At one point, cat breeders assumed that by adding two cats together they would know which kittens would be produced and most of the time they were surprised by the results. This was because a cat’s coat color was thought to be dictated by a single gene, but modern developments in genetic testing have shown that there are actually three genes that work together to produce the final coat color and pattern. .
Spots and stripes
Using the tabby as an example, there are four main variations of the tabby pattern; the stripes, stained, marked and stained. Each of these patterns is caused by the genes that the cat receives from its parents. One gene tells whether a cat will have stripes or spots, while another can turn those stripes into spots. This means that if the cat does not have the gene that causes the spot, it will remain striped.
To use another example given by The Tech: if you have a wall that is painted red and then you paint it with red stripes, it will stay red. However, if you have a black and red striped wall and you paint red stripes in the opposite direction, you will get black dots. Going back to the tabby patterns, the spotted cat is the red wall and another spot gene is another pot of red paint. But if you add the stain gene to the striped cat, you will get stains just as you did with the black and red striped wall.
A gene or two?
Cats, like people, receive two copies of each gene, one from each parent, so this means that there are different combinations available in siblings. Using the scratched and smudged example, there are three possibilities: scratched / scratched, smudged / smudged, and scratched / smudged.
Now, which of these genes is the dominant one? In genetics, this refers to a gene that is stronger than another gene and is therefore considered the dominant one. In this scenario, the striped is the dominant gene, so in the striped / spotted combination, the cat will be striped as it is the dominant gene.
Armed with this knowledge, cat breeders began to be able to predict which kitten would come from a certain pair of cats. While the combination will have random results, so there is no way to predict that the third kitten born will have a certain pattern, it does allow you to calculate the overall proportions of kittens involved. For example, with the striped / spot combination, there is a 3: 1 ratio, which means that three out of four kittens will have stripes and only one will have spots.
Far from the tabby pattern, geneticists have managed to recognize a variety of genes that lead to different colors and patterns in different cat breeds. Here are some of the main ones:
The genetic code C refers to an enzyme called tyrosine that is the first step in the production of pigments. When it is recessive, it causes albinism in cats and also what is called temperature-sensitive albinos. This results in colors such as Siamese and Burmese and is also known as the Colorpoint pattern. It results in dark colored hair in the coldest parts of the body, such as the tail, legs, face and ears, while the warmer parts of the body are of a lighter shade.
The genetic code W is known as the white masking gene and it prevents cells from producing normal pigmentation. This creates cats like pure white cats and solid white patterns.
The genetic code S is called white spotting or peep spotting and creates a pattern like the white blaze on the face, a white bib, the tuxedo pattern, or spotted paws. It is also the reason for the mitten pattern found in breeds such as Birman and Snowshoe.
When a cat has the red (O) gene, the black color (eumelanin) of the coat is replaced by red (pheomelanin). It is located on the X chromosome, so male cats only have one version of this gene, resulting in a red coat when it is dominant and a non-orange coat when it is recessive. Female cats get two versions of the gene, so when one parent has dominant O and the other parent is recessive (Oo), the result is a hawksbill cat with some red areas and some non-red areas.
These are just a few basics of cat genetics to give an idea of how the color and pattern of the cat’s parents can affect the resulting kittens they produce. Or you can wait ahead and get a nice surprise when those beautiful kitties show up!