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8 Cat Breeds with Wild Roots

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Treating a wild cat as a pet is not a good idea, but throughout history, some have taken servals, caracals, fishing cats, ocelots, and even lions and tigers into their homes. The desire to own a wild animal can have consequences, so cat breeders have used their skills to develop cat breeds that fulfill the desire for an exotic cat without the danger.

1. Savannah

Savannah cats are created by crossing a house cat with an African Serval. The original hybrid is called an F1 and is considered too "wild" to be a house cat. When you breed an F1 Savannah with another Savannah or another cat breed, the resulting kittens are called F2. Breeding F2 females produces a generation called F3, which still has a considerable amount of Serval genes, but three generations of domesticity. F1 females are retained as breeding stock, although the male hybrids are often infertile. Sometimes F2 or F1 Savannahs are bred with Servals to create Savannahs with a higher number of Serval genes. Or they may be bred with Savannah males of even later generations (F5 or F6). Male Savannahs are usually sterile in the first few generations.

The first Savannah hybrid was born in 1986 and named Savannah by breeder Judee Frank. That cat's traits inspired Patrick Kelly to team with Joyce Sroufe to develop the breed. A Savannah is the largest of all domestic cats, can leap great distances, and is illegal to own in some states. They are intelligent, curious, and often remind their owners of a dog. The International Cat Association (TICA) recognizes Savannahs as a championship breed

2. Bengal

Tyler T, Wikimedia Commons

The Bengal cat is a considerably older breed than the others in this list, but as a breed derived from a wild cat hybrid, it is worth a look. The Bengal breed, which developed from a cross between a domestic cat and an Asian leopard Cat, is also the starting point for other breeds in this list. There have been stories of naturally occurring crossbreeds in Asia from way back, with the oldest confirmed case in 1934. The breed as we know it began with geneticist Jean Sugden-Mills, who crossed ALCs with domestic cats in 1963. Twenty years of breeding resulted in the breed that was accepted as truly domestic by TICA. Bengal cats are large cats with distinctive markings. Generations F4 and beyond are considered to be good house pets.

3. Toyger

Gaynorjl, Wikimedia Commons

Los Angeles cat breeder Judy Sugden has been working since the late eighties to breed a house cat that resembles a tiger. The result is the Toyger, a registered breed that has a lineage beginning with domestic shorthairs and Bengals selected for their markings. Toygers are now available from breeders all over the world. The breed is still in development, and TICA now has the toyger classified as a championship breed

4. Ocicat

The Ocicat was named for its resemblance to an ocelot, but it has no actual ocelot, or any wild cat, in its family tree—at least since the breed was developed in 1964. Only its appearance earned it a spot on this list. Virginia Daly, a longtime Michigan cat breeder, was trying to get a Siamese cat with Abyssinian points. She bred together cats with Abyssinian, Siamese, and American shorthair lineages. A kitten named Tonga resulted, which had ivory-colored fur with golden spots. Tonga was not used for breeding, but the same parents later produced kittens with the same markings. Ocicats come in a variety of colors, but are known for their spots. The breed standards say an Ocicat should be heavier than it appears and be well-muscled. Ocicats are sociable and their behavior may remind you of a dog—such as the way many like to play fetch. The Ocicat is recognized by TICA as a championship breed

5. Chausie

Lance Klausner, Wikimedia Commons

The Chausie was developed from hybrids of the Jungle Cat (Felis chaus), the largest species of the genus Felis, found in Asia. They can grow up to three feet long and weigh 35 pounds, but are generally around 18 pounds. Like the hybrids that developed into the Savannah and Bengal breeds, the males of the first few generations are usually infertile, and the F4 and F5 are considered truly domestic and suitable for cat shows. TICA classifies the Chausie as a championship breed.

6. Cheetoh

The name "Cheetoh cat" probably brings up the image of the laid-back cartoon cheetah named Chester who advertises Cheetos. But it is also a fairly new breed of house cat. According to the International Cheetoh Breeders Association, the Cheetoh is an attempt to breed a cat that looks more like a wild cat than other breeds but is still a gentle house pet. Carol Drymon bred the first Cheetoh in 2001 by crossing a Bengal and an Ocicat. A Cheetoh is a vary large cat, with healthy males reaching 23 pounds. Such a large cat with leopard-like spots may scare strangers, but is quite tame and as safe around children as any other house cat. TICA considers the Cheetoh an experimental breed.

7. Serengeti

The goal of breeding the Serengeti Cat is to produce a cat that resembles the wild Serval but does not contain any Serval bloodline. The first Serengeti Cat was bred by Karen Sausman in 1994 by crossing a Bengal and an Oriental Shorthair. This "foundation cat" and its progeny have been bred with many other types of cats to improve the breed—but no Servals. However, its lineage does include the Asian Leopard Cat whose genes contributed to its Bengal Cat ancestor. Serengeti Cats have long ears and long legs like a Serval, and a neck that does not taper where it meets the head. They are agile, active, and vocal. TICA classifies this cat as an advanced new breed.

8. Pixiebob

Nathalie Bent, Wikimedia Commons

The PIxiebob breed began as a result of natural mating. Carol Ann Brewer observed bob-tailed cats in the Cascade Mountains of Washington state. She adopted one of these cats in 1985, who then mated with a neighbor's cat. She obtained more of the "legend cats," bob-tailed local cats that somewhat resembled bobcats, and are thought to be results of natural matings between bobcats and domestic cats, although no proof exists. Pixiebobs are tall cats with back legs slightly longer than the front legs. They have thick double coats that may be short or long. Breed standards allow for up to seven toes in a PIxiebob, the only championship breed allowing for polydactly. Pixiebobs gained championship status with the TICA in 1998. Although Pixiebobs are often stone-faced like a wild cat, they are loyal and make good pets.

You should, of course, check with specific breed organizations before you select a breeder or adopt an exotic show cat. A great alternative is to check with your local shelter for a cat that desperately needs a home.

See also: In the Beginning: The Origins of 9 Cat Breeds and 8 Obscure but Adorable Wildcat Species

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NUS Environmental Research Institute, Subnero
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Researchers in Singapore Deploy Robot Swans to Test Water Quality
NUS Environmental Research Institute, Subnero
NUS Environmental Research Institute, Subnero

There's something peculiar about the new swans floating around reservoirs in Singapore. They drift across the water like normal birds, but upon closer inspection, onlookers will find they're not birds at all: They're cleverly disguised robots designed to test the quality of the city's water.

As Dezeen reports, the high-tech waterfowl, dubbed NUSwan (New Smart Water Assessment Network), are the work of researchers at the National University of Singapore [PDF]. The team invented the devices as a way to tackle the challenges of maintaining an urban water source. "Water bodies are exposed to varying sources of pollutants from urban run-offs and industries," they write in a statement. "Several methods and protocols in monitoring pollutants are already in place. However, the boundaries of extensive assessment for the water bodies are limited by labor intensive and resource exhaustive methods."

By building water assessment technology into a plastic swan, they're able to analyze the quality of the reservoirs cheaply and discreetly. Sensors on the robots' undersides measure factors like dissolved oxygen and chlorophyll levels. The swans wirelessly transmit whatever data they collect to the command center on land, and based on what they send, human pilots can remotely tweak the robots' performance in real time. The hope is that the simple, adaptable technology will allow researchers to take smarter samples and better understand the impact of the reservoir's micro-ecosystem on water quality.

Man placing robotic swan in water.
NUS Environmental Research Institute, Subnero

This isn't the first time humans have used robots disguised as animals as tools for studying nature. Check out this clip from the BBC series Spy in the Wild for an idea of just how realistic these robots can get.

[h/t Dezeen]

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There May Be an Ancient Reason Why Your Dog Eats Poop
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Dogs aren't known for their picky taste in food, but some pups go beyond the normal trash hunting and start rooting around in poop, whether it be their own or a friend's. Just why dogs exhibit this behavior is a scientific mystery. Only some dogs do it, and researchers aren't quite sure where the impulse comes from. But if your dog is a poop eater, it's nearly impossible to steer them away from their favorite feces.

A new study in the journal Veterinary Medicine and Science, spotted by The Washington Post, presents a new theory for what scientists call "canine conspecific coprophagy," or dogs eating dog poop.

In online surveys about domestic dogs' poop-eating habits completed by thousands of pet owners, the researchers found no link between eating poop and a dog's sex, house training, compulsive behavior, or the style of mothering they received as puppies. However, they did find one common link between the poop eaters. Most tended to eat only poop that was less than two days old. According to their data, 85 percent of poop-eaters only go for the fresh stuff.

That timeline is important because it tracks with the lifespan of parasites. And this led the researchers to the following hypothesis: that eating poop is a holdover behavior from domestic dogs' ancestors, who may have had a decent reason to tuck into their friends' poop.

Since their poop has a high chance of containing intestinal parasites, wolves poop far from their dens. But if a sick wolf doesn't quite make it out of the den in time, they might do their business too close to home. A healthier wolf might eat this poop, but the parasite eggs wouldn't have hatched within the first day or two of the feces being dropped. Thus, the healthy wolf would carry the risk of infection away from the den, depositing the eggs they had consumed away in their own, subsequent bowel movements at an appropriate distance before the eggs had the chance to hatch into larvae and transmit the parasite to the pack.

Domestic dogs may just be enacting this behavior instinctively—only for them, there isn't as much danger of them picking up a parasite at home. However, the theory isn't foolproof. The surveys also found that so-called "greedy eaters" were more likely to eat feces than dogs who aren't quite so intense about food. So yes, it could still be about a poop-loving palate.

But really, it's much more pleasant to think about the behavior as a parasite-protection measure than our best pals foraging for a delicious fecal snack. 

[h/t The Washington Post]

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