Yes, all kittens are born with blue eyes. Most cat lovers know that kittens are born with their eyes fused shut until seven to ten days post-birth and when they do open, the irises are blue. The colour in a cat’s irises comes from melanin, the same pigment which gives the coat its colour.
Taking a pet to the veterinarian can be a stressful time for the pet as well as the pet owner. There are ways we can make the trip easier for our pet, ourselves, other pets and their owners and the veterinary staff.
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.
Cleaning litter trays is one of the less enjoyable aspects of sharing a home with a cat, but a necessary one. Dirty litter trays not only smell unpleasant to us but our cats as well. Proper litter tray husbandry is vital, dirty litter trays can lead to inappropriate elimination.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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
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
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.
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.
The spotted coat is a variant of the mackerel tabby however a modifier gene breaks the characteristic mackerel stripes up into spots.
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.
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/Tmor Ta/tb
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?
Siamese (lynx point)
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.
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.
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
Sweets and chocolate
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.
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 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.
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 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.
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.
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.