More black cats than they look – Red Bluff Daily News

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We all know black cats are associated with Halloween, witchcraft, and bad luck, but these furballs are way more than you know or believe. I recently brought my three foster black kittens back to Tehama County Animal Care Center, where they already have a number of black cats available for adoption. Due to preconceptions, especially during this month, the hope that they will all quickly find a loving home forever is probably a foolish dream. But being a dreamer and never one to give up on defending the underdog, or “undercat” in this case, I hope I can provide some additional insight into these amazing darker felines.

By looking at the color of a cat, is it possible to tell if the animal will be friendly or aggressive? Since the cats won’t be talking about the topic, the researchers turned to their guardians for their opinion. Following the comments received, researchers at the University of California at Berkeley published a study (http://news.berkeley.edu/2012/10/23/cat-color/) in the October issue 2012 from Anthrozoos, the official journal of the International Society of Anthrozoology (http://www.isaz.net/isaz/). According to her, orange cats were widely regarded as friendly, white cats as distant, tortoiseshell cats as intolerant, and black cats were characterized as having less extreme character traits.

A few years later, the University of California Davis conducted another similar type of study. This survey asked owners to rate their cat’s level of aggression at home, during handling, and during vet visits. The most aggressive cats in all three settings were females. Gray and white cats exhibited the highest levels of aggression during vet visits, while calicots were more likely to get irritated. Interestingly, black, white, gray, and tabby cats were ranked lowest on the aggressiveness scale in all settings. (http://www.techtimes.com/articles/99474/20151026/cat-color-may-hint-how-aggressive-it-is-felines-with-black-white-or-gray-fur-make-best -pet.htm).

In the previous paragraph, black and tabby cats were classified as the least aggressive. Could the reason they are similar be because most black cats are tabby cats in disguise? The A gene is responsible for the patterns in cats. The dominant version of the gene, A or agouti, creates a “tick”, or band of colors, on a hair. This is what causes the tabby pattern. The recessive version of the gene, whether or not agouti, creates a solid colored hair. Since the A is dominant and a cat only needs to inherit it from a parent to achieve the tabby pattern, most black cats are tabbys.

For a cat to be solid black, it must inherit the recessive gene (a) from both parents. If the tabby gene is not completely suppressed, one should be able to see ghostly tabby stripes on a black cat. In these cats, you can see tabby stripes on the tail or paws, or the classic “M” pattern on the head, if the cat is sitting in direct sunlight. For more information on the agouti gene, read “Cat Coat Genetics 2.0” (http://labgenvet.ca/en/cat-genetics-2-0-colours/), or “Basic Genetics as Revealed by Cats” ( http: //ib.berkeley.edu/courses/ib162/Week3a.htm).

There are 22 recognized breeds that can have the appearance of a solid black coloring, but the only true all-black feline is the Bombay cat. It was developed in the 1950s by crossing Sable Burmese with black American Shorthairs in an attempt to create a cat that resembled a miniature black panther. So when you see a black cat in the shelter, there’s a good chance it’s not a purebred Bombay, but the feline version of a mutt, affectionately referred to as a moggy.

Moggy is a British term that is not generally used in the States. The origin of the word is debated. Some believe the term is derived from the classic “M” marks on the forehead of a tabby. However, in the United States, you are more likely to hear a moggy cat called a Domestic Shorthair (DSH), Domestic Mediumhair (DMH), or Domestic Longhair (DLH). It is, in essence, the closest thing to a “breed” that is given to a cat without a pedigree.

Whatever name you give them, we can advocate for their non-genealogical background. “Hybrid vigor”, or a combination of the best genetic material from a diverse gene pool, often leads to a lower risk of inherited diseases in purebred animals. In fact, researchers at the National Institutes of Health (https://www.nih.gov/) have found that genetic mutations associated with black fur are also linked to a stronger immune system. For example, they are more resistant to FIV (feline immunodeficiency virus, aka feline HIV) than other cats. These mutations affect the same genes that offer resistance to HIV in humans. So, scientists hope that once the feline genome is mapped for black cats and panthers, it will potentially provide a clue for a cure for human HIV.

Each cat has its own unique personality, but I’ve always thought tabby cats are ‘bombproof’ and have noticed similar traits in our cute brunettes. They are able to adapt quickly to changing circumstances and often heat up quickly towards people in general. They are often friendly and outgoing, even in the very stressful environment of shelters. So, why not put your preconceptions about black cats aside and head to Tehama County Animal Care Center, where you might find one that will be a perfect addition to your home.

Ronnie Casey has volunteered with the Tehama County Animal Care Center since moving in 2011. A retired RN, she works to help animals in need in Tehama County. She can be reached at [email protected].


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