Pet Showcase Archive

Legend to Fact: How Cats Got Stripes

Friday, December 28th, 2012

Grey tabby cat facing camera

Many have asked, “How did a tiger get his stripes?” People also ask that of a tiger’s relative, the domesticated cat. It’s a secret the cat was unwilling to share, so legends and lore were written to tell the tale. Researchers were not satisfied with those answers, and sought out scientific answers to the question.

The mapping of the cat genome, completed in 2007, allowed their study to begin. Although the genome has less fur than a cat, it was still a hairy prospect to comb through. The researchers began looking through the data of many cat pedigrees, which have wide variety of stripe patterns. These patterns are categorized and labeled, and the general term for them is “tabby.”

Tabby cats generally have some sort of recurring alternating stripe pattern on their torso. The pattern also includes a mark on their foreheads, defined by an ‘M’ pattern. Some of the more common variations of tabbies are mackerel, classic (or blotchy, or marbled), ticked, and spotted.

A grey mackerel tabby cat

Mackerel Pattern

A grey cat with classic tabby pattern

Classic Pattern

Research from one group of mackerel pattern cats and another group of classic pattern cats were compared. The scientists finally isolated one gene that controls this pattern: the Taqpep gene. When this gene is active, a cat has the more common mackerel pattern. If a mutation occurs, the classic (or blotched) pattern becomes the cat’s markings. This is the same gene that works in other feline species. Cheetahs’ spots are controlled by this gene, but if it mutates, their spots are blotched, and they are called King Cheetahs!

A King Cheetah and the blotchy spot pattern

King Cheetah

Further study of gene patterns are needed. Scientists have unlocked the mystery of stripes, but explanations for what causes a tabby to be spotted still belongs to legend and lore. As Leslie Lyons, a cat geneticist states, “The cat has not revealed all its mysteries yet.”

9 Holiday Animal Legends – Fearsome Cats, Christmas Spiders and More!

Friday, December 21st, 2012

Tabby cat in a Christmas TreeThe holiday season has many celebrations from a variety of faiths and traditions; a great majority of these are tied to Christmas. Over thousands of years traditions grew in the regions it was celebrated, and reflect the values of those areas. Of course animals are a part of people’s lives, so creatures of all shapes and sizes share in the traditions!

  • Polish single ladies need to have a keen ear leading up to Christmas. The unwed woman should step out her door and listen for a barking dog. The direction that she hears the dog indicates where her potential husband will come from.
  • Also in Europe, legend says on Christmas Eve, at the toll of midnight, animals are gifted the faculty of human speech for one hour.
  • Are Santa’s reindeer girls or boys? Biologists still can’t give us a definitive answer. It is true that female reindeer keep their antlers into the spring, and most male reindeer loose their antlers in early December. The key word is “most.” Some young bulls keep their antlers through the winter months, even into April.
  • Americans love to give more than to receive, as demonstrated by their giving of presents to their pets. 63% of dog owners and 58% of cat owners will leave something under the tree for their pets.
  • Spiders have a connection to the Christmas holiday as a symbol of luck and prosperity! In Poland, it is told spiders wove a blanket for baby Jesus. In Ukraine, the story is of a woman who was very poor and could not afford Christmas decorations. She awoke Christmas morning and found spiders had decorated her family’s tree with their webs. When the morning light hit the silks, they turned to silver and gold.
  • In Bolivia, on Christmas Eve people attend the Mass of the Rooster. It is named as such because the rooster was the first animal to spread the word of the birth of Jesus. Some mass attendees even bring roosters to the mass!
  • Iceland has a legendary cat, called the Yule Cat. The Yule Cat does not cuddle and play; it is a fearsome beastly cat that eats lazy children! Children must finish their fall chores with the wool harvest, so they can receive new clean clothes. This is the only defense against the Yule Cat.
  • There is another Christmas legend tied to cats. On the night Jesus was born it was cold, and the baby Jesus fussed. A nearby tabby cat came to their aid, and curled up next to them, purring a soft tone, and warming them. Mary was so grateful for the cat’s help, that she placed her initial of ‘M’ on the cat’s forehead.

Bonus Fact!

  • The Christmas carol “The Twelve Days of Christmas” has a lot of birds in it, even more than you might realize! Seven swans a swimming, six geese a-laying, four calling birds, three french hens, two turtle doves, and a partridge (in a pear tree of course). That’s 23 birds! And the verse “five golden rings” can refer to pheasants, due to the ring around their necks, making the aviary total 28!

The Mess with Millet

Friday, December 14th, 2012

two yellow cockatoos on a perch

two yellow cockatoos on a perch

two yellow cockatoos on a perch

two yellow cockatoos on a perch

two yellow cockatoos on a perch

two yellow cockatoos on a perch

two yellow cockatoos on a perch

Two yellow cockatoos on a perch

Shelter Dogs Get their License… to Drive?!

Friday, December 7th, 2012

Shelter Dog Drives a Modified CarSit, shake, and… drive? You might question that these three commands belong together, but they do. The Auckland SPCA of New Zealand wanted to promote the amazing potential and intelligence of dogs in their shelter. They decided to really put the pedal to the metal and train the dogs to drive a car.

Dog trainers who normally work behind the cameras on movie sets set up shop behind the wheel. With their training expertise, they designed a program for a trio of canines from the Auckland SPCA shelter. Just like other pet shelters’ residents, these dogs have a varied past. The first dog is Monty, who was surrendered by an owner who couldn’t control him. Ginny was a rescue from abusive household. Finally, there is Porter, who was found as a stray on the streets.

Trainers utilized clicker training to get the dogs performing very basic tasks, like placing their paw on a certain spot. This certain spot later turned into gear-shifters, accelerators and steering wheels. Trainers built upon these basic commands to perform driving tasks, like placing the car in drive. The team had top-notch equipment as well: a car specially modified with special levers for canine control. After 8 weeks of intense training every day, the dogs are ready for their driving debut. They will put it in gear for a live broadcast on New Zealand TV.

Pet World will keep you updated on their driving exploits. Like our Facebook page for updates on this great story!

Men, Ferrets, and Pants — The Sport of Ferret-Legging

Friday, November 23rd, 2012

A Ferret pausing for a Picture

Ferret owners know their fun-loving pets well. They have a boisterous need for exploration and play, and their desire for borrowing. Humans are very well known wanting to broadcast their endurance in feats of physical and mental will. Ferrets and tests of endurance come together in a unique sport not for the faint-of-heart; it’s called ferret-legging.

The event is simple. A man wears a pair of loose-fitting pants, with the pant legs tied snugly at his ankles. Before competition begins, the chosen ferrets must be healthy to participate and have all teeth and claws in-tact. The ferret is placed in the trousers or each competitor and it wanders without restriction. To the ferret, it’s a new place to climb and explore.

The waist is sealed with a belt or held tight, and the battle of endurance begins. The stakes in this match are even higher as the competitor must be sober, and not allowed to wear any undergarments. No harm is allowed to come to the ferret, after all, it’s just doing what ferrets do. Competitors hang onto their belts to release the ferret when they can’t take it anymore. Whoever keeps the ferret in their trousers the longest is declared the winner.

Ferret-legging is a very niche sport, so it’s not too easy to find a competition nearby. Ferret-legging was popularized by coal-miners during the ’70s in Yorkshire England. Events sprung up throughout England, but then waned into the ’80s. In the United States and Canada you may find one as part of a Celtic fair. Such events are run with the help of a local ferret organization, and raise money for good local causes.