Napoleon

Cat of the Month ~ October 2013
Napoleon Cat
Napoleon
Photograph: Tica.org
The International Cat Association (TICA) classifies the Napoleon Cat as a domestic hybrid breed, “A breed developed from a deliberate cross between two existing domestic breeds, incorporating characteristics of both parental breeds into the new breed.” The two breeds (or Groups) from which the Napoleon is derived are the Munchkin breed and the Persian breed type. Napoleons can be both long-haired or short-haired. The breed was created by Joseph B. Smith, a Basset Hound breeder (a stubby breed of dog)and AKC judge, inspired by the Wall Street Journal’s front page feature of the Munchkin on June 12, 1995. In 1996, Joe (of the Blueline cattery) started breeding Persians with Munchkins. He wanted to create a breed that would have wide appeal, whether the cat had the signature short legs or the longer legs of the non-standard version. Joe decided to call his breed the Napoleon after the short-statured Napoleon Bonaparte. The Persians used were the so-called doll faced Persians which had a longer nose than the modern Persian and a very open sweet expression. He chose the Persian breed group as an outcross to the Munchkin for reasons of both beauty and bone structure. From the Munchkin group, the Napoleon has inherited its distinctively short legs. The short legs of the Munchkin occurred as a spontaneous mutation in the general cat population and have been in common existence for many years. The short legs do not hinder the cat in any way; they run, jump, and play just like any cat. From its Persian group (including Persians, Exotic Shorthairs and Himalayans) the Napoleon has inherited its lovely round face, eyes, and dense coat. Also from the Persian group, the Napoleon has also acquired its substantial boning. This boning is necessary to provide a good support system for its uniquely short legs. It must be emphasised however that the Napoleon is not merely a short-legged Persian nor a hairy Munchkin. It is a unique combination of these two groups, making it easily distinguishable from any other breed of cat.

Donskoy

The Donskoy (or Don Sphinx) is a highly intelligent, beautiful and friendly cat breed type which originated in southern Russia in the city of Rostov-on-Don (near the Sea of Azov) in 1987.
Cat of the Month ~ October 2012
A young Donskoy ~ not always bald at birth
Photograph: petsphoto.com
The story goes that Elena Kovaleva, a professor of the nearby State Pedagogical Institute, saw some young boys playing with a bag. When she heard a kitten inside the bag squealing in fear and pain, Elena took the bag from the boys and brought the young kitten home. She named the kitten Varvara, but over the following months the kitten grew up like no other cat she had seen. It lost its hair and was treated (in vain) for this seemingly fatal condition. The cat thrived however and a few years later gave birth to both haired and completely hairless kittens. Strangely those kittens with hair also began to lose it, just as their mother had done years before. Many thought that these hairless kittens were unhealthy and should be gotton rid of. However, a local enthusiast and professional cat breeder by the name of Irina Nemikina, rescued one of these kittens and in several years had managed to breed a completely new type of Russian cat (a hairless one) which she named the ‘Don Sphynx’. ‘Don’ after the river which Varvara was found beside and ‘Sphynx’ because it was hairless just like the sphynx breed. It was The International Cat Association which gave this unique cat type the name of ‘Donskoy’.
An adult Donskoy, a loyal and good-natured companion
Photograph: unknown
The Donskoy is a very elegant, highly inquisitive, and social cat. They are also very active and almost always extremely friendly. For owners the Donskoy is very loyal, good-natured, gentle, and easy to groom and handle. Their coats are warm and soft to the touch making then wonderful to hold and cuddle. They have a well balanced personality, show a lively interest in their surroundings, and enjoy making up & playing games. Donskoy are extremely affectionate and they have an irrepressible curiosity (even more evident than in other cats). Their social skills are also transferred to other animals to which they will offer companionship. It is recommended that these highly sociable cats are found companion pets and should not be kept in isolation with just humans. Owning a Donskoy you will find they will love to be a part of all your activities and they will be easy to train to follow your voice commands. A young Donskoy will have a coat of one of four types in a range of colours. All but one of these coats usually results in hairlessness in later life. This is due to the Donskoy carrying a dominant hair loss gene that causes their birth coat to fall out (if they have one) in later life. Their coats are: Rubber Bald — The rubber bald is born bald and remains that way throughout its life. Flocked – The Flock coat appears to be hairless and has the texture of soft chamois leather. The Flock coat can sometimes disappear and the cat can sometimes become bald. Velour – The velour coated kittens are born with a bald spot or Monk’s cap on the top of the head. Their wool-like coat becomes wiry and disappears gradually within the first year or so with some residual hair remaining on the face, legs and tail. The Velour can also completely lose their coat and become bald over time. Brush – Brush type coats lose only a portion of their coat over time. Their coat can be bristly, soft, wavy, and often wiry on their whole body with bald areas on the head, upper part of neck or on the back. The Donskoy is further unique in that it can grow a winter coat (fine wool on the chest and hairs on the end of the tail) which it will lose when the weather warms. Their skin is similar to human: it sweats when it is hot and it can also become tanned by the summer sun.
Donskoy’s have a marvellous appearance wouldn’t you agree?
Photograph: unknown
Donskoy are elegant, sturdy and muscular with strong boning. They are a medium-sized cat with soft hairless wrinkled skin that feels hot and velvety to the touch. Their skin is excessively elastic, with pronounced wrinkles on the cheeks, jowls and under the chin with vertical wrinkles separating their ears and running down the forehead, spreading into a series of lines above the eyes. Wrinkles are also found at the base of the neck, in the breast area, at the base of the tail, on the front and undersides of the legs, down the sides of the body to the underbelly and groin. Males as a rule are generally larger than females. The Donskoy is medium to medium-long in length, dense, muscular, strong-boned, with wide breast and croup. They have a deep groin-line with a well-rounded abdomen called a fatty belly where fat accumulates in the winter. Their body is almost pear shaped. The male has stud jowls, a thicker neck, wider shoulders, and a broader head than the female. The male is more muscular and gets significantly larger than the female. The front legs are shorter than their back legs yet are in proportion with their body. They have oval feet with long slender toes. Toes are very long, slim and distinguished with thumbs that bend inward rather than downward on the front paws giving the appearance of slender hands (like monkey fingers). Webs separate the long toes. Their tail is medium long, straight and tapers from body to rounded tip. The Donskoy was first officially recognized by World Cat Federation (WCF) in 1997, and by The International Cat Association (TICA) in 2005. The standard of points describes the cat as being medium sized and muscular, with large ears, almond shaped eyes and distinctive long, webbed toes. They require frequent grooming, in spite of their lack of coat. Also over-bathing can cause the skin to become very oily. The Peterbald breed was originally created by crossing Donskoy with Siamese and Oriental cats to create a hairless cat of Oriental type. Matings between Donskoy and Peterbald are no longer permitted however.

[sources: The TICA website and Wikipedia.org]

Black Panther

Black panthers exist in nature as a variant of several species of larger cat. The black colouration of these cats is caused by a genetic (specifically melanistic) variation in color often present due to adaptations to the environment in which the cat lives.
Cat of the Month ~ April 2012
Black Panther – In this case a melanistic leopard, which is the most common type
Photograph: creative commons licence

Examples of the black panther include:

  • Black Jaguars (Panthera Onca), found in Latin America and North America.
  • Black Leopards (Panthera Pardus), found in Asia and Africa.
  • Black Tigers (Panthera Tigris), found in Asia (and very rare).
  • Black Cougars (Puma Concolor), believed to exist in North America but never recorded.
When examined closely, all of these black panthers will in fact show their source cat markings underneath their black colouration. Their skin will look similar to a sheet of printed silk which has been stretched across their frame. This effect is known as “ghost striping”. The black skin is known to be an advantage in regions of dense forest (for instance) as it provides camouflage in the dark environment, and will allow the creature to hunt and stalk almost invisible to their prey. Another benefit of melanism, (recent, preliminary studies also suggest) is that melanism might be linked to beneficial mutations in the immune system, effectively giving these animals a longer and healithier life. It is interesting that melanistic and non-melanistic kittens can be part of the same litter. Several of the Black panther types are now described in more detail: Black Leopard Black leopards are reported in most densely forested areas in southwestern China, Myanmar, Assam and Nepal, from Travancore and other parts of southern India, and are said to be common in Java and the southern part of the Malay Peninsula where they may be more numerous than spotted leopards. They are less common in tropical Africa, but have been reported in Ethiopia, in the forests of Mount Kenya and in the Aberdares. The fur colour of these cats has been recorded as showing a mixture of blue, black, gray, and purple. Melanistic leopards are the most common form of black panther kept in captivity. and they have been selectively bred for decades for Zoos and the exotic pet trade. It is said that black Leopards are smaller and more lightly built than normally pigmented individuals. It is a myth that black leopards are often rejected by their mothers at an early age because of their color. In actuality it has been shown that poor temperament has been bred into the captive strains as a side-effect of inbreeding and it is this poor temperament that leads to problems of maternal care (in captivity only). The Cobweb Panther In the early 1980s, Glasgow Zoo acquired a 10 year old black leopard, nicknamed the Cobweb Panther, from Dublin Zoo. She was exhibited for several years before being moved to the Madrid Zoo. This leopard had a uniformly black coat profusely sprinkled with white hairs as though draped with spider webs. The condition appeared to be vitiligo; as she aged, the white became more extensive. Since then, other “cobweb panthers” have been reported and photographed in zoos. The Black Jaguar Jaguars produce either wholly black or wholly spotted cubs. Also a pair of spotted jaguars can only produce spotted cubs. Where melanistic genes appear in breeding pairs there can be many gradations in the colours produced in the resulting cubs. The allele genes are responsible for this wide variation in colour from dark charcoal rather to jet black. The black jaguar was considered a separate species by indigenous peoples. The British author, naturalist and ornithologist W. H. Hudson wrote: The jaguar is a beautiful creature, the ground-color of the fur a rich golden-red tan, abundantly marked with black rings, enclosing one or two small spots within. This is the typical coloring, and it varies little in the temperate regions; in the hot region the Indians recognise three strongly marked varieties, which they regard as distinct species – the one described; the smaller Jaguar, less aquatic in his habits and marked with spots, not rings; and, thirdly, the black variety. They scout the notion that their terrible “black tiger” is a mere melanic variation, like the black leopard of the Old World and the wild black rabbit. They regard it as wholly distinct, and affirm that it is larger and much more dangerous than the spotted jaguar; that they recognise it by its cry; that it belongs to the terra firma rather than to the water-side; finally, that black pairs with black, and that the cubs are invariably black. Nevertheless, naturalists have been obliged to make it specifically one with Felis onca [Panthera onca], the familiar spotted jaguar, since, when stripped of its hide, it is found to be anatomically as much like that beast as the black is like the spotted leopard. The Black Cougar There are no authenticated cases of truly melanistic Cougars (Pumas). Melanistic Cougars have never been photographed or captured in the wild and none has ever been bred in Captivity. There is wide consensus among breeders and biologists that the animal does not in fact exist. However, Black Cougars have been reported in Kentucky and in the Carolinas. There have also been reports of glossy black cougars from Kansas, Texas and eastern Nebraska. These have come to be known as the “North American Black Panther”. Sightings are currently attributed to errors in species identification by non-experts, and also by the incorrect estimation of the size of these cats when observed in the wild. Footnote: Of course black cats in general are the subject of countless folk tales, myths and anecdotes. Sightings of large black cats have been seen the world over in regions where there are no big cats known to exist at all. For example, here in the United Kingdom more than 2,000 large black cats have now been sighted in the Midlands (near here in fact [Ed]) on Cannock Chase. Finally, within the folklore of the native American Choctaw which has existed for centuries, Black panthers feature prominently, where, along with the owl, they are often thought to symbolize Death.

[source article: Wikipedia]

White Tiger

Cat of the Month ~ January 2012
white tiger image
The White Tiger, rarely seen in the wild.
Photograph: animal-wildlife.blogspot.com

White tigers are basically a colour variant of the Bengal tiger (Panthera tigris bengalensis), and are rarely found in the wild. It is though, reported as having been seen in the wild from time to time in the Assam, Bengal, and Bihar regions of India and especially from the former State of Rewa (in fact home to the very first white tiger). It is believed that all white tigers in captivity in the world today are the descendants of this single white tiger, caught (and named ‘Mohan’) by the Maharajah of Rewa in the year 1951.

The White Tiger is almost identical to the now famous Royal Bengal Tiger except for a genetic mutation that causes a change in the colour of the fur and eyes. The origin of the Bengal Tiger is believed to be from the region we know today as Siberia. From there, these Siberian Big Cats (Panthera tigris altaica) migrated south over the course of thousands of years (and as the climate of their native territory became colder). Today Asia, India and Malaysia all are home to tigers (some of which are white due to genetic mutation), although their numbers are dwindling.

White tigers are only born when two tigers that both carry the unusual gene for white colouring, mate. Unfortunately there are many forced breeding programs currently in progress which are detrimental to those tigers bred in captivity. This is indeed often a sad tale which is outlined in the following very serious and informative article [White Tigers – Conserving Misery]. (Not for the very young or easily upset, Ed)

Where present, white (and other) Bengal tigers will be found regions of dense undergrowth and forested areas where they can camouflage themselves and ambush their prey.

Though, today white tigers are mostly confined in zoos (for example the Nandan Kanan Zoo in Orissa, India) they are also found in many National parks, such as those in India and the Far East.

Munchkin

Cat of the Month ~ November 2011
Munchkin Cat Photograph
Munchkins are intelligent, playful companions
Photograph: Unknown Origin

Munchkin cats are a controversial breed. Munchkins have a naturally occurring genetic mutation that results in them having legs which are unusually short… but the question many have asked is “is it ethical to go on breeding these mutant cats”.

It is said that the ‘short leg’ gene of the Munchkin is similar to the gene which gives Basset Hound, Corgi and Dachshund dogs their short stature (the little ‘Scottish Fold’ cats also have this gene). Munchkins though, do not suffer from the many spinal problems that these dogs are prone to. Studies have shown that the spine of a Munchkin cat is very rarely different from that of other cats. So perhaps it is not such a bad thing that they are bred for their small size.

Long before the name ‘Munchkin’ was first used, there had been sightings of these short-legged cats the world over. For example, a large breeding population had been observed in Europe throughout the early part twentieth century. This group had though all but died out by 1950.

It was in 1964 that a solitary cat of the Munchkin breed was first documented in the United States by Ellen Kasten in the town of Westbury, New York, but it was not until 1983 when a music teacher in Louisiana found two pregnant cats (one of which had a litter of short-legged kittens!) that the Munchkin ‘line’ was truly begun.

It took another eight years before the Munchkin was first introduced to the general public. In 1991 a national network televised cat show held by The International Cat Association in Madison Square Garden presented several Munchkins to the adoring public. It was not all roses though as there was much controversy when TICA went on to accept the Munchkin into its New Breed development program in September 1994. Critics predicted that the breed would develop back, hip and leg problems.

In fact studies at the time proved that the Munchkin was a physically sound cat. At the time one veteran show judge resigned in protest, calling the breed an affront to all breeders with ethics. However the Munchkin achieved TICA Championship status in May 2003 (go Munchkin!).

The Munchkin is generally described as a sweet-natured, playful, people-oriented, outgoing and intelligent cat which responds well to being handled. As pets they are very playful and certainly don’t let their shorter legs hinder them from running, jumping and climbing, just like other cats do.

Munchkins are small to medium sized cats with a moderate “semi-foreign” body type. A male Munchkin typically weighs between 3 to 4 kg and is usually larger than a female, which typically weighs between 1 to 3.5 kg. The short legs of the Munchkin may be slightly bowed or cow-hocked (which render these animals of poor show quality). Also, the hind legs can be slightly longer than the front, but these have no noticeable adverse affect on the animal. According to the Animal Planet TV show there are three types of legs on Munchkins: standard, super-short, and ‘rug hugger’.

munchkin cat
Portrait of a Munchkin
Photograph: Unknown, cropped by Ed

For TICA cat shows, they are separated by fur length into two groups: The Munchkin and Munchkin Longhair. The short-haired variety has a medium-plush coat while the Long-haired has a semi-long silky coat. The Munchkin comes in many colours and coat patterns. This variety stems from the adoption of the ‘outcross’ program, across the breeding participants. This allows Munchkins to be bred with many domestic cats that don’t already belong to a recognised breed.

So, Munchkins are a healthy and hearty cat that in general suffer from the same common health problems as other cats. Some proof of this was provided In 1995, when several Breeders had their oldest Munchkins X-rayed and examined for signs of joint or bone problems. No problems were found!

The Munchkin controversy

There is controversy among breeders of pedigree cats as to whether (and if so) what genetic mutations are abnormal and potentially disadvantageous to the cat. The Australian Capital Territory (a territory of Australia) government consider the Munchkin breed to be “malformed animals” and the deliberate breeding of them “unacceptable” because of the “genetic health problems associated with such breeding”. Owners and Breeders of Munchkins declare them to be “a sound breed” that is “ideal” for small homes and not particularly susceptible to health problems.

Several cat registries do not recognise the Munchkin: Federation Internationale Feline, which refuses to recognise what they consider a breed based on a genetic disease. The Governing Council of the Cat Fancy likewise refuses to recognise the breed, considering this breed and others like it to be “unacceptable” because they are based on an “abnormal structure or development”. The breed is also not recognised by the Cat Fanciers’ Association.

Apart from TICA, registries that recognize the breed includes The American Association of Cat Enthusiasts, UK’s United Feline Organization, the Southern Africa Cat Council, the Waratah National Cat Alliance in Australia and Catz Incorporated in New Zealand.

It is interesting that despite incompatibly issues when inter-breeding Munchkin cats (leading to none Munchkin cat traits in many of the offspring), there have nevertheless been some amazing cross bred animals. These are just some of the cross ‘breeds’ that have been produced:

  • The Skookum cat is a Munchkin cross with the curly coated LaPerm
  • The Minskin cat is a Munchkin cross with the smooth coated hairless Sphynx.
  • The Lambkin cat is a Munchkin cross with the ‘kiss’ curly coated Selkirk Rex
  • The Napoleon cat is a Munchkin cross with the Persian
  • The Genetta is a Munchkin cross with the Bengal
By the way, Munchkins were named after the little people in the ‘Wizard of Oz’. But we guess you guessed that already… But did you know that ‘The Wonderful Wizard of Oz’ was written by L. Frank Baum in April 1900 (I just looked it up). Now you remember Dorothys companion the dog ‘Toto’,but theres a little known cat in the story too….
                DOROTHY
Aunt Em, Miss Gulch hit Toto right over the
back with a rake just because she says he
gets in her garden and chases her nasty old
cat every day.

		AUNT EM
Seventy --  Dorothy, please!

		DOROTHY
Oh, but he doesn't do it every day -- just
once or twice a week.  And he can't catch
her old cat, anyway. And now she says she's
gonna get the sheriff, and --

		AUNT EM
Dorothy!  Dorothy!  We're busy!

		DOROTHY
Oh -- all right.

Caracal Cat

Cat of the Month ~ September 2011
A healthy Caracal cat is sleek, muscular and highly territorial. The Caracal is widely distributed across Africa, Central Asia, and south-west Asia into India. While it is relatively common, there is concern over the status of populations on the edge of its range in the Central Asian republics and in Pakistan. Its chief habitat is dry steppe and semi-desert, but it also inhabits woodlands, Savannah, and scrub forest.
Caracal Cat Sitting
Caracal, related to the African Golden Cat
Photograph: themaxfiles blogspot.com
Caracal prefer to live in open country, but only where there are scattered bushes and rocks from which it can spring to ambush its prey. A fully grown male Caracal typically weighs 13 to 18 kilograms. Though classified as a small cat it is indeed a heavy animal. The Caracal has many aliases, being referred to as the African Lynx, Desert Lynx, Persian Lynx and Egyptian Lynx (and its head features in fact resemble the Eurasian Lynx), but it is not a member of the Lynx family at all! Besides, it has longer legs, shorter fur, and a slimmer appearance than a lynx. In Afrikaans the Caracal is a called the Rooikat or “red cat” whilst in North India and Pakistan it is locally known as “Shyahgosh” or black ears. The word “Caracal” comes from the Turkish (or the ancient Persian) word “karakulak”, meaning (you guessed it) “black ear”.
Caracal Kitten begging
A Caracal Kitten Pleading with Mum for attention
Photograph: Wikimedia Commons
The Caracal is now believed to be (genetically) related to the African Golden cat and the Serval. Its distinguishing features are its very long ear tassels (which it moves using 29 different muscles to listen for and locate nearby prey) and eye pupils which contract to form circles rather than the slits found in most small cats. The Caracal has a range of fur colours from wine-red, through sand-coloured to grey and black (or Melanistic), sometimes all of which are found on a single animal. When young, Caracals have reddish spots on the underside but as they grow into adulthood they lose all markings except for black spots above the eyes and small white patches around the eyes and nose. Underparts of chin and body are generally white at all ages. The paws have numerous stiff hairs growing between the pads (these are said to help the animal walk on soft sand). This is particularly noticeable in the Turkmen Caracals.
A Caracal in the brush
Photograph: no credit given
Other information: Conservation: Caracals are often viewed as vermin by farmers in Africa as they may prey on domesticated livestock such as poultry and young sheep and goats. Caracals are rarely seen in the wild despite their relative abundance, as they hide extremely well. Game drives in countries such as Kenya and Botswana widely encounter other animals, but a sighting of a Caracal is extremely rare. Listed as Near Threatened as it seems reasonable to believe that the species could have declined on the order of 20% over the course of the last 15 years across its range, due mainly to the impact of habitat loss, hunting and loss of prey base. Although there are no reliable density estimates, the total population almost certainly exceeds 10,000 mature individuals (IUCN Cats Red List Workshop 2007). Asian Caracals are on CITES: Appendix I, and African populations are on Appendix II. Fortunately, Caracals are not listed on the IUCN Red List. Behaviour and diet: Adult Caracals dwell either alone or, less commonly, in pairs. Females inhabit relatively small home ranges, varying from 5 to 57 square kilometres (1.9 to 22 sq mi), depending on the local availability of prey. While the females actively defend their territory against other females, the males roam over much larger areas of 19 to 220 square kilometres (7.3 to 85 sq mi) with considerable overlap. Like other cats, Caracals scent mark their territory. They leave their faeces in visible locations, and also mark territory by spraying urine onto bushes or logs, or raking it into the ground with their hind feet.
Close up of a Caracal
Close up of a Caracal, showing the round pupils
Photograph: Wikimedia Commons
Wild Caracals hunt by stalking their prey, approaching within about 5 metres before suddenly sprinting and leaping. They kill smaller prey with a bite to the nape of the neck (The jaw is short and full of powerful teeth), and larger animals by biting the throat and then raking with their claws. Caracals sometimes cover their larger prey if they cannot consume the whole carcass in a single meal. Some have even been observed to hide carcasses in trees (in a similar way to the Cheetah. The Caracal excels in its spectacular skill whilst hunting birds, being able to snatch a bird in flight, sometimes more than one at a time. It can jump and climb exceptionally well, which enables it to catch hyraxes better than probably any other carnivore. If no cover is available in which to conceal itself, a Caracal may flatten itself against the ground and remain motionless, allowing its coat colour to act as camouflage. Communication: Caracals produce the usual range of sounds for cats, including growling, hissing, purring, and calling. Unusually, they also make a barking sound, which is possibly used as a warning. Life span: Its life expectancy in the wild is 12 years, and 19 years in captivity. The Caracal may survive without drinking for a long periods (this water demand is satisfied with the body fluids of its prey). Since it is also surprisingly easy to tame, it has been used as a hunting cat in Iran and India. Today Caracal cats are increasingly kept as pets as they seem to adapt to living with humans. Statistics: Body length: 55-90cm, Tail length: 22-31cm, Shoulder height: 38-50cm, Weight: male: 13kg to 18kg, female: 10kg to 13kg. Caracals from India tend to be smaller than those from Africa. Diet: Caracals hunt by stalking prey including rodents, hares, hyraxes, small deer and other small mammals. They are renowned for their expert ability to catch birds, leaping high into the air and hitting the bird with their paw. Reptiles and invertebrates are also taken. On rare occasions they have been spotted caching food up in trees. Behaviour: African Caracals are most active at night but will also hunt during the day in the winter. Asian Caracals are active at dawn and dusk and are highly inquisitive. They shelter during the day in disused burrows, dense vegetation or rock crevices. The maternal dens are located in porcupine burrows, rocky crevices or dense vegetation. Caracals are ground-dwellers but can climb well. Males have larger ranges than females. Reproduction: Mating may occur at any time of year; however, it is more likely to occur when prey is plentiful, which stimulates estrous in females. The estrous cycle lasts two weeks, and is marked by the female spraying urine containing chemical cues advertising her receptivity to neighbouring males. The female typically mates with several males over the course of a number of days. In some areas, males have been observed to fight aggressively for access to females and to remain with one for several days to guard against rivals; in others, they appear to be less protective. Copulation can last from ninety seconds to ten minutes. Gestation lasts from sixty-one to eighty-one days, and litter size ranges from one to six kittens. For litters born in their natural environment, the maximum number of kittens is three; however, larger litters are more likely to occur in captivity where nutrition needs are adequately met. Before birth, the female prepares a den in a cave or other sheltered area, sometimes using the abandoned burrows of other animals. At birth, the kittens are blind and helpless, weigh 198 to 250 grams (7.0 to 8.8 oz), and have yellow to reddish brown fur with black markings. The eyes open at around ten days, and the deciduous teeth have fully developed by fifty days. The canines are the first permanent teeth to appear, at around four or five months, with the others following over the next six months. Kittens are able to leave the birthing den at around one month old, and at about this time the mother will begin regularly moving them to new locations. Kittens are weaned at about ten weeks, but may stay with their mother for up to one year, when they start to reach sexual maturity. Life expectancy in the wild is twelve years, and seventeen years in captivity.

Tiger

Cat of the Month ~ June 2011
The tiger is the largest of the four Big Cats in the genus Panthera. Panthera Tigris is native to much of eastern and southern Asia though its range has been diminishing steadily for many years.

large Sumatran tiger
An adult Sumatran Tiger stalks prey in the forest
Photograph: No Credit for this Image
The largest (Siberian) tigers measure up to 3.3 metres (11 feet) in total length and weigh up to 300 kilograms (660 pounds). The most numerous tiger subspecies is the Bengal tiger. Tigers have a lifespan of ten to fifteen years in the wild, but can live longer than twenty years in captivity. They are a highly adaptable cat, and range from the Siberian coniferous forests (taiga) to the open grasslands of India and the Indonesian tropical mangrove swamps. Tigers are territorial and generally solitary animals, requiring large areas of deep dense vegetation (in which to hide and stalk, by means of its camouflaged colouring), proximity to drinking water, and of course an abundance of prey. Tigers are often found bathing in ponds, lakes, and rivers (especially in the heat of the day). Together with the jaguar, the tiger is a strong swimmer and is able to carry large prey animals through water as it swims (no doubt using its sharp teeth (which grow up to 5 inches in length) and extremely strong jaws to grip the prey carcass. Incidentally, the word “tiger” is taken from the Greek word ‘Tigris’, which is possibly derived from a Persian source meaning “arrow”, a reference to the animal’s speed (not its sharp teeth).

Sadly, the tiger is an extremely endangered species, primarily due to human intervention (in deforestation and fragmentation in their habitat and also because of human hunting) but also due to the dangers of everyday existence. For example, only fifty percent of Tiger cubs survive to independence from their mother, which occurs at around two years of age. Also only 40 percent of these survivors live to establish a territory and begin to produce young. The risk of mortality continues to be high even for territorial adults, especially for males, which must defend their territories from other males. Consequently (with the human threat coupled with the everyday dangers of life) three of the nine subspecies of modern tiger have now gone extinct, and the remaining six are classified as endangered, some critically so.

a tiger runs in the snow
Tiger ~ clawing the powder snow as it runs
Photograph: Creative Commons
Tigers are among the most recognisable, and are in fact the most popular, of the world’s animals. They have featured prominently in ancient mythology and folklore, and continue to be depicted in modern texts and videos. Tigers appear on many flags and as mascots for sporting teams. Tigers are the national animal of several Asian nations, including India.

Tigers typically have rusty-reddish to brown coats, a whitish underbelly to rear area and a white ruff that surrounds the lower jaw, neck and chin. Of course the tiger is well known for its stripes. These can vary in colour from brown or grey to pure black. The form and density of stripes differs between all the subspecies (as well as the ground coloration of the fur). The pattern of stripes is unique to each animal, these unique markings can be used by researchers to identify individuals (both in the wild and captivity).. Unusually, the stripe pattern is also found on the skin of the tiger (shown when the fur is removed). It is believed but not proven that most tigers have over one hundred stripes around the body. Continue reading “Tiger”