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Infinite Cat Project Archives for October 26-30, 2015.

Mewsings: October 26, 2015 - "Cats are smarter than dogs. You can't get eight cats to pull a sled through snow." - Jeff Valdez

little cat's feet

Gratuitous Kute Kittiness: "I fits so I sits."

Cat Mewvie: "Got my tiger!"

comic cats lick and bite

Today's Kitty Komic

pumpkin kittens

Surprise Kat Art: Pumpkin kittens.

cats taste bitter food

What Cats Taste.
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 flavors.

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 humans.

“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 study.

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.

Mewsings: October 27, 2015 - "It was not I who was teaching my cat to gather rosebuds, but she who was teaching me." - Irving Townsend

cat with blanket in its mouth

Gratuitous Kittiness: "I faid, I haff a fanket in fy fouf."

Cat Mewvie: When Cole met Marmalade

mona lisa vs the red dot

Today's Kitty Komic

Rocky, by Tracy Butler

Feline Art: Kliban cats on parade.

Mewsings: October 28, 2015 - "Who can believe that there is no soul behind those luminous eyes!" - Theophile Gautier

fluffy cat on post

Gratuitous Kittiness: Halloween decoration or cat toy?

Cat Mewvie: When is a fish TOO big?

back to the future cat comic

Today's Kitty Komic

cat tree costume

Surprise Kitty Art: Ted told everyone his costume was made from scratch.

lykoi cat

Meet the Lykoi.
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 DNA.

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 selection.

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 wild.

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.

Mewsings: October 29, 2015 - "Cats always know whether people like or dislike them. They do not always care enough to do anything about it." - Winifred Carriere

cat with werewolf

Gratuitous Kittiness: "My werewolf loves me."

Cat Mewvie: Feeding the ferals.

eating with cats

Today's Kitty Komic

cheshire cat costume

The Feline Arts: Best. Cat costume. Evah!

Mewsings: October 30, 2015 - "There is, incidently, no way of talking about cats that enables one to come off as a sane person." - Dan Greenberg

cat on throne

Gratuitous Kittiness: "You have your thrown, I have mine."

Cat Mewvie: Taking the perfect Halloween picture.

cat murder dreams

Today's Kitty Komic

happy halloween kitten

Surprise Kat Art: Have a cute little Halloween.

black halloween cat

To 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 and white.

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.


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