Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Color Me Beautiful

Most of my Maine Coons have the tabby pattern. Some people, including those in charge of documentaries on Animal Planet, are under the mistaken impression that all tabbies are Maine Coons. The characteric "M" on the forehead is indeed part of the tabby pattern, but it alone does not stand for "Maine Coon Cat". Maine Coons come in most colors and patterns, all except for pointed like you'd see in a Siamese or a Himalayan.

But the Maine Coon absolutely doesn't own the tabby pattern, which is simply the striped pattern over an assortment of colors. A tabby can be a domestic short or long hair (the average, non-pedigreed cat), or it can adorn many other purebred cats. For instance, the cat shown above left is a silver mackeral tabby Oriental.

The kittens shown to the right are American Curls, in blue and brown tabby patterns. For more information on colors and patterns of cats, check out the site What Color is My Cat? by Beth Hicks.

So although the majority of Maine Coons have the tabby pattern, it's kind of nice to be able to get one that's different looking. I have a tortoiseshell female named Amy. A tortie is a solid black cat with red splotches. Each time Amy has been bred, it was always to her favorite beau, Bugger, a traditional brown tabby male. Bugger does not carry the gene for solid, so their offspring will never be solid black or tortie. Their kittens are always tabbies, usually brown and usually just one as Amy (shown to the right) is queen of the singleton litters.

When I finally got the oportunity to breed Amy to a male who carried the gene for solid, I was really excited about the color possibilities. She was bred to Jack, my friends' silver tabby and white stud who carries the gene for solid and dilute. Once you learn how the Punette Square works on color genetics, it's easy to predict. The color for a cat is carried on the X chromosome (remember those from science?). Females have two X's, males have XY. Therefore, only the females can have two colors shown together. Male kitten colors are determined by the mother as they inherit her X. Female kitten colors come from mom and dad combined (her X and his X).

I don't expect everyone to follow or want to follow this, but suffice it to say that Amy and Jack have the potential of having together boys who are brown, silver, blue (blue is the dilute version of brown), blue-silver, red, red-silver, cream (dilute color of red), cream-silver....and those are just the tabbies. The solids could be black, blue, red, black smoke, blue smoke, red smoke, cream and cream smoke.

In the girls, we could get all of the above with the exception of the reds and creams, plus the combination of colors such as the black tortie (like Amy), blue tortie, smoke tortie, blue smoke tortie and all of those colors but with stripes, called torbies (tortie and tabby together). Statistically, half of the kittens should be with white since Jack has white.

Since Amy has a history of having just one kitten per litter, I was happy when she started carrying larger than normal. I was hoping she'd have a silver torbie with white or a tortie and white....something really flashy to keep. We breeders love to think of all the wonderful colors we can get. Then we try to cut and paste the best of each parent to create the perfect cat; his ears, her muzzle, his personality and boning....it never works out that way, but we can't stop fantasizing.

What did Amy end up having? Well, at least she didn't have a brown tabby. Instead she had a red boy, a blue tabby girl, and a blue torbie girl. No white, no solids, no flashy girl. Luckily Amy's litter of 3 arrived one day after Ally's litter of 7. Amy was happy to help Ally out when I put the two litters together. Of course, the most important thing about this is not the lack of color I desired, but that the kittens were a good birth weight and healthy. All ten are thriving, squeaking, squirming little miniature cats and that is a beautiful thing.

Ally and Amy with their rainbow of ten

1 comment:

  1. Blue Torbie Girl. There's a song title in there.