“Breed differences of heritable behaviour traits in cats”, (2019-05-28; ; backlinks):
Cat domestication and selective breeding have resulted in tens of breeds with major morphological differences. These breeds may also show distinctive behaviour differences; which, however, have been poorly studied. To improve the understanding of feline behaviour, we examined whether behavioural differences exist among cat breeds and whether behaviour is heritable. For these aims, we utilized our extensive health and behaviour questionnaire directed to cat owners and collected a survey data of 5726 cats. Firstly, for studying breed differences, we utilized logistic regression models with multiple environmental factors and discovered behaviour differences in 19 breeds and breed groups in ten different behaviour traits. Secondly, the studied cat breeds grouped into four clusters, with the Turkish Van and Angora cats alone forming one of them. These findings indicate that cat breeds have diverged not only morphologically but also behaviourally. Thirdly, we estimated heritability in three breeds and obtained moderate heritability estimates in seven studied traits, varying from 0.4 to 0.53, as well as phenotypic and genetic correlations for several trait pairs. Our results show that it is possible to partition the observed variation in behaviour traits into genetic and environmental components, and that substantial genetic variation exists within breed populations.
“Crowdfunded whole-genome sequencing of the celebrity cat Lil BUB identifies causal mutations for her osteopetrosis and polydactyly”, (2019-02-22; backlinks):
Rare diseases and their underlying molecular causes are often poorly studied, posing challenges for patient diagnosis and prognosis. The development of next-generation sequencing and its decreasing costs promises to alleviate such issues by supplying personal genomic information at a moderate price. Here, we used crowdfunding as an alternative funding source to sequence the genome of Lil BUB, a celebrity cat affected by rare disease phenotypes characterized by supernumerary digits, osteopetrosis and dwarfism, all phenotypic traits that also occur in human patients. We discovered that Lil BUB is affected by two distinct mutations: a heterozygous mutation in the limb enhancer of the Sonic hedgehog gene, previously associated with polydactyly in Hemingway cats; and a novel homozygous frameshift deletion affecting the TNFRSF11A (RANK) gene, which has been linked to osteopetrosis in humans. We communicated the progress of this project to a large online audience, detailing the ‘inner workings’ of personalized whole genome sequencing with the aim of improving genetic literacy. Our results highlight the importance of genomic analysis in the identification of disease-causing mutations and support crowdfunding as a means to fund low-budget projects and as a platform for scientific communication.
2017-espiniturbe.pdf: “Active and passive responses to catnip (Nepeta cataria) are affected by age, sex and early gonadectomy in male and female cats”, (2017-09-01; backlinks):
- Only 2⁄3 of adult cats are believed to respond to catnip (Nepeta cataria).
- Responsiveness is mainly based on “active” behaviors, such as rolling over.
- Herein we assessed active and passive responses in cats of different age, sex, and gonadal status.
- Few cats responded actively, but almost 100% did it passively (sphinx-like posture).
- We discuss brain maturation as the cause to catnip response.
Catnip (Nepeta cataria) is a popular plant among cat owners because in about 60% of felids elicits active behaviors such as rolling over, grooming, motor activity and vocalizations. Herein, we assessed the display of active but also passive responses, such as time in sphinx-like position, and consequently hypothesized that 100% of cats respond to catnip.
Accordingly, 60 domestic cats of different age (infant, juvenile, adults), sex (males, females) and gonadal status (early gonadectomized, gonadally intact) were placed in a cylindrical chamber (1.20 × 1.40 m) during 5 min and then exposed to 500 mg of dehydrated catnip for another 5 min. Behaviors were video-recorded and scored.
Results indicated that about 20% of the cats (adults and juvenile only) displayed active behaviors (ie. rolling over), whereas 80% displayed passive responses at any age (sphinx-like position, decreased frequency in vocalizations, and decreased motor activity). These results suggest that all cats respond to catnip but they express it actively, passively or with a combination of both types of responses, which mainly depends on age and sex, and early gonadectomy to a much less extent.
We discuss the possible implications of brain maturation on this dichotomy and speculate on the role of opioidergic system on the catnip responses.
[Keywords: Nepeta cataria, catnip, domestic cat, gonadectomy, age, opioids]
“Responsiveness of cats (Felidae) to silver vine (Actinidia polygama), Tatarian honeysuckle (Lonicera tatarica), valerian (Valeriana officinalis) and catnip (Nepeta cataria)”, (2017-03-16; ; backlinks):
Background: Olfactory stimulation is an often overlooked method of environmental enrichment for cats in captivity. The best known example of olfactory enrichment is the use of catnip, a plant that can cause an apparently euphoric reaction in domestic cats and most of the Pantherinae. It has long been known that some domestic cats and most tigers do not respond to catnip. Although many anecdotes exist of other plants with similar effects, data are lacking about the number of cats that respond to these plants, and if cats that do not respond to catnip respond to any of them. Furthermore, much is still unknown about which chemicals in these plants cause this response.
Methods: We tested catnip, silver vine, Tatarian honeysuckle and valerian root on 100 domestic cats and observed their response. Each cat was offered all four plant materials and a control, multiple times. Catnip and silver vine also were offered to nine tigers. The plant materials were analyzed by gas chromatography coupled with mass spectrometry to quantify concentrations of compounds believed to exert stimulating effects on cats.
Results: Nearly all domestic cats responded positively to olfactory enrichment. In agreement with previous studies, one out of every three cats did not respond to catnip. Almost 80% of the domestic cats responded to silver vine and about 50% to Tatarian honeysuckle and valerian root. Although cats predominantly responded to fruit galls of the silver vine plant, some also responded positively to its wood. Of the cats that did not respond to catnip, almost 75% did respond to silver vine and about one out of three to Tatarian honeysuckle. Unlike domestic cats, tigers were either not interested in silver vine or responded disapprovingly. The amount of nepetalactone was highest in catnip and only present at marginal levels in the other plants. Silver vine contained the highest concentrations of all other compounds tested.
Conclusions: Olfactory enrichment for cats may have great potential. Silver vine powder from dried fruit galls and catnip were most popular among domestic cats. Silver vine and Tatarian honeysuckle appear to be good alternatives to catnip for domestic cats that do not respond to catnip.
“Identification of the cat attractants isodihydronepetalactone and isoiridomyrmecin from Acalypha indica”, (2016; backlinks):
Acalypha indica is a herb that grows throughout the tropical regions of the world. As well as being exploited for medicinal use, the roots of this plant are known to elicit a drug-like effect on cats. Recent research into feral cat control on Christmas Island has investigated whether a preparation of the roots of A. indica might be effective in traps to attract feral cats. However, the volatile nature of the attractants made it unviable for use in traps for more than a few days. In this study we investigated the volatile components emitted by the plant roots and identified two iridoid compounds, (4R,4aR,7S,7aR)-isodihydronepetalactone and (4R,4aS,7S,7aR)-isoiridomyrmecin, which are known to affect behavioural activity in cats. Synthesis of standards confirmed the stereochemistry of both compounds emitted by the plant. Potential application for these compounds in feral cat control is discussed.
2016-stelow.pdf: “The Relationship Between Coat Color and Aggressive Behaviors in the Domestic Cat”, (2015-10-14; ; backlinks):
The authors explored a possible relationship between coat color and aggressive behaviors in the domestic cat.
This study used an Internet-based survey to collect information on coat color, affiliative behaviors toward cats/humans, agonistic behaviors toward cats/humans, other “problem” behaviors, and cat and guardian demographic data. A total of 1,432 cat guardians completed the online survey; after exclusions based on study protocol, data analysis included 1,274 completed surveys.
Guardians reported sex-linked orange female (tortoiseshells, calicos, and “torbies”), black-and-white, and gray-and-white cats to be more frequently aggressive toward humans in 3 settings: during everyday interactions, during handling, and during veterinary visits. Kruskal-Wallis 1-way analysis of variance was used to compare possible differences between the 2 sexes and among different coat colors. Analyses of aggression due to handling, as well as aggression displayed during veterinarian visits, showed little difference among coat colors in these settings.
[Keywords: feline aggression, coat color]
“Genetic testing in domestic cats”, (2012; backlinks):
Varieties of genetic tests are currently available for the domestic cat that support veterinary health care, breed management, species identification, and forensic investigations. Approximately thirty-five genes contain over fifty mutations that cause feline health problems or alterations in the cat’s appearance. Specific genes, such as sweet and drug receptors, have been knocked-out of Felidae during evolution and can be used along with mtDNA markers for species identification. Both STR and SNP panels differentiate cat race, breed, and individual identity, as well as gender-specific markers to determine sex of an individual. Cat genetic tests are common offerings for commercial laboratories, allowing both the veterinary clinician and the private owner to obtain DNA test results. This article will review the genetic tests for the domestic cat, and their various applications in different fields of science. Highlighted are genetic tests specific to the individual cat, which are a part of the cat’s genome.
2011-villani.pdf: “Heritability and Characteristics of Catnip Response in Two Domestic Cat Populations”, (2011; ; backlinks):
The domestic cat response to catnip is unique in nature as it represents a repeatable, recognizable behavioral response to an olfactory stimulus that appears to have little evolutionary importance. There is clear variation in response between cats and this has been attributed to genetic factors in the past. These factors are explored in this study using behavioral observation after presenting of catnip to cats in two different research colonies with different environmental and genetic backgrounds. The response trait is defined and Gibbs sampling methods are used to explore a mixed model for the trait to determine genetic effects. Heritabilities obtained in the two colonies for the most important response behaviors, the head over roll and cheek rub, were 0.511 and 0.794 using catnip spray and dried catnip respectively. No clear Mendelian mode of inheritance was ascertained in either colony. The variation in response behaviors and intensity seen in the two colonies reflects the complex nature of expression of the catnip response, but there is a clear genetic influence on the feline predisposition to responding.
“Feline genetics: clinical applications and genetic testing”, (2010; backlinks):
DNA testing for domestic cat diseases and appearance traits is a rapidly growing asset for veterinary medicine. Approximately 33 genes contain 50 mutations that cause feline health problems or alterations in the cat’s appearance. A variety of commercial laboratories can now perform cat genetic diagnostics, allowing both the veterinary clinician and the private owner to obtain DNA test results. DNA is easily obtained from a cat via a buccal swab with a standard cotton bud or cytological brush, allowing DNA samples to be easily sent to any laboratory in the world. The DNA test results identify carriers of the traits, predict the incidence of traits from breeding programs, and influence medical prognoses and treatments. An overall goal of identifying these genetic mutations is the correction of the defect via gene therapies and designer drug therapies. Thus, genetic testing is an effective preventative medicine and a potential ultimate cure. However, genetic diagnostic tests may still be novel for many veterinary practitioners and their application in the clinical setting needs to have the same scrutiny as any other diagnostic procedure. This article will review the genetic tests for the domestic cat, potential sources of error for genetic testing, and the pros and cons of DNA results in veterinary medicine. Highlighted are genetic tests specific to the individual cat, which are a part of the cat’s internal genome.
2006-wang.pdf: “Quantification of nepetalactones in catnip (Nepeta cataria L.) by HPLC coupled with ultraviolet and mass spectrometric detection”, (2007-01-29):
Nepetalactones, the major chemical components of catnip (Nepeta cataria L.), were analysed by reversed-phase HPLC coupled with UV and MS detection.
Two major nepetalactones, Z,E-nepetalactone and E,Z-nepetalactone, were successfully identified and quantified. The linearity range for Z,E-nepetalactone was determined as 0.00655–0.655 mg/mL with a correlation coefficient of 0.9999, and the linearity range of E,Z-nepetalactone was found to be 0.00228–0.456 mg/mL with a correlation coefficient of 0.9999, under UV detection at 228 nm. The linearity ranges were from 0.00164 to 0.0328 mg/mL, with a correlation coefficient of 0.9999, for Z,E-nepetalactone and 0.00114–0.0228 mg/mL, with a correlation coefficient of 0.9999, for E,Z-nepetalactone by MS detection with selected ion monitoring of ion peak m/z 167.
The MS detection was found to be more sensitive than UV detection and this method was validated as simple, reliable and sensitive for catnip nepetalactone analysis. This method can be used for identification and fingerprinting of catnip products.
1997-edwards.pdf: “Field Evaluation of Olfactory Lures for Feral Cats (Felis catus L.) in Central Australia”, (1997; backlinks):
Field trials were conducted in central Australia to evaluate the ability of various olfactory lures to attract feral cats (Felis catus L.).
Ten food-based lures, one plant extract and two scent-based lures (anal-gland preparations from male and female cats) were evaluated on the basis of visitation rates and elicited behavioural responses. A visual lure composed of bird feathers was also tested in conjunction with the scent-based lures.
One food-based lure (sun-rendered prawn) and both of the scent-based lures were found to attract feral cats. The visual lure did not enhance the attractiveness of the scent-based lures.
The possible uses and relative advantages of these lures in control programmes and in ecological studies of cats are discussed.
1997-chalchat.pdf: “Chemical Composition of the Essential Oil Isolated from Wild Catnip Nepeta cataria L. cv. citriodora from the Drôme Region of France”, (1997):
Nepeta cataria L. cv. citriodora growing wild in the Drôme region of France was brought into cultivation. Oils produced from cultivated plants harvested throughout the growing season were analyzed by GC and GC/MS.
Although 42 components were identified, the oil composition did not depend on the time of harvesting or storage of the plant material prior to distillation. The oil was found to comprise mainly of citronellol (11.44–16.73%), nerol (19.95–30.70%), geraniol (25.13–31.00%) and geranial (4.93–11.05%). The highest oil yield was found to be at the time of full flowering. [Keyword: Nepeta cataria L. cv. citriodora, Labiata, essential oil composition, citronellol, citronellyl acetate, geranial, nerol, geraniol]
1993-bourrel.pdf: “Catnip (Nepeta cataria L.) Essential Oil: Analysis of Chemical Constituents, Bacteriostatic and Fungistatic Properties”, (1993):
The composition of the essential oil of flowering catnip (Nepeta cataria L., Lamiaceae) was analyzed by means of GC/MS.
Besides the already known nepetalactones 4aα, 7α, 7aα-nepetalactone; 3,4β-dihydro-4aα, 7α, 7aα-nepetalactone; 4aα, 7α, 7aβ-nepetalactone and β-caryophyllene, five new constituents were identified: dimethyl-3,7 oxa-1 bicyclo [3,3,0] oct-2-ene, piperitone, thymol methyl ether, hexenyl benzoate and humulene oxide. The essential oil of two samples of the plant, collected at two different stages of development, was compared as to their nepetalactone content. The oil samples and a hexane extract were subjected to microbiological tests (five bacteria and seven fungi) and compared to natural compounds known for their antimicrobiological activities. [Keyword: Nepeta cataria, Labiatae, catnip, essential oil composition, nepetalactones, bacteriostatic activitym fungistatic activity]
1963-konecny.pdf: “Behavioral Ecology of Feral House Cats in the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador”, (1963; backlinks):
Feral house cats (Felis catus) were studied at two sites in the Galapagos Islands. Visual observations, fecal collections, and radio telemetry data were gathered to elucidate their ecology and social organization. 68% of all cats trapped were adults; the adult sex ratio was 2.62 males per female. The density of adult cats at both sites was approximately two cats per square kilometer, although the habitat at each site differed in structure and quality.
Transect analyses revealed that there were temporal fluctuations in prey abundance, while the numbers consumed were often different. There were seasonal differences in diet breadth; the diet was broader in the dry season. A posteriori attempts to determine prey preferences indicated that rats, small birds, lava lizards, and grasshoppers were consumed most frequently. A comparison of estimated daily energy intake and daily energy requirements for males and females indicated that males and pregnant and lactating females probably face energy stresses. The energy stress on pregnant and lactating females may be severe, contributing to their apparent greater mortality.
The plotted movements of radio-collared cats revealed large differences in home range size between sexes and sites. At Cerro Colorado the home ranges were larger and more overlapping than those at Tagus Cove. In the qualitatively richer habitat of Cerro Colorado locations were concentrated near the coast, while those at Tagus Cove were more diffuse. Plots of daily movements revealed that foraging paths at Cerro Colorado crisscrossed frequently, while paths were essentially straight at Tagus Cove. The activity cycle was bimodally crepuscular with the lowest activity in the early afternoon.
Little aggression was seen during dominance interactions at Cerro Colorado, while no interactions were observed at Tagus Cove. From all the collected data it was hypothesized that feral cats are solitary, opportunistic predators with broad diets. Differences in habitat quality between sites resulted in different social organizations, with a dominance hierarchy at Cerro Colorado and olfactory-mediated territoriality at Tagus Cove.
1962-todd.pdf: “Inheritance of the catnip response in domestic cats”, (1962; ; backlinks):
Four behavioral components of the catnip response are described briefly. The analysis of a pedigree indicates that responding is inherited as an autosomal dominant. Other aspects of inheritance of the catnip response are discussed.
An essential oil, nepetalactone, was isolated from the catnip plant (Nepeta cataria) by McElvain et al. 2, 3, 4 and Meinwald 5. McElvain2 demonstrated with lions that the oil is the substance which is responsible for the attraction of cats to the plant and the only constituent capable of inducing a response. This familiar response has been broken down into four components, viz, 1. sniffing, 2. licking and chewing with head shaking, 3. chin and cheek rubbing and 4. head-over roll and body rubbing. None of these automatisms is unique to catnip, each of them apparently belonging normally to sexual or ingestive behavior1. These components almost invariably appear in the above sequence. In fact, among 58 responding cats, all tested with dried leaves, only 3 individuals deviated from this sequence and omitted the licking and chewing with head shaking. These animals went immediately into the rolling phase, which seemed to be exceptionally violent. Component four may last from three to six minutes before all response is extinguished. Additional behavior patterns noted occasionally are claw sharpening and washing, both of which occur as displacement activities in the ethological sense in sexual behavior1.
Among responding animals the response may occasionally be inhibited for obscure reasons, necessitating repeated testing of non-responders before drawing conclusions. Also, the response is not manifested in kittens under 6 to 8 weeks of age and may not develop fully until three months of age. In fact, catnip often produces a distinct avoidance response in young kittens which is gradually replaced by indifference in non-responders and by heightened curiosity in responders. Whether nursing is in any way connected with inhibiting the response has not yet been determined. In one case a 6- to 7-week-old nursing kitten gave a total response, but this seems exceptional. A distressed or enraged animal may still respond, and neutering appears to have no effect on behavior towards catnip.