Bengal Cat Coat Glitter
|Photo: Helmi Flick|
Bengal cat coat glitter - Photograph of Bengal cat copyright Helmi Flick. It is obviously difficult to photograph "glitter" on a coat when you are photographing the whole cat. A macro shot is normally required I would have thought.
Bengal Cat Coat Glitter is obviously a sought after quality giving even more "bling" to a cat possessed with a considerable amount of bling already. However, in terms of the breed standard no preference is to be given to a cat with glitter over one who has not.
What causes it? Can the cat breeders make sure their cats have it? The Bengal cat is essentially a tabby cat, although you can hardly believe it. The black or dark patterns in various shapes from spotted, rosetted and marbled for example are the tabby gene (T) at work in combination with the agouti (A) gene producing banding on the individual hair shafts.
I had thought that glitter was due to the effect of the agouti gene. If the top band of a banded (agouti) individual hair is yellow/red/ or golden in color and these particular hairs are scattered over an area then the glitter effect may be apparent. It seemed to me that you have to add a highly reflective quality to the hair shaft, as well. This would indicate to me that the hair shaft is glossier or less matt (i.e. smoother) to allow light to reflect from it in one direction producing that sharp reflection. A smoother (less ridging) or straighter shaft (c.f. the curly hairs of the American curl for example) would also let the natural oils produced by the subaceous glands pass down the shaft more easily. This would make the hair more glossy and reflective. The Bengal cat coat is very tight to the body, smooth and silky naturally in any event. However, this it seems that this is not the case.
Apparently in some cats it is caused by deposits of mica, a silicate crystal, in the tip of the hair shaft. This crystal is reflective. The deposits are, it is thought, due to a recessive gene mutation as yet not fully identified.
In some cats the effect is throughout the hair shaft. This is called satin glitter. In this instance the hair shaft has air trapped in it (apparently) and it is these areas that reflect the light differently causing the satin sheen effect. This is also caused by a recessive and as yet not fully identified gene. This effect is also found in Oriental type cats.
What is interesting is where this came from and why it exists. It makes the cat more noticeable, a detriment in survival. I have doubts that it would occur naturally in the wild and is possibly a by product of the breeding programme. But I may well be wrong? Please tell me if I am.
Update 11-3-08: AKerr's Bengals say that glitter is possibly caused by the shape and make up of the hair shaft being different (i.e. that it is not due to the reasons set out above). In the hair shaft that glitters the shaft is "like asparagus" with triangular ridges down the shaft. These are more pronounced than on normal hair. The shaft is thinner too. This different configuration reflects/refracts the light in a way causing glitter. More research is being carried out on this desirable effect.
They also say that it is a recessive gene that directs this effect and that this gene originates in the street cat imported from India by Jean Mill at the outset of her breeding programme.
- AKerr's Bengals