A Wild Cat x A Domestic Cat = A Hybrid Cat
February 16, 2013 4:25 PM   Subscribe

So what happens to F1 through F3?
posted by basicchannel at 4:40 PM on February 16, 2013 [3 favorites]

Ocelot's are fox eared assholes apparently.
posted by humanfont at 4:44 PM on February 16, 2013

So these cats go to 11?
posted by maudlin at 4:47 PM on February 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

Domestic cat × ferret = genet (Genetta genetta)
posted by Nomyte at 4:47 PM on February 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

So what happens to F1 through F3?

Breeding stock. They're treated well, and sometimes some breeders adopt them out, but...yeah.

My ex was seriously into Savannahs while we were dating (he actually edited the Wiki page, in fact) and had "visitation rights" with the Savannah he and his last ex had adopted when they were a couple. Rupert was really pretty - the same markings as the savannah in the clips, but instead of tan as the main coat color, Rupert's coat was this rich russet orange-brown; and big green eyes. A really, really pretty cat.

And Rupert hated my guts. He wasn't there very often, but when he was there, and I came over for a visit, Rupert would either sit right in the middle of the floor staring at me intently or would go hide in the closet, and if I got within five feet of him he would glare and hiss at me, and once or twice even made a feint at me like he was going to attack if I got any closer. One time Rupert even parked himself in front of the bathroom right when I was heading in to go pee, which got pretty awkward for a few minutes.

My ex would always try to calm Rupert down - picking him up and cuddling him, and encouraging me to try to pet him. And one time I actually successfully got one grudging little head-butt from Rupert, and we considered it a major milestone. But after a while, Rupert would be back to hissing at me.

We actually laughed it off; my ex was pretty smitten with Rupert as it was (he kept tropical fish, and every time Rupert was over he had to rig up his tank with this cover he'd made out of tinfoil and cereal boxes, to keep Rupert from going fishing), and I just chalked it up to him being way more used to my ex'es ex having moved out and him not being used to me (seriously, the look on that critter's face reminded me of a little annoying kid looking at their dad's new girlfriend and saying, "you're not my real mommy!").

But then after we broke up and I was talking with a mutual friend about this, and mentioned that I'd never won Rupert over, our friend just cracked up. "Rupert did that to everyone," he said. "He's half feral, remember? That cat was just evil."

And yeah. Gorgeous, but the nastiest cat I've ever met.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:48 PM on February 16, 2013 [8 favorites]

Oh, one cool thing Rupert did, though - Savannahs sometimes have this funky chirping noise they make, like this. I was told that when Rupert did this to me it was a good sign. I'm not so sure.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:52 PM on February 16, 2013 [3 favorites]

I'm pretty sure that's cat swearing.
posted by Toekneesan at 4:54 PM on February 16, 2013

Regular ol' kitties bring challenges aplenty, as AskMe so often demonstrates. Adding superpowers like jumping 12 feet straight up? And pretty much guaranteed spraying and pooping issues? Ergh. They're pretty, but my my visceral reaction is summed up most eloquently by this gentleman.
posted by Lou Stuells at 4:55 PM on February 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

dammit I was just leaving to go do errands

now how am I gonna get groceries when all I can do is sit and listen to kitties talk to their babies and to each other
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 4:56 PM on February 16, 2013 [3 favorites]

I totally read Lou Stuells' comment as "Adding superpowers like jumping 12 feet straight up [while] pretty much guaranteed spraying and pooping". Because everyone craves an apartment done in Early Cat Arse.
posted by maudlin at 4:57 PM on February 16, 2013 [3 favorites]

Our cat is a bengal, and he is the best. Like, all the best features of a domestic cat personality, very people-focused, smart as hell, calm in the right situations, zany rocket cat in the usual goofy cat way, awesomely athletic, beautiful, soft, as tidy as a normal housecat. He has a very wide range of vocalizations.

We inherited him (i.e., we didn't choose him) and I was a little apprehensive when we first brought him home because I've known another bengal who had some problem behaviors (rogue peeing) - but even so, she was still incredibly charming and people-focused. My worries were baseless in the case of this cat. So much so that I am now apprehensive about getting a second cat because they might not be as good as he is.
posted by LobsterMitten at 5:02 PM on February 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

I wouldn't put it past them, honestly. Even my sweet little wee girl will climb to the highest pinnacle to create a Niagara Falls of barf, when she feels moved by the spirit of hairball.
posted by Lou Stuells at 5:03 PM on February 16, 2013 [4 favorites]

Named after the Leopard Cat’s species, P. bengalensis, not the distant Tiger relative

My assumption was they were from Bengal, the location, much as Siamese, Burmese and Abyssinians have some connection to those locations to a certain degree.

I have heard the legend that Pixie Bobs are Bobcats X domestic cats, although I find that a dubious concept. They certainly are about the least wild cats one could meet, outside of Ragdolls. Incredibly playful, though. Went to a cat show here in Seattle a few years back and the judge waved a puffball wand at one Pixiebob kitten being showed and ended up presenting said kitten to the crowd in his hands to show its lines with its jaws clamped on said puffball to the delight and laughter of everyone present.
posted by y2karl at 5:18 PM on February 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

posted by Artw at 5:35 PM on February 16, 2013 [5 favorites]

My older cat talks to me exactly like that Bengal does to her kittens. I'm not entirely sure what this means.
posted by restless_nomad at 5:52 PM on February 16, 2013

25% = Dumb
50% = Pretty damn dumb

The question is which external pressure forces cats down to the bottom 25th percentile? Or is there a lack of upwards pressure? Or is it pointless to fight such evolutionary stupidity (docility)? Intelligent Resign?
posted by herrdoktor at 6:11 PM on February 16, 2013

All I know about servals was Johnny Morris making an appalling pun about politeness while he was pretending to voice one on Animal Magic. You know, civil servals.
posted by scruss at 6:21 PM on February 16, 2013

Wait - haven't we already domesticated cats? So isn't keeping wild cats as pets, and making bizarre hybrids, kind of a stupid, asshole move?
posted by ChuraChura at 6:57 PM on February 16, 2013 [5 favorites]

Asian Leopard cat sounds like it's FULL OF LASERS.
posted by Medieval Maven at 7:07 PM on February 16, 2013 [5 favorites]

Didn't stop us with dogs.
posted by maryr at 7:12 PM on February 16, 2013

Asian Leopard kitten looks like the perfect illustration for the famous "Tiny Kitten Thinks Of Nothing But Murder All Day"
posted by maryr at 7:12 PM on February 16, 2013

I agree that keeping wild cats as pets is wrong, and that in consequence we probably shouldn't allow the breeding of hybrids by private individuals without some kind of licensing or supervision to ensure the wild cats are being treated properly.

So - I agree we should stop the market in these hybrid cats.

Just to clear up a common confusion though -- the hybrids (that is, the F4+ cats that are sold as pets by the breeders) are basically domestic cats with wild coloring and a few physical differences. In temperament they're bred to be domestic cats. So the hybrid kitten one might bring home as a pet is not a wild animal being held in captivity. (As I said above, there are other objections to allowing the market in hybrids, but the idea that the F4+ hybrids themselves are suffering or being held in species-inappropriate conditions is incorrect.)
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:16 PM on February 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

This kind of thing is really dangerous. A while back there was a fad for having dog-wolf and dog-coyote hybrids as pets. But they're dangerous. They are wild animals, and they can and will react like wild animals.

It strike me that this is exactly the same. Dogs and Cats have gone through millenia of selective breeding by humans to eliminate vicious traits, and that's why they're safe as pets. When you breed back to wild strains, you reintroduce the traits that we spent thousands of years eliminating.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 7:18 PM on February 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

But for every F4 cat, there are four generations of cats who *were* living in inappropriate conditions. The whole thing makes me very angry (especially looking at people on that message board saying "But I've had monkeys, so a big cat TOTALLY won't be a problem."), but I'll bow out now.
posted by ChuraChura at 7:21 PM on February 16, 2013 [7 favorites]

I used to cat-sit a pair of Bengals. They were siblings, but not from the same litter; one looked more like a typical domestic tabby, and the other had a more leopard-like pattern and face shape. They were friendly and talkative, and no more trouble than any other cat, although they did seem to really enjoy knocking small objects over.

Other than appearance, they may as well have been generic mixed-breed cats. There's really no good reason to breed or buy them.
posted by Metroid Baby at 7:33 PM on February 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

While my kitty is just a generic moggy (I guess, although sometimes she pretends to be a savage wild cat), she makes the growling sound in the F1 Savannah video. She does it when she sees another cat (or random rustling in the bushes that might be another cat). Freaked me the hell out the first time she did it. I've never heard a cat make that noise before.

She also sounds a lot like those Oriental Shorthairs when she sees a bird.
posted by lollusc at 7:43 PM on February 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Last September we "adopted" an a kitten abandoned at a park (someone was feeding dozens of dumped cats in wild area of a park). Out vet informed us that Itty Bitty is a bengal, she basically looks like a tabby but is spotted, including her stomach. Interestingly, she is fearless around our dogs, who will gleefully and viciously chase our large orange tiger-stripped male cat. In contrast they ignore her, and let her play in the yard with them. In fact, she will often attack them, with no response at all from the dogs. I've seen her leap on to the wagging tail of Totoro, our Akbash/Akita mix and do the claw/bite/kick-with-the-rear-legs combo, while the dog wags away, flinging her side to side, apparently completely oblivious.
posted by 445supermag at 7:47 PM on February 16, 2013 [3 favorites]

There are breeds like the Egyptian Mau that have exotic features like wild animals, but are more domesticated, and a stable species after thousands of years. My favorite cat (other than my own) was an Egyptian that belonged to a friend, it was extremely skittish and wild and would hide from everyone. But I tamed it and it loved me, the owner was astonished when she saw it would sit in my lap.
posted by charlie don't surf at 7:47 PM on February 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

But for every F4 cat, there are four generations of cats who *were* living in inappropriate conditions.

Yes, and that is bad, and I agree with you that people shouldn't be breeding these cats.
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:50 PM on February 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

They are very pretty but a really terrible idea.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 8:44 PM on February 16, 2013

Chocolate Pickle: This kind of thing is really dangerous. A while back there was a fad for having dog-wolf and dog-coyote hybrids as pets. But they're dangerous. They are wild animals, and they can and will react like wild animals.

It seems like a key difference would be that a dog-wolf is large enough to think attacking you might be a good idea, or to do real damage in a quick fear-provoked reaction. No hybrid cat species (referring to the cross-breeds with domestic cats) ever approaches that size. You might get a nasty bite or a few nasty scratches, but then it'll run away. It's not going to hang around and maul you like a dog-wolf might.
posted by Mitrovarr at 9:02 PM on February 16, 2013

My F4 Bengal is vicious; she might lick you to death.
posted by entropicamericana at 9:06 PM on February 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Nomyte: Domestic cat × ferret = genet (Genetta genetta)

Actually, this isn't true. A domestic cat,
Felidae Felinae Felis catus, also known as Felis catus domestica can't breed with either the black-footed ferret, Mustelida Mustela nigripes or the common ferret, Mustela putorius furo. The genet--there are a bunch of species-- but, the one you referred to is the common genet--is classified as Viverridae Genetta genetta.

None of these families can interbreed. The Genetta cat is a domestic cat bred to look like a genet, but some of the breeders want to make their animals sound more exotic, so they imply the cats are crossed with genets. The original breeder of the Genetta is quite up front about how she bred them.

What I find fascinating is that you can take two cats with totally different appearance--the lion and the tiger, and can cross them, presume becase they're both Panthera. But you take animals that look quite similar, and either they won't cross with viable young, or the young are sterile.
posted by BlueHorse at 9:29 PM on February 16, 2013

I thought ligers were generally sterile?
posted by maryr at 9:50 PM on February 16, 2013

Those Savannah and Serengeti cats are sure beautiful, but when a cat gets too big it sets off my "Ahh, cougar!" alarm, because it's hard to think of them as just pets. Living with those big critters would take a lot of getting used to.
posted by Kevin Street at 10:07 PM on February 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

My sister has a Bengal who she found as a alley stray in the city. He was less than a year old, he didn't have a chip, was infected with mites, and he was starving. He was presumably abandoned as a kitten because he's a bit small for the breed.

He is gorgeous, intelligent, athletic, affectionate, talkative, and more than a bit of a pain in the ass. He can jump very high, even as a runt, and he's not above knocking things off of shelves when he's really bored. And the adorable vocalizing is slightly less adorable when you're trying to talk on the phone and the cat decides you're talking to him instead.

But he's certainly no more of a challenge than some regular domestic cats I've seen (and for that matter, owned). He doesn't spray. He isn't mean. He gets along fine with other animals (well, except for fish, which he likes to eat, and is quite a bit more clever about actually catching than regular housecats).

And he's NOT dangerous. Good heavens. I've felt more in danger of injury from certain human toddlers than from that cat.

He's a living example, though, of what can happen when people attempt to make "fancy" animal breeds: what happens to the kittens that don't make the cut? I worry that in being cast out to fend for himself on the street he was actually one of the luckier ones.
posted by BlueJae at 10:34 PM on February 16, 2013 [3 favorites]

There's a zoo near me that puts on a show with various sorts of wild cats. They are really paranoid about them escaping: you pass through double doors and they seal the place up before bringing the cats in. They said that if these larger species interbred with our local feral domestic cats they'd probably destroy what's left of Australia's indigenous animal population.

And yes, people have suggested that they "retire" them.
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:43 PM on February 16, 2013

Each species of cat apparently has its own variety of toxoplasma, presumably with distinct effects on their behavior and personality.

I assume queens pass their strain of toxoplasma to their kittens, and that breeders generally find it easier to work with a domesticated female and a feral male when producing their hybrids, so I'd be pretty surprised if a lot of the good behavior people are talking about isn't down to the domestics' parasites, and if a hybrid out of a feral queen wasn't much, much more of a handful.
posted by jamjam at 11:49 PM on February 16, 2013

A domestic cat,
Felidae Felinae Felis catus, also known as Felis catus domestica can't breed with either the black-footed ferret, Mustelida Mustela nigripes or the common ferret, Mustela putorius furo.

i think this may have been a joke
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:56 PM on February 16, 2013

I love animals of all sorts but have very very ambivalent feelings about the pet "industry" and anyone who is really strongly into breeds. The kitten and puppy mills, the congenital defects, the money, and the strays clogging up our pounds - and people are dropping several hundred bucks on a whatever?

The ambivalence evaporates when it comes to this kind of thing though; anyone involved with any kind of non-domesticated animal, with a question mark at any point of the supply chain (and there is always a question mark when it comes to wild animals) is deliberately ignoring the cost of these animals - to fragile ecosystems and food webs, to the species themselves, to other environments they inevitably end up in, to the poor animal itself. Makes my blood boil it does, and America is especially egregious with all your lions and tigers, and monkeys and other bullshit. In Australia, we know what our native wildlife - and the wildlife of others - is worth. You need to apply for a license to keep a frigging snake, and there are only a few types you're allowed to keep.

I grew up in the country, my backyard was filled with goannas, echidnas, possums, bush turkeys, bandicoots, and very occasionally, koalas and platypus. Those were beautiful animals and I was privileged to experience their presence. They were wild animals, they had just as much right to land, those spaces, and their lives, as I do. The idea of keeping them as pets - and the misery it would entail - turns my stomach. We mismanage the needs of our domestic pets enough.

The selfishness of humanity staggers me some times, I swear. And reading those - imho - sickos on exotic pet forums talk about how much they love animals. *shudder*. They should be charged.
posted by smoke at 12:32 AM on February 17, 2013 [10 favorites]

They said that if these larger species interbred with our local feral domestic cats they'd probably destroy what's left of Australia's indigenous animal population.

Savannah cats banned from Australia (2008)
posted by smoke at 12:37 AM on February 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Louis Theroux - America's Most Dangerous Pets (warning, not graphic, but very heart-breaking viewing).
posted by smoke at 12:41 AM on February 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

I grew up in the country, my backyard was filled with goannas, echidnas, possums, bush turkeys, bandicoots, and very occasionally, koalas and platypus.

I grew up in the suburbs. My roof was filled with possums, rats, possums, spiders, possums and possums.
posted by Joe in Australia at 12:43 AM on February 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

I thought ligers were generally sterile?

Apparently, the females are fertile when crossed back, but the males may or may not be sterile. I don't know if they've done any real studies on it. According to ligerworld, the males aren't--IDK for sure, but I'm skeptical.

There was a show (PBS maybe?) on ti-ligers and li-ligers--depending on what the cross back is. Here's a video of an adorable li-liger cub, and here is an older ti-liger with beautiful unusual striping.

Pretty amazing stuff happens when species are crossed. It's received wisdom that the offspring of a mare, female horse and a jack, or donkey stallion, which is the mule, is sterile. Likewise the offspring of a stallion horse crossed to a female donkey, a jennet, which is termed a hinny, is also sterile. Except in unusual cases when they're not.
Female mules or hinnys bred back to horse stallions have been known to be fertile, but not when bred with jacks. Interestingly enough, there haven't been any recorded instances of male mules or hinnys bred to either a mare or a jennet which have produced offspring--that I know of. Sort of the same deal with the ligers.

Genet cats--i think this may have been a joke
posted by EmpressCallipygos

Ah, maybe so. As I mentioned some unscrupulous dealers are trying to make their cats seem even more exotic by suggesting that they're a cross rather than a house cat bred into a unique form. They really are strange looking. I thought Nomyte might have run across that situation.
posted by BlueHorse at 1:23 AM on February 17, 2013

I agree much of this breeding is irresponsible, but I think the bigger problem lies with the market. That there is a market for Servals and Asian Leopard cats in the first place is very upsetting. But I also think breeding is something humans do, and have done for a long time. I don't think it's in and of itself problematic. At its root is our long established proclivity to share our homes and lives with animals. We do need better laws, though, to regulate breeders and their animals. Maybe not for all breeding, but clearly for those who are creating wild/domestic hybrids. And we need much better enforcement of existing laws on the sale and trade of wild animals on a federal level, if we're serious about this. Too much regulation falls on the states and it's pretty spotty. My mom's home town of Picayune, Mississippi is a center of Serval breeding, not accidentally related to the fact that Mississippi regulations specifically exempt Servals. That is a problem.

As a kid my family bred dogs, and I personally have whelped, raised, and sold about 10 litters, and after that experience, I swore I'd never purchase or breed another animal for the rest of my life, and I haven't. I think organizations like the AKC and even the whimsically named Cat Fancy organizations, who set the breeding standards, are a big source of the problem. It seems they are beginning to realize this and are including better criteria like temperament and longevity in their standards. But it also seems that seeing a trait in one animal and wanting to add that trait to another animal is a pretty old impulse. There are also other reasons a person might do this. The New York Times piece in the first Asian Leopard link is very useful in understanding why someone might do this.

As for the F1 - F3 animals, it's worth looking at the videos. It's not as if all F1s are on the brink of murder and by F3 you've gotten most of that out. Animals vary in temperament and in their susceptibility to socialization, just like people. The animal's temperament is also likely to be strongly influenced by the socialization process. The guidance that >F4 is tame is just that, guidance. You can have an F8 animal that's a total asshole, and an F1 that's great with kids. It also seems that the key to keeping F1 Servals is taking them as kittens and bottle-feeding them. Take a look at that sweet grandmother in the Bottle-feeding a Serval kitten video. That is the fountainhead of the problem. Socializing these animals, while possible, is ethically problematic and ol' granny there is being caught red-handed. But I also can see how a species that's prone to that kind of socialization will be socialized. Humans have a deep and ancient desire to do that kind of thing. And some humans are much better at it than others. Even when we regulate it, there will be good breeders and bad breeders, but I doubt we can or should put a complete end to all breeding. If you want to help fix the problem, I'd suggest looking more at the market, not just the breeders.

I was also struck by how that desire to take a trait from one animal and adding it to another took two very different trajectories here. Say I want a two foot tall, three foot long spotted cat. It seems I can either breed a domestic with a two and a half foot tall, four foot long spotted wild cat (the Savannah), or I can piecemeal the traits together from a hybrid and a bunch of tall and spotted domestics (the Serengeti). Worth noting though that both took some wild genes as it apparently wasn't possible to get a tall cat just from the current domestic gene pool.

Finally, one thing that really interested me in this is what happens when these animals go feral. I'm thinking back to that post a couple of weeks ago about the impact of feral cats on bird populations. Take that problem and add feral cats that are 3 to 4 times larger than a typical feral cat. But to be honest, while it happens, thus far it hasn't been huge problem, at least not that I could find. It doesn't mean that feral Servals aren't Everglade Pythons just waiting to happen, it just means it hasn't happened yet. I also was unable to find any reports of Savannahs attacking people. But as mentioned in this NYT piece, Servals have. If feral Servals become a problem, they immediately become a serious problem.
posted by Toekneesan at 6:18 AM on February 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

Feh. The cool, non-engineered ones are in the Middle East.

(I took in one in Saudi Arabia and brought her back to California. Amazing creature. She jumped like Jordan, was quite affectionate and drank virtually no water.
posted by ambient2 at 8:25 AM on February 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

One point that nobody has brought up is that, pound for pound, a cat is about the strongest animal you're liable to meet. Ten pounds of usually docile domestic cat can be a lot for me (a large and fairly cat smart guy) to physically controll. My muscular 14lbs semi feral is already too strong, too fast and too smart for me to force him to do anything (fortunately he's very food motivated, befitting his hardscrabble early months). So much a faster, smarter, stronger cat is more cat than most anybody could reasonably handle should the need arise.
posted by wotsac at 8:28 AM on February 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

My roof was filled with possums, rats, possums, spiders, possums and possums.

Yeah, but at least your possums are cute. Ours are bad hair nightmares from the Cretaceous.

One point that nobody has brought up is that, pound for pound, a cat is about the strongest animal you're liable to meet.

Which is why we have dogs the size of ponies but not cats. A cat as big as a middling dog could easily kill a human. Ocelots, which are not domestic, are kept as house pets by some but, if I recall correctly, their teeth are often pulled, as more than one owner had awoken to find their ocelot's gums clamped on their throats.
posted by y2karl at 9:32 AM on February 17, 2013 [4 favorites]

My sister has an ocicat (no wild blood, but he looks like he should) who is hands down the sweetest, most cuddly and playful cat I've ever met. He is the Labrador Retriever of cats.

My parents, having done some shoddy research, bought a Savannah Cat several years ago, hoping they'd have a pet of the same disposition. She's gorgeous, and tiny for her breed, smaller than any of my three domestic cats. And she's absolutely demonic. They feel terrible about the decision, but have stubbornly decided to keep her. This cat expresses affection, so they claim, by hissing viciously and biting hard enough to draw blood ("love bites," they say). Our whole family is terrified of her: if you sit for any length of time in their living room she'll be sure to dart out from under a couch to attack your feet. They actually sleep with an extra heavy blanket over their feet, because she's taken to attacking them at night.

Because of her size, she's not particularly dangerous, but the few times I've heard others contemplating buying one I've been sure to tell them enough horror stories to change their minds.
posted by libraritarian at 11:07 AM on February 17, 2013

To put a more personal touch on ChuraChura's comment:

My house fosters kittens with the East Bay Humane Society. Their building burned down a while back and, long story short, instead of building it back up to house all the animals they started a very successful foster program where a bunch of volunteers care for their animals during the week and return them on the weekends to put them up for adoption.

Our first fosters were a set of 5 kittens. We were expecting a single older cat, but my roommate has a huge heart and I don't think he could have resisted these guys, especially after hearing their story. Apparently they were found in a garbage bag in a dumpster before being turned over to the humane society. 4 of them were siblings aged ~6 weeks and the odd one out was ~3 weeks. The little one required about half of our time as he literally ate his weight in food every day and then pooped it out, but was so clumsy he often stepped in his own mess. He'd often then want to sit in your lap, at which time we put him in the bath. This happened about twice a day.

But I digress. Once they were old enough to adopt, a friend decided to take two that were quite attached to one-another. It's really nice to be able to watch them grow up. She's a very experienced cat owner and she did some research on these guys. She now thinks -- because of their coats, their webbed feet, their size, and their behavior -- that they are at least part Bengal.

So we think what happened is that a Bengal breeder was infiltrated by a male domestic cat who got one of their prized ladies pregnant. When the litter came out looking like the motley bunch that it was, with two torties, one striped, and one spotted coat, the breeders realized what happened and got rid of them. This doesn't explain the random fifth cat, but it's just a theory.

Anyway, they are wonderful cats -- if you are the right kind of owner. They are VERY active still at 1 year old. They are quite intelligent and curious. One day they were able to lug a roll of paper towels all the way up the stairs just to see it roll back down said stairs. They love to see what happens when you push things off tables. Did I say intelligent? I meant they are assholes. Really terribly adorable assholes, and a constant source of amusing stories from my friend.

So anyway I think you know what I'm getting at. Please do not buy from breeders. There are really so many loving and beautiful pets out there that need homes and while it may be prestigious and fun to have a pure-bred animal, the breeders are very often irresponsible. Even the responsible ones, in creating such an excess of supply, add to the problem of abandoned and feral cats. If you're looking for a pet, the wonderful folks at your local humane society will take care of you.
posted by cman at 2:06 PM on February 17, 2013 [4 favorites]

The "toyger" looks just like a generic tabby to me, to be honest. Pay $1500 for the cat if you want, I'll stick with the sweet, loving, patient little monster we adopted from the local rescue shelter for the cost of an average vet bill.

He is such a nice kitty, he loves our 3.5 year old and is in every way the best fit I could have hoped for in our house. Except... He is active. Really, really active. He is always right there trying to see what we are up to, he watches us vacuum (not afraid of it, really), he is on the table or counter to see what's for dinner or what we are cooking, and he completely ignores any attempt to rebuff him. Our grumpy old cat gave up trying to pick a fight with him, because the new guy just ignored it. (His response to challenges seems to be along the lines of "Oh this is your chair? That's great, I will be sleeping on it if you need me.")

He's a domestic. Can't imagine the hell that is a truly half-wild cat.
posted by caution live frogs at 2:25 PM on February 17, 2013

About "wild" cats, the cat I currently have is a feral. Its mother was a barn cat from an agricultural community that has had barn cats for more than a few decades. When I got him he was very wild, very skittish. But we was only a couple of moths old. He domesticated very quickly. He now is amazingly tolerant of an autistic seven year old and a nine year old that isn't good with animals. And he adores me and in my completely unprejudiced opinion, is a fantastic companion and house cat.

I think the whole reason we're even having this conversation is because the Serval is on the line. It can be domesticated. That doesn't mean it should, but it can. On the other hand, there are feral domestics that can't ever adapt to a home again. It's too late for them. It's not about the two species. It's about each animal, and what is best for them.
posted by Toekneesan at 2:39 PM on February 17, 2013

Any regular cat, even a barn or feral one, is still the end product of thousands of years of selective breeding. Very different from these hybrid cats.
posted by Kevin Street at 3:10 PM on February 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

He domesticated very quickly.

Um, I think you are confusing domestication with taming. They are very different:

"Domestication (from Latin domesticus) is the process where by a population of animals or plants is changed at the genetic level through a process of selection, in order to accentuate traits that benefit humans. It differs from taming in that a change in the phenotypical expression and genotype of the animal occurs, whereas taming is simply the process by which animals become accustomed to human presence."
posted by smoke at 3:46 PM on February 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

I was thinking about the problem of large feral cats. If size were an advantage for feral cats, wouldn't we already see large feral cats through a process of selection? Or do they simply not have the genes (yet) to let them grow much larger than domestic cats?
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:21 PM on February 17, 2013

Yes, of course I didn't alter my cat's genetics, but I think there's more than one definition of domesticate, beyond the Wikipedia definition of the noun copied there, and they don't all require altering genes. Merriam-Webster lists the following for the verb:
1: to bring into domestic use : adopt
2: to adapt (an animal or plant) to life in intimate association with and to the advantage of humans
3: to make domestic : fit for domestic life
4: to bring to the level of ordinary people

Socializing could certainly be included in that definition. And some animals bred to be domestic will never be able to live in a home because they are beyond socialization. That was my point.
posted by Toekneesan at 2:27 AM on February 18, 2013

If size were an advantage for feral cats, wouldn't we already see large feral cats through a process of selection ?

Well, if so, wouldn't the already existing wild cats from which they were bred have done so already ? Wild cats are niche predators and can reproduce quite readily already. Ditto feral cats. Size would confer no advantage -- how would they feed themselves ? Hunt children and dogs ?
posted by y2karl at 11:48 AM on February 18, 2013

Yes, of course I didn't alter my cat's genetics ...

Of course not, but raising the issue put me in mind of the origin story of Ragdoll cats:
In the 1960s, a regular non-pedigreed white domestic longhaired cat named Josephine, who had produced several litters of typical cats, was injured in an accident involving a car and taken to the veterinary hospital at the University of California. Josephine was of a Persian/Angora type and had litters sired by several unknown male Birman or Burmese-like cats, one of which had the Siamese point coloration. Baker believed that Josephine was subject to a secret government genetic experiment during treatment at the lab, and claimed that it made Josephine docile, relaxed when picked up, and immune to pain. After Josephine recovered, her next litter produced kittens with similar temperament. When the subsequent litter produced more of the same, Ann Baker (an established cat breeder) purchased several kittens from the owner, who lived behind her, and believing she had something special, set out to create what is now known as the Ragdoll. The breed was selectively bred over many years for desirable traits, such as large size, gentle demeanor, and a tendency to go limp when picked up, as well as the striking pointed coloration.[emphasis added]
in which the original breeder claimed that a set of very unusual behavioral traits picked up by the mother in midlife was transmitted to subsequent offspring, even though offspring born prior to the acquisition of the traits did not display them, and felt compelled to resort to a ludicrous hypothesis of government conspiracy and genetic engineering at the veterinary hospital in order to explain it.

But breeder Baker did not know and could not have known anything about epigenetics, and it seems to me that epigenetics could allow us to dispense with the patently absurd conspiracy nonsense and slide a more plausible foundation in under the saga of the rag doll.

If the exigencies of medical treatment for severe and life-threatening injuries and their aftermath caused Josephine to epigenetically repress the genes associated with her normal reaction to pain, and her normal adult reaction to (medically necessary) painful handling in favor of the passivity of a kitten picked up by the scruff of the neck, then she could conceivably have passed that epigenetic repression down to subsequent offspring, and only to them.

Yet epigenetic programming is usually thought to only be good for handing the sinlessnesses of the mother down unto the third generation or so, but I'd guess that circumstances only remotely similar to the circumstances which established it in the first place could be sufficient to maintain epigenetic programming-- a kind of hysteresis effect, if you will.

And I'm wondering whether domestication of cats in general could have started out with a major helping of epigenetic repression (domesticates are notoriously more kitten-like than their wild relations, for example).

If genes or sets of genes are epigenetically silenced generation after generation, however, copying errors are certain to creep in to those genes and spread through the population which normally would have been selected out, and this could result in a silencing of those genes or sets of genes completely independent of epigenetic programming.

Which would amount to a kind of genetic assimilation of an acquired trait or traits (as was originally envisioned by Waddington, as I recall, but I think he had only cultural mechanisms in mind).
posted by jamjam at 12:01 PM on February 18, 2013

Whoa whoa whoa whoa wait a minute hold it excuse me please.

Baker believed that Josephine was subject to a secret government genetic experiment during treatment at the lab

...Can I just clarify that this is what people actually believe? As, like the canonical explanation for the origin of this breed?

Because if so, WOW.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:39 PM on February 18, 2013

We have a bengal (from a breeder, but I'm not sure how "quality" her cats were, and she's long since gone out of business). He is beautiful and amazing to watch, but I don't think I will get another one. He can be very sweet, but mostly he stays to himself. He howls sometimes at all hours of the night. He is overly aggressive with our other boy, domestic mix cat. (They are both fixed).

Don't get me wrong, I love him very much and we give him tons of affection and treats (speaking of, it took years to find treats he liked!). He is just a little high maintenance and I wasn't really prepared for that.
posted by getawaysticks at 6:56 PM on February 18, 2013

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