Cat Project Archives for October 26-30, 2015.
26, 2015 - "Cats are smarter than dogs. You can't
get eight cats to pull a sled through snow." - Jeff
Gratuitous Kute Kittiness: "I fits so I sits."
Mewvie: "Got my tiger!"
Art: Pumpkin kittens.
by Jennifer Viegas
Cats have a much more refined sense of taste than previously thought,
with new research showing that felines are highly sensitive to bitter
The discovery could help explain why cats so often turn up their noses
at certain foods that may be fortified with bitter-tasting vitamins and
minerals. The findings, published in the journal PLOS ONE, also provide
intriguing clues on how sense of taste evolved in all mammals, including
“Cats are known as picky eaters,” said Monell Center molecular biologist
and study lead author Peihua Jiang. “Now that we know that they can taste
different bitters, our work may lead to better formulations of cat food that
eliminate the bitter off-taste associated with certain flavors and nutrients.”
For the study, Jiang and colleagues examined DNA from domestic cats and
identified 12 different genes for cat bitter receptors. The scientists
then probed the receptor cells to see if one or more of 25 bitter-tasting
chemicals activated them.
The researchers confirmed that at least seven of the identified 12 receptors
did indeed have the ability to detect one or more bitter chemicals. It
is likely that the other five receptors have this ability too, but that
they may respond to bitter compounds not included in this particular
Prior research determined that cats are unable to detect sugars. Other
carnivores, such as sea lions and spotted hyenas, also lost their ability
to taste sweet things. These mammals might have a heightened ability
to detect salty and savory flavors.
Cats also seem to go for calorie-dense foods and foods with different
textures, helping to explain why savory cat treats with slightly crunchy
exteriors and soft interiors appear to be a universal feline fave.
A long-standing theory has held that the ability to taste bitter flavors
evolved to protect humans and other animals from ingesting poisonous
plants. That is now being questioned since, aside from the occasional
chomping on kitty grass, cats go for meat and not plant products.
“Alternate physiological roles for bitter receptors may be an important
driving force molding bitter receptor number and function,” co-author Gary
Beauchamp said. “For example, recent Monell-related findings show that
bitter receptors also are involved in protecting us against internal toxins,
including bacteria related to respiratory diseases.”
He added that “bitter taste could exist to minimize intake of toxic
compounds from skin and other components of certain prey species, such
as invertebrates, reptiles and amphibians.”
In the study, the researchers also point out that other mammals have
multiple receptors dedicated to tasting bitter flavors. Dogs have 15,
ferrets have 14, giant pandas have 16 and polar bears have 13.
27, 2015 - "It was not I who was teaching my cat to
gather rosebuds, but she who was teaching me." - Irving
Gratuitous Kittiness: "I faid, I haff a fanket in fy fouf."
Mewvie: When Cole met Marmalade
Feline Art: Kliban cats on parade.
28, 2015 - "Who can believe that there is no soul
behind those luminous eyes!" - Theophile Gautier
Gratuitous Kittiness: Halloween decoration or cat toy?
Mewvie: When is a fish TOO big?
Art: Ted told everyone his costume was made from scratch.
by Julia Calderone
Gaze at a Lykoi cat and you might have flashbacks to the 1980s music
video for Thriller, in which Michael Jackson morphs into a werewolf.
This new breed of cat, which strongly resembles an itty bitty mythical
shapeshifter, has this wolf-like appearance because of a mistake in its
This mistake has interrupted — or in some cases stopped altogether — hair
growth, leaving Lykois with a quintessential scraggly and patchy appearance.
While Lykois don't resemble the stereotypically cute and cuddly feline
that melts the hearts and minds of ardent cat lovers, breeders are starting
to see an uptick in interest in them, according to science writer Ian
Chant in an article for Nautilus.
In the process, they are perpetuating a mutation that, for better or
worse, would've naturally been weeded out of the cat population via natural
The Lykoi's mutation was not bred specifically, but arose naturally from
the domestic short-haired cat. Husband and wife breeders Johnny and Brittney
Gobble started the bloodline in 2011.
And while we're not sure exactly which gene the mutation occurred in,
according to Chant, it's likely a region of the genetic code that is
responsible for hair growth. This is why the Lykoi is named after the
Greek-derived word for werewolf, "lycanthrope."
While Lykoi's are born with an overcoat of hair, they often will never
grow hair around the eyes, nose, muzzle, and toes. They also go through
cycles of completely losing their hair for months at a time.
Despite their freakish appearance, though, they're friendly, curious,
and highly affectionate, not unlike a dog.
While this relatively new breed of cat appears to be healthy, breeders
are cautious about potential issues arising from their sparse coat. A
build up of oil on the skin can make them vulnerable to ear infections
and mites, Chant wrote for Nautilus, though Johnny Gobble told Tech Insider
that this doesn't seem to be the case. They are also extremely susceptible
to the cold, which would make them unlikely to survive a winter in the
And breeding them is especially challenging because this mutation is
recessive, meaning that an offspring would need two copies of the mangled
gene in order to look this way. Therefore, unless you're breeding two
Lykois together, you never know if a normal-looking cat contains the
mutation until they birth a Lykoi.
As we've seen with other selectively-bred animals — such as micropigs,
pugs, and hairless cats — novelty animals are often cultivated
for their looks, rather than their health. But while some pet breeds
have health defects, Brittney Gobble says that she and her husband are
actively monitoring the Lykoi for health, and are not breeding them specifically
for their looks.
" The Lykoi is a truly unique gene that so far shows no health issues or
concerns, and seems to have a stronger immune system then many of the kittens
we see in pedigree and shelter rescue litters," Gobble told Tech Insider.
Because of this, similar to mythical folklore, the breed of cat isn't
likely to die out any time soon.
29, 2015 - "Cats always know whether people like or
dislike them. They do not always care enough to do anything
about it." - Winifred Carriere
Gratuitous Kittiness: "My werewolf loves me."
Mewvie: Feeding the ferals.
The Feline Arts: Best. Cat costume. Evah!
30, 2015 - "There is, incidently, no way of talking
about cats that enables one to come off as a sane person." -
Gratuitous Kittiness: "You have your thrown, I have mine."
Mewvie: Taking the perfect Halloween picture.
Art: Have a cute little Halloween.
be a black cat at Halloween.
by Rachel Rodriguez
It's Halloween, and for many of us, that conjures up a familiar image.
The moon rises above silhouetted trees, and the wind whips the last of
their fall leaves to the ground. Somewhere in the distance, an owl hoots.
And, to complete the spooky picture, a black cat dashes through the frame,
pausing to arch its back and let out a loud meow before disappearing
into the bushes.
This time of year especially, black cats can get a bad rap. Some people
avoid them because of superstition, and there's a widespread belief that
they're less adoptable, in part because they don't show up well in photographs.
Still, plenty of people -- like those in the gallery above -- find them
to be ideal companions.
Nobody is quite sure how the superstition of black cats bringing bad
luck originated. In fact, in some parts of the world, such as the British
Isles, black cats historically represented good luck. And just as we
don't agree on our black cat superstitions, animal rescue workers are
divided on whether the stereotype causes dark-furred kitties to face
extra hurdles in finding forever homes.
The UK's Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals estimates
that around 70% of cats in its care at any one time are black, or black
Reasons range, they say, from their sleek coats, which can lack distinctive
markings, to the challenge of photographing their velvety black fur,
which can make it difficult for shelters to advertise available cats
-- and discourage snap-happy potential owners. An article claiming that
black cats get abandoned because they don't look good in photos even
went viral over the summer.
"The RSPCA rehoming teams have heard all kinds of excuses about why they
don't want a black cat; from 'It's too scary for my daughter who will only be
able to see its eyes in the dark; it will frighten her' and 'we won't be able
to see it in the garden as there are other black cats and we won't recognize
it or we might trip over it!'" the organization wrote in a statement.
Stateside, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
believes widespread prejudice against black cats is a myth, saying that
the large number of black cats in shelters is because there are simply
more of them in the general feline population. Emily Weiss, the organization's
vice president of shelter research and development, explores the numbers
in the United States on the ASPCA blog, and concludes the following:
"Black cat euthanasia rate is a bit higher than the others at 30%, with
gray cats being the next highest at 28%. White cats do not fare much better at
26% euthanasia rate."
Still, many shelter staffers and volunteers say that, in their experience,
people seem to ask for colors other than black.
" There definitely is a preference for other colors in my opinion," said
Samantha Shelton, president and CEO of Furkids, the largest no-kill animal shelter
in Georgia. "We have adopted out more than 10,000 cats and time and time
again, black cats are always overlooked."
Shelton and many other shelter owners try to encourage their adoption
by sometimes reducing or eliminating adoption fees for black animals. "We
find it has successfully helped bring attention to them and give people
something to think about; they tend to give a black animal a second glance
when they know the fee is waived or reduced," she said.
Things get even trickier (no pun intended) around Halloween. Some shelters
won't adopt out black cats at all during October, fearing that the kitties
could be used as Halloween props and then abandoned -- or, worse, that
they make "an easy target for Halloween pranksters who commit violent
acts against unsuspecting kitties," says PETA.
Whether or not black cats face hurdles in getting adopted, they sure
do make their doting owners feel lucky.