Friday, January 25, 2013

Breeding for Brains

For those of you who've asked, here's a brief history of my peculiar cat-breeding experiment.

            The experiment began many years ago, back when I was in college.  I was taking Biology 101, had just completed the section on Evolution, and was fascinated with the biological mechanism: how mutations create new structures and natural selection chooses between them. 
            That was when one of my classmates showed up at our rental house with a box of kittens to give away.  I'd been wanting a pet, and was charmed by the adorable little creatures, so I petted them and looked closer.  I noticed that three of them – two toms and a queen, all jet-black – were subtly different from the rest.  They were more imaginative and clever in their playing, their little spines attached not at the back of the skull but slightly underneath it, and their little craniums were bigger than usual.  In short, I was looking at a mutation for higher intelligence. 
            So I adopted not one but three kittens.  As I raised them, I studied them.  I also played games with them to exercise and stimulate their intelligence.  Finally I tested them, saw that they were indeed more intelligent than the average cat, and wrote up the whole experience as my final paper for my Biology class.  Yes, I got an A on the paper.
            I also kept the kittens, now full-grown cats.  I named them Makhno, Kropotkin and Bakunin after famous Anarchists – fitting for all-black cats – and bred them together, and observed and tested the kittens.  I kept the most intelligent of the kittens and gave the rest away, carefully, to people whom I could be sure loved cats.  My term paper had turned into a lifelong project. 
            At present -- all these cat-generations later -- I have four of my super-smart cats at home: two queens and two toms, three of them color-points and one ebony.  The older queen, Comet, is pregnant again.  In a few months I'll be advertising my kittens again, and I hope I have enough local fans who'll be willing to take them.

--Leslie <;)))><    


Anonymous said...

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Ori Pomerantz said...

Have you been inbreeding them for all these generations? If so, does the inbreeding show any other effects, or is it relatively harmless in cats? I read somewhere inbreeding is so bad for humans because of certain evolutionary bottlenecks where we almost got wiped out.

Leslie Fish said...

Heheheheh. Hi, Raven. I've taken care to keep the kitties from playing with my computer; I don't need my files wiped out.

Hi, Ori. No, I haven't inbred; every few generations I bring in an outcross, usually another Siamese or Oriental Shorthair, and then cross in the most intelligent kittens while watching for undesirable recessives. Six generations back I bred in a polydactyl Oriental Shorthair, and then spent the next three generations breeding out a weakness in the forearm bones while retaining those articulate thumbs. "Associated" genes are only that, not joined at the hip.