Monday 18 October 2021

Founder effect in the creation of a cat breed

In terms of community and domestic cats, the so-called "founder effect" is apparent in, for example, two cat breeds that come to my mind quite quickly namely the Manx and the Turkish Van. There are others. Both these breeds were moggies at one time living in the communities from where they orginate.

Manx cat was created via the founder effect on the Isle of Man many years ago
Manx cat was created via the founder effect on the Isle of Man many years ago.
Photo copyright Helmi Flick.

In relation to domestic cat evolution, the founder effect works when a population of domestic and community cats are in a certain area and confined to that area. Some early members of this group of cats become the foundation cats for all the cats in the area. It's a bit like the creation of a breeding line when cat breeders selectively breed for a certain appearance. They choose a foundation cat and use that individual throughout their entire breeding programme and indeed other breeding programs. There is a loss of genetic variation.

The meaning of “lines” in cat breeding


This sort of thing can can occur naturally in a confined space. For example, the Manx cat was confined to the Isle of Man which is about 30 miles long. A genetic mutation for a missing or short tail occurred in one cat on that island. It was passed through inheritance to other cats. The original mutated domestic cat with a short tail became a foundation cat to all others until there was a large population of short-tailed or no-tailed cats confined to a 30 mile long and 10 mile wide island.

Turkish Van

Turkish Van. Photo: Helmi Flick

The Turkish Van was created in an isolated population in the north-eastern mountains of Turkey  - the Lake Van region. Their appearance was perpetuated by their "founder" characteristic of orange-and-dominant white. Particularly, there is an inverted 'V' on the forehead between the ears, and the tail is coloured while the rest of the body is all-white. The appearance of the early foundation cats had a powerful influence over resulting generations of cats in that area.


The founder effect is why short tails were perpetuated in the isolated populations on the Isle of Man, as mentioned, and in Japan and the Kuril Islands (Kurilian Bobtail). And the founder effect also accounts for the high percentage of domestic and community cats in Boston with extra toes known as polydactylism. The original cats with extra toes procreated to create more and the genetic mutation did not dissipate among the general population but was confined to the Boston area. This allowed for a quite high percentage of cats with extra toes to be present in that area.

Why are Maine Coons polydactyl?

Bengal cat

All Bengal cats orginate in very few first generation leopard cat x domestic cat hybrids created in the 1970s as I recall.

Breed personality

You can find certain personality characteristics within cats of a certain breed because one male individual founder cat has passed on their inherited character to many cats within that breed because an individual founder cat was used by a number of breeders. Perhaps, this is why the Ragdoll cat is known to be laid-back. I don't know how many foundation cats in total exist for the Ragdoll cat breed but I suspect it is a very few and there may be one individual cat which started off that breeding line for all the cats of that breed which means their personality has been handed down for generations.

Video: cat snuggles up to toddler friend

This is cute. Domestic cats don't differentiate between adult humans and toddlers. They have no conception of the difference. Humans are companions or to use a scientific term: conspecifics or associates. The former word means of the same species. I believe that domestic cats almost certainly see us as fellow cats. They don't query why we look different and why our behavior is non-typical. 

Cat snuggles up to toddler friend
Cat snuggles up to toddler friend. Screenshot.

They instinctively accept and adapt. The cat does not want to look at the cartoons being watched by the toddler! He just wants to be in contact with the girl. They've formed a close friendship. It is very nice to see. The girl will love cats all her life and other animals too I'd expect. She'll be a useful advocate for animal welfare I hope.

Sunday 17 October 2021

Senoko Energy, Singapore, have an enlightened approach to feral cats

The Straits Times reports that 20 feral cats have made the Senoko Power Station their home last August, in the middle of the Covid pandemic, because adjacent food processing factories had closed. It is pleasing to note that the CEO and president of Senoko Energy, Mr Graeme York, is a self-professed animal lover. He understands how to deal with feral cats in a humane way. He understands TNR and he also allows some feral cats to occupy his business premises.

Beautiful feral cats trapped from Senoko Powerstation under a TNR program
Beautiful feral cats trapped from Senoko Powerstation under a TNR program. Photo: Cindy Lim.

He said that he is not against a small population of cats occupying the power station provided they are cared for. And quite rightly he says that it is important that they are neutered. The 20 cats that have come across from other businesses included individuals who weren't neutered.

This was picked up by Miss Cindy Lim, the senior vice president and head of legal and compliance at Senoko Energy. With other employees, she cares for about 10 resident cats at the power station. She said that she noticed "a few pregnant cats among the new strays. This got me worried  as, if left unchecked, cat numbers can easily double or triple in a few months."

The site is not ideal because there's lots of heavy machinery and bulldozers. There are rusty metal objects lying around and a couple of cats have suffered injuries resulting in the amputation of limbs. Notwithstanding that, they are being cared for by an enlightened management.

The company contracted with a professional cat trapper who works with the Cat Welfare Society. The unsterilised cats were trapped and sterilised and then returned as per TNR methodology. The Cat Welfare Society say that they have a backlog of TNR cases because of Covid restrictions.

There is no doubt that Covid has had quite a deep impact on TNR feral cat colony management because volunteers have been restricted in their movements. The president of the Cat Welfare Society said that they have a problem and that often businesses with unsterilised feral cats on their sites do not allow them to enter to trap and sterilise them because they are uninformed about TNR.

There seems to be need to educate certain sections of the business world in Singapore on the benefits of TNR which is also described as TNRM, with the last letter denoting "manage".

I'm just pleased to read a story about senior management in a big company being enlightened about how the deal with feral cats on their property. Other businesses would do well to learn from them. Not infrequently, the news media reports on business management employing a contractor, a pest controller, to remove and kill feral cats. This is both inhumane and less effective I would argue because you create a vacuum and more feral cats move into it. The more decent and sensible approach is to manage the population. The cats provide a service in keeping down the rodent population.

The Senoko Power Station is the largest station in Singapore. It is owned by Senoko Energy PTE Ltd. It began operations in 1976. Senoko Energy PTE Ltd is owned by Lion Power Holdings which in turn is owned by a consortium of enterprises led by Japan's Marubeni Corporation.

Thursday 14 October 2021

More than 80 kittens abandoned on California shelter doorstep over the past 12 months

I have wondered how many cats and kittens are abandoned at animal shelters in America. We know it happens quite a lot because we see news media articles about cardboard boxes filled with kittens, sealed with tape, and placed outside a shelter's front door in the dead of winter, overnight. The whole thing is ghastly but it happens. The kittens are lucky to survive. Such callousness and stupidy.

The employees at the Animal Friends Connection Humane Society, in Lodi, USA, estimate that more than 80 kittens have been left at their doorstep within the past year. Over a period of nine days last summer 25 cats and kittens were left at their shelter at 933 S. Cherokee Lane.

Abandoned kitten at Lodi animal shelter
Abandoned kitten at Lodi animal shelter. Photo: the shelter.

I went to their Facebook page to see whether there are any postings about abandoned cats and kittens. There are reams of them. They go back several years but for example, on September 10, 2017 they posted that "Another urgent SOS for help with abandoned bottle baby kittens left on our front door, these babies need your urgent care. We desperately need help for five kittens. They were cold, starving, wet and possibly only 10 days old."

And then more recently on August 8, 2020, they posted:

"Again-5 big kittens crammed into a small tub filled with other 'stuff', abandoned on our side yard - left in the sun when no one was around. Thankfully, someone did see it and got to them before they perished in the heat today - they were very lucky little kitties. We are overwhelmed currently with kitties."

I could go on but I needn't bother because there is a series of posts along the same lines from this animal shelter. And kittens seem to be a recurring theme. It doesn't take much imagination to realise that a minority of cat owners are allowing their female cats to mate and procreate. These are the cats that haven't been spayed and which are allowed to go outside where they bump into a male cat who has not been sterilised and bingo, you have a family.

Either that or they informally breed cats inside their home but I would doubt that because if they were doing it they would probably give them away to friends and neighbours et cetera. These are unwanted kittens brought into the world because of a careless approach to domestic cat caregiving. These people place a heavy burden on small animal shelters such as this one in Lodi - location as per map below.

Lodi shelter has constant stream of abandoned kittens
Lodi shelter has constant stream of abandoned kittens. Map: Google.

They are constantly seeking donations. They succeed but it must be a struggle. On September 3, 2018 they received six adult abandoned cats and they sought donations. 22 people donated a total of $590. I think that's very good. There are clearly lots of generous people in the area. It's a great shame that the good and generous people have to fund an operation to mop up the damage done by the selfish and careless people. Perhaps it was always like that.

Associated: 31 cats abandoned in wooded area of Monroe County, PA. They were left with open bags of food but no water.

Wednesday 13 October 2021

Man prepares cat food bowl behind a closed bathroom door to stop his cats interfering

This is a bit extreme I think. A guy on Reddit admits this: "So I prepare my cats food in my bathroom to avoid them nibbling while I’m making it. They are well aware of this. I am a slave."

Man prepares his cats food behind a closed door as he does not like them interfering and nibbling it why he is making it up
Man prepares his cats food behind a closed door as he does not like them interfering and nibbling it why he is making it up. Screenshot.

Enough said. It's pretty clear that he doesn't like his cats interfering with his preparation of their food. I think I know why; they are bloody starving!! 

Watch the video: when he opens the bathroom door his cats are waiting outside as they know the routine. They both eagerly jump up and dive at the food which he has removed. The cats are desperate. I think this guy is underfeeding them slightly. He certainly keeps them hungry or perhaps the food is super-tasty. Although, in all fairness, it has to be said that they look the correct weight.

: This is a video from another website. Sometimes they are deleted at source which stops them working on this site. If that has happened, I apologise but I have no control over it.

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