with dark lines, spots or swirls layered on top.

What colour is a tabby cat?

Tabby occurs in several colours, the most common are brown tabby, silver and orange tabby.

About

Tabby refers to a coat pattern in cats which consists of dark swirls, stripes, spots superimposed on a lighter background of ticked (banded fur).

The banded background (ground colour) consists of hairs which are more than one colour along the hair shaft and is termed agouti. This is caused by the transient inhibition of pigment production during, the hair’s growth.

Agouti and non-agouti pattern on hair shaft

The agouti gene controls whether the tabby pattern is expressed or not. The dominant agouti allele, with the symbol A will express the tabby pattern. The recessive a ‘hides’ the tabby pattern, to produce a solid (self) coat colour from the root of the hair to the tip. A cat must receive two copies of the recessive a gene (aa) to have a solid coat.

Three possible outcomes dictate if the coat will be tabby or not, remembering that the cat receives a copy of each gene from the mother and the father.

  • A/A (homozygous dominant) – Tabby
  • A/a (heterozygous dominant) – Tabby (the dominant A will override the recessive a)
  • a/a (heterozygous recessive) – Non-tabby (solid)

The tabby pattern is common in random-bred cats as well as many pure breeds. All domestic cats were once tabby, mutations lead to some cats appearing solid, bi-colour or pointed. Even cats with no tabby stripes have tabby genes but do not show the pattern on the fur. Some young cats with solid coat colours will display faint ghost tabby patterns until their fur becomes fully pigmented.

Ghost tabby pattern on tuxedo kitten
You can see a faint ghost tabby pattern on the body of this tuxedo kitten.

The basic wild-type tabby is a mackerel (Tm); however, two mutations have arisen, the dominant ticked tabby (Ta) and the recessive classic tabby (tb).

Basic cat genetics

Cats have 19 chromosomes which come in pairs, one from the mother and one from the father. 18 of the chromosomes are autosomes, and one pair are the sex chromosomes X and Y. All of the female cat’s eggs are X, whereas the male sperm can be X or Y. If an X sperm fertilises the egg, the offspring will be female (XX), if a Y sperm fertilises the egg, the offspring will be male (XY).

Genes are contained within the chromosome which is made up a double-strand helix containing DNA. DNA contains the instructions necessary for the cat to develop, survive and reproduce. For this to occur, the DNA has to be converted into messages which can be used to produce proteins, that are complex molecules that do most of the work within the cat’s body.

A locus (plural loci) is the specific, fixed position on a chromosome where a particular gene or genetic marker is located.

Alleles are variants of the same gene, for example, B (black), b (chocolate) and b1 (cinnamon).

Chromosome

Coat colours

Tabby cat colours

The tabby coat occurs in many colours, primarily silver, brown and red (ginger/yellow). But a dilution can change those primary colours into lighter forms.

Melanocytes are cells responsible for producing melanin, which are microscopic granules occurring in the hair, skin, and iris of the eyes. The size, shape and arrangement of melanin granules are responsible for the colour of the cat’s coat. Cats have two types of melanin, black-based eumelanin and orange-based pheomelanin. Eumelanin are spherical and absorb almost all light, which gives black pigmentation, pheomelanin granules are elongated and produce the red coat colour.

The black gene has three alleles which control the density of eumelanin in the hair shaft.

  • B produces black fur and is dominant
  • b reduces melanin density to a chocolate colour
  • b1 which further reduces melanin density to a medium brown (cinnamon)

Red based colours have two alleles which are located on the X chromosome.

  • O produces red fur
  • o (non-orange) produces black fur

Dilution

Dilute classic tabby munchkin cat

Dilute classic tabby munchkin cat[/caption]

Dilute coat colours are a recessive trait which dilutes coat colours by causing uneven distribution of pigment in the hair shaft

  • Black dilutes to blue (grey)
  • Chocolate dilutes to lilac
  • Cinnamon dilutes to fawn
  • Orange dilutes to cream

Dilute modifier (DM)

A secondary type of dilution known as dilute modifier can also occur, which causes the coat to take on a brownish cast. The dilute modifier only affects dilute colours and has no effect on dense colours.

  • Blue becomes caramel
  • Chocolate becomes taupe
  • Cream becomes apricot

White spotting gene

Brown tabby and white cat

Some tabby coats have some white fur, usually on the paws, belly, chest, throat and sometimes face. This white fur is caused by the white spotting gene (S). Genetically, the cat is tabby, but the white spotting gene masks the colouration on certain parts of the body.

Tabby patterns

Mackerel tabby

Mackerel tabby

Also known as striped, the mackerel tabby pattern is the dominant wild-type which consists of well-defined, evenly spaced thin vertical stripes on the sides of the body which extend from the shoulder to the tail, and a paler ground colour.

Spotted tabby

Spotted tabby cat

The spotted coat is a variant of the mackerel tabby however a modifier gene breaks the characteristic mackerel stripes up into spots.

Classic tabby

Silver classic tabby

Also known as blotched or marbled, the classic tabby coat pattern consists of dark whorls on a lighter background. The ideal classic tabby will have a bullseye or oyster mark on each flank. The classic tabby is recessive to the mackerel tabby.

When viewed from above, the shoulders of a classic tabby have the appearance of a butterfly, and the classic is sometimes referred to as a butterfly tabby.

Oyster mark on classic tabby

 

Silver classic tabby

Ticked tabby

Ticked tabby cat

Also known as Abyssinian tabby, the ticked tabby has a gene which hides the tabby striping, leaving only the underlying agouti colouration. There is little to no striping on the body, but some faint fine barring may be present on the face, legs and tail, this may be more apparent if the cat is heterozygous, meaning its genetic makeup is Ta/Tm or Ta/tb

Tabby M

M marking on a tabby cat

All tabby cats, regardless of pattern or colour, have a characteristic M on their forehead and most will have additional lines around the eyes. The ticked Singapura has cheetah lines, which extend down the face from the inner corner of the eyes.

 

What cat breeds can have the tabby coat pattern?

  • Abyssinian
  • American bobtail
  • American curl
  • American shorthair
  • American wirehair
  • Australian mist
  • Bengal
  • British shorthair
  • Cornish Rex
  • Devon Rex
  • Egyptian Mau
  • Exotic
  • Maine coon
  • Munchkin
  • Ocicat
  • Oriental
  • Persian
  • Scottish fold
  • Scottish shorthair
  • Siamese (lynx point)
  • Singapura
  • Somali
  • Toyger

FAQ

Do tabby cats have striped skin?

Tabby cats do not have striped skin, interestingly, tigers do.

Are tabby cats a breed?

Tabby is a pattern and not a breed of cat.

Is the tabby gene dominant?

The tabby pattern is dominant over solid.

Are tabby cats male or female?

The tabby pattern can be found on both male and female cats, however, the ratio of ginger males to females is 3 -1. That is because the female must inherit the red gene from both mother and father for her to be ginger, if she inherits one red gene and one black gene (or brown), she will be tortoiseshell. Some females also carry the white spotting gene, which will make her a calico or a torbi. Tortoiseshell and calico cats have a solid colour (usually black), intermingled with red, others show both brown tabby and red tabby.

Why does the female have two tabby colours but not the male?

The female inherits a copy the red gene located on the X chromosome from one parent and a non-red gene from the other parent. X-inactivation or lyonization occurs during early development (around the eight-cell stage, but it can occur later) to prevent the expression of both X chromosomes. Every cell in the female has one active and one silenced X chromosome (known as a Barr body), and as the cells continue to divide, they will take the colour from those eight progenitor cells. The earlier the inactivation, the larger the patch of fur derived from each lyonized progenitor cell.

Lyonization in cats

Below is a photo of a calico cat, you can clearly see the brown and red tabby colours as well as the effects of the white spotting gene. Tortoiseshell and calico are rare in male cats because they only have one X chromosome, so they will either be ginger or non-ginger. Occasionally a male will be calico or tortoiseshell, the incidence is reported to be 1 in 3,000, these males are almost always infertile.

Calico domestic cat

 

Cat Themed Health and Awareness Days – January to December 2020

Cat health and awareness days 2020

January 2020

  • 2nd January – Happy Mew Years Day
  • 2nd January – National Pet Safety Travel Day (US)
  • 14th January – National Dress Up Your Cat Day (US)
  • 22nd January – Answer Your Cat’s Question Day
  • 24th January – Change a Pet’s Life Day
  • Glaucoma Awareness Month
  • Thyroid Awareness Month (US)

February 2020

  • 4th February – World Cancer Day
  • 14th February – Pet Theft Awareness Day
  • 18th – 24th February – National Drink Wine With Your Cat Week (US)
  • 20th February – National Love Your Pet Day (US)
  • 25th February – World Spay Day
  • 29th February – Rare Diseases Day
  • Pet Dental Health Month
  • National Cat Health Month
  • Responsible Pet Owners Month
  • National Prevent a Litter Month (US)
  • Spay/Neuter Awareness Month

March 2020

  • 8th March to 14th March – World Glaucoma Week
  • 12th March – World Kidney Day
  • 13th March – World Sleep Day
  • 20th March – World Oral Health Day
  • 28th March – Respect Your Cat Day
  • Responsible Pet Owners Month
  • Professional Pet Sitters Week (first week in March)
  • National Poison Prevention Week (third week in March)
  • Melanoma March (Australia)

April 2020

  • 1st April to 7th April – International Pooper Scooper Week
  • 4th April – World Stray Animals Day
  • 6th April – National Siamese Cat Day (US)
  • 7th April – World Health Day
  • 11th April – National Pet Day (US)
  • 17th April – World Hemophilia Day
  • 18th April – Pet Owners Day
  • 19th April – World Liver Day
  • 24th April – Hairball Awareness Day
  • 26th April – National Pets and Kids Day (US)
  • 27th April – World Veterinary Day
  • April 28 – National Pet Parents Day (US)
  • 30th April – National Adopt a Shelter Pet Day (US)
  • 30th April – National Tabby Day (US)
  • National Pet Month (US)
  • Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Month (ASPCA)
  • National Heartworm Awareness Month (US)
  • National Pet First Aid Awareness Month (US)
  • Oral Cancer Awareness Month

May 2020

  • 2nd May – World Asthma Day
  • 5th to 11th May – Be Kind to Animals Week
  • 11th May – National Animal Disaster Preparedness Day
  • 17th May – World Hypertension Day
  • 20th to 26th May – National Volunteer Week (US)
  • Thyroid Awareness Month (Australia)
  • Chip Your Pet Month
  • Arthritis Awareness Month
  • Food Allergy Action Month
  • National Pet Month (US)

June 2020

  • June 1 to 7 -Pet Appreciation Week
  • 4th June – World Hug Your Cat Day
  • 9th June – World Pet Memorial Day
  • 22th June – Take Your Cat to Work Day
  • 19th June – National Garfield the Cat Day
  • 24th June – Cat World Domination Day
  • Adopt a Cat Month
  • National Microchipping Month (US)
  • Cataract Awareness Month

July 2020

  • 5th July – National Pet Remembrance Day (UK)
  • 6th July – World Zoonoses Day
  • 14th to 20th July – National Diabetes Week (Australia)
  • 12th July – National Different Coloured Eyes Day (US)
  • 15th July – National Pet Fire Safety Day (US)
  • National Lost Pet Prevention Month (US)
  • National Pet Hydration Awareness Month (US)

August 2020

  • 8th August – World Cat Day
  • 15th August – Check the Chip Day
  • 17th August – National Black Cat Appreciation Day
  • 17th August – International Homeless Animals Day
  • 22nd August – National Take Your Cat to the Vet Day
  • 28th August – Rainbow Bridge Remembrance Day
  • National Immunization Awareness Month – (US)

September 2020

  • 1st September – Ginger Cat Appreciation Day
  • 13th September – National Pet Memorial Day (US)
  • 16th September to 22nd September – Adopt-a-Less-Adoptable-Pet Week
  • 23rd to 29th September – National Eye Health Week (US)
  • 25th September – International Ataxia Awareness Day
  • 27th September – World Deaf Day
  • 28th September – World Rabies Day
  • 29th September – World Heart Day
  • 29th September – Beckoning Cat Day
  • Pet Sitter Education Month
  • National Pet Memorial Month (US)
  • Happy Healthy Cat Month
  • Animal Pain Awareness Month

October 2020

  • 1st October – CATober – Universal birthday of shelter cats
  • 4th October – World Animal Day
  • 4th to 10th October – National Animal Shelter Appreciation Week (US)
  • 11th October – World Obesity Day
  • 13th to 19th October – National Veterinary Technicians Week (US)
  • 16th October – National Feral Cat Day (US)
  • 27th October – National Black Cat Day (US)
  • 29th October – National Cat Day (US)
  • Breast (Mammary Gland) Cancer Awareness Month
  • First week of November – National Animal Shelter Appreciation Week (US).
  • National Pet Wellness Month (US)
  • National Animal Safety and Protection Month (US)

November 2020

  • 17th November – National Black Cat Day (Italy)
  • Responsible Pet Owners Month
  • Adopt a Senior Pet Month
  • National Senior Pet Month (US)
  • Pet Cancer Awareness Month
  • Pet Diabetes Month

December 2020

  • 5th December – International Volunteer Day
  • 10th December –  International Animal Rights Day
  • 15th December – Cat Herders Day
  • Cat Lover’s Month

What To Do If You Find A Litter Of Kittens

 

At a glance

  • Wait and watch for several hours to see if the mother cat returns
  • Cared for kittens should appear clear, content and well-fed
  • Abandoned or orphaned kittens may look dirty, hungry, sickly and cry
  • Don’t take abandoned or orphaned kittens to a shelter unless you know they can care for neonates (under four weeks)
  • Kittens who have been abandoned or orphaned will need to be bottle-fed for the first five weeks when they start to wean

 

Spring is here which is the start of kitten season, which sees an increase in kitten births for stray, feral as well as unspayed pet cats.

Read moreWhat To Do If You Find A Litter Of Kittens

Halloween Dangers For Cats & How To Keep Them Safe

Halloween costume

Halloween is just around the corner and along with it comes risks to household pets as well as cause stress. We take a look at some of the possible dangers to cats and what you can do to ensure they stay safe and happy.

Halloween dangers to cats at a glance

  • Sweets and chocolate
  • Frequent visitors
  • Halloween decorations
  • Pumpkins
  • Candles
  • Glow sticks
  • Costumes

Sweets and chocolate

Halloween sweets can be dangerous to cats

Cats are generally more discriminate eaters compared to dogs, but it is still possible that a cat will be tempted by Halloween sweets (candy) and chocolate. Chocolate is of particular risk because it contains caffeine and theobromine, which are both toxic to cats — the darker the chocolate, the more toxic.

Xylitol is a sugar substitute which is found in several products including sugar-free gum and sweets, peanut butter and toothpaste. When consumed by dogs it causes a sudden release of insulin which can lead to hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), while it doesn’t appear to have the same effect on cats, we cannot be 100% sure, and it is, therefore, safer to keep xylitol away from all pets.

Ingested wrappers can cause an intestinal blockage which can be life-threatening.

What you can do:

Don’t leave Halloween sweets lying around, store in an airtight container and don’t give sweets or chocolate to cats. There are plenty of safe cat-friendly treats which are safer.

Halloween decorations

Halloween decorations

Strings, ribbons, fake cobwebs, balloons can all cause choking and gastrointestinal obstructions if ingested. Linear foreign bodies such as string and ribbon can also become lodged under the tongue while the free end travels down the gastrointestinal tract. The GI tract creeps up the object, which causes them to fold in on themselves, which leads to an obstruction.

Pumpkin itself isn’t toxic to cats and has many health benefits, but pumpkin which has been sitting around for days or weeks can cause food poisoning if ingested.

What you can do:

Don’t leave ribbon and string lying around, and look for non-toxic decorations.

Discard pumpkin displays as soon as Halloween is over and if possible, display them in a part of the house or garden the cat can’t access.

Candles

jack-o-lantern

Candles in jack-o-lanterns pose a fire hazard if the cat accidentally knocks it over or can burn the cat if he or she gets too close.

What you can do:

Place jack-o-lanterns out of reach of cats and always supervise cats around lit candles.

Visitors

Trick or treaters

Trick or treaters or visitors generally aren’t a threat but can stress cats out. If people are knocking on the door frequently, there is also an increased risk that the cat can escape.

What you can do:

If you expect trick or treaters or are having a party, set up a room for the cat with food and water bowls and a comfy bed. Put a note on the door to remind visitors not to open it.

Glow sticks

Glow sticks cause mild toxicity in cats

Glow sticks contain dibutyl phthalate, which is a colourless, oily liquid with a bitter taste. The Pet Poison Helpline, list glow stick jewellery as mild to moderately toxic. The ASPCA states that one glow in the dark necklace contained 3 ml of liquid which was primarily dibutyl phthalate. A 4 kg cat who ingested the entire contents would consume less than 1/10th of the rat oral lethal dose.

While the risks are low, glow in the dark sticks can cause oral, eye and skin irritation which can cause drooling, gagging and retching.

What you can do:

Never let a cat play with a glow in the dark stick and dispose of in the outside garbage.

If the cat does ingest some of the contents of a glow stick, rinse the area well with clean water and contact your veterinarian or pet poison helpline.

Halloween Halloween costume

I am not a fan of dressing up cats unless they enjoy it, which most cats don’t, but if your cat doesn’t mind, make sure he or she is supervised to prevent possible injury from chewing off part of the costume which can cause choking or a gastrointestinal obstruction, or getting stuck while trying to remove the costume.

Always make sure the costume fits the cat well and does not interfere with vision, breathing or cut off circulation.

What you can do:

Check costumes before you put them on the cat to ensure there are no loose parts which can easily be chewed off.

Only dress the cat for a short period, and supervise at all times.

Don’t force a cat to wear a costume if he or she doesn’t want to. Planning ahead can help to desensitise the cat. Place one item of clothing on for a short amount of time, repeat over the coming days and weeks.

Are black cats at risk around Halloween?

Some shelters won’t adopt black cats in the period leading up to Halloween for fear of cruelty to the cat.

According to Snopes:

Interviews with shelter managers and a search of regional newspapers turned up nearly a dozen reports of black cat mutilations over the past four Halloweens. Cat bones and body parts were found near a Teterboro, N.J shelter. In Wausau, Wis., a black cat was shaved, and an occult insignia was carved into its side. A black cat was burned alive in Doylestown, Ohio. In Stanford, Fla., authorities found one black cat beheaded and three others with knife wounds.

Having said that, cruelty to cats can and does occur year-round, which is why it is always safer to keep cats confined indoors. If you do have an inside/outside cat, keep it inside to be on the safe side.