Why only female cats are tortoiseshell or calico


Carolyn Brown’s lab at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver studies X chromosome inactivation, which prevents females (XX) from getting an overdose of the proteins produced by the X chromosome, compared to males (XY). This phenomenon explains why (with rare exceptions) only female cats are bi- or tricolor.

Go to the link to see the slideshow gallery of tortie and calico kitties. Crucially, THE CATS IN THESE PHOTOS ARE NOT LAB CATS. Brown’s lab doesn’t study cats. These are shelter cats photographed while awaiting adoption. Aren’t they beautiful?!

This doesn’t explain the “dilute” gene that makes some cats pink and blue instead of orange and black—or the white-spotting gene that turns a tortie into a tricolor calico. Lovers of science + cats, follow the links! And as a bonus, here’s Lumi, who somehow manages to be “all of the above”: tabby, Siamese, dilute (see the pale orange patches on her face and paw), and white-spotted.

This cat has made a whole language

out of the “snicker” cats make when they see a bird and can’t quite contain their hunting lust.

Lumi, by contrast, uses growling as the basis of her talking. When she growls, it does not mean she’s warning that she’s about to scratch or bite. She growls and grumbles when she is excited about breakfast, birds, or play, as well as when she is annoyed, or subsiding from some state of annoyance or excitement and telling me about it, complaining and confiding, just making conversation.

I don’t have video yet, but am working on it.

“Distracted by the sound of crying kittens . . .”

Abe Lincoln loved cats.

As a cat person (you wouldn’t be here if you weren’t), you alert to the sound of a crying cat or kitten as much as—or, if you’re me, more than—to the sound of a crying human baby. I didn’t choose to be childless, and I didn’t try or decide to have a full alarm response to the sound of feline distress. I can’t help it.

Neither could the sixteenth president. So strong was his visceral response to that sound that he heard it right through the din and human anguish of the Civil War.

It is reported that Lincoln was distracted by the sound of crying kittens at the Ulysses S. Grant headquarters in Virginia during the siege of Petersburg in March of 1864. Admiral David Porter wrote he was touched by the sight of the president “tenderly caressing three stray kittens.  It well illustrated the kindness of the man’s disposition and showed the childlike simplicity which was mingled with the grandeur of his nature.”

Porter remembered Lincoln petting the cats and quietly telling them, “Kitties, thank God you are cats, and can’t understand this terrible strife that is going on.”

Before he left the officers’ tent, the president addressed a colonel and said, ” I hope you will see that these poor little motherless waifs are given plenty of milk and treated kindly.”

You know he loved them. “Lincoln was the first president to bring cats to the White House, where he spoiled them shamelessly.

This photo looks fake. But the anecdote rings true.