Cat Coat Genetics

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The genetics of cat coat coloration, pattern, length, and texture is a complex subject, and many different genes are involved.

Genes involved in albinism, dominant white, and white spotting

Genes involved in orange, black, brown, and diluted colors

For a cat to be tortoiseshell, calico, or one of the diluted variants such as blue-cream, the cat must simultaneously express two alleles, O and o, which are located on the X chromosome. Males normally cannot do this, as they have only one X chromosome, and therefore only one allele, and so calico cats are normally only female.

One can deduce that a grey male cat with a white bib and paws:

Genes involved in fur pattern and shading

How breeders can identify and separate tabby genes

Cats with tabby genes (AA or Aa) normally have:

Most or all banding disappears in the shaded shorthair, but you can still deduce the tabby genes from the other features, such as the "eyeliner" appearance.

The genetics involved in producing the ideal tipped, shaded, or smoke cat is complex. Not only are there dozens of interacting genes, but genes sometimes do not express themselves fully, or conflict with one another. For example, the melanin inhibitor gene sometimes does a poor job blocking pigment, resulting in an excessively gray undercoat, or in tarnishing (yellowish or rusty fur). Likewise, poorly-expressed non-agouti or over-expression of melanin inhibitor will cause a pale, washed out black smoke. Here are the minimum genetic requirements for a tipped or shaded cat to exist:

Genes involved in fur length and texture

Cat fur length is governed by the Long hair gene in which the dominant form, L codes for short hair, and the recessive l codes for long hair.

There are many genes resulting in unusual fur. These genes were discovered in random-bred cats and selected for. Some of the genes are in danger of going extinct because the breeders have not marketed their cats effectively, the cats are not sold beyond the region where the mutation originated, or there is simply not enough demand for the mutation.

There are various genes producing curly coated or "rex" cats. New types of rex pop up spontaneously in random-bred cats now and then. Here are some of the rex genes that breeders select for:

There are also genes for hairlessness, which produce the French hairless cat (genotype hh), the British hairless cat (genotype hdhd), and the Canadian Sphynx cat (genotype hrhr). Some rex cats are prone to temporary hairlessness, known as baldness, during moulting.

Here are a few other genes resulting in unusual fur:

See also

External link

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