10 things you don't know about these cat breeds
By Kim Campbell Thornton
Andrews McMeel Syndication
Cats are mysterious. Cats are unknowable. Cats are ... wait, none of that is true. Well, maybe the mysterious part. But mostly, cats are fascinating. Here are some facts about cat breeds that expose the dark underbelly of their soul -- er, some of the most interesting things about them.
Siamese cats are progenitors of at least 10 cat breeds, making them arguably the most prolific cat breed. Breeds to which they've contributed their genes include Balinese, Bengal, Birman, Burmese, Havana brown, Himalayan, colorpoint shorthair, Oriental shorthair, snowshoe and Tonkinese.
Although Siamese weren't used to create Russian blues, the cats benefited from Siamese bloodlines after World War II. Russian blues were in danger of disappearing because their numbers had dropped so drastically, and breeders crossed them with Siamese to help get them back on their paws. The Siamese traits have mostly been bred out, but occasionally, white cats with blue points pop up in a litter.
You can distinguish Russian blues from other blue cats by their bright green eyes, pinky-lavender or mauve paw pads, and silver-tipped hairs that give the coat a shimmery appearance. And Russian blues aren't just blue: There are also black Russians, white Russians and tabby Russians. The color varieties were first created in the 1960s and 1970s and are seen mainly in Australia and South Africa.
Birmans are another breed that nearly disappeared after World War II. Only two remained in France, where the breed had been developed. Crosses to Persians and Siamese helped bring them back from the brink.
It's a myth that all cats hate water. Quite a few think water is the cat's meow. Water-loving breeds include the Turkish Angora, Turkish Van, Bengal, Maine coon, Savannah and Japanese bobtail.
If you've ever looked closely at a cat's paw pads, you've probably noticed that they are usually black, pink, lavender or spotted. Paw pad color is often related to a cat's coat color or pattern. For instance, in Abyssinians and Somalis (the longhaired sibling of the Aby), red, sorrel or cinnamon-colored cats have pink paw pads with chocolate brown between the toes. Blue Abys have blue-gray paw pads, and ruddy ones have brown or black paw pads.
Speaking of Abyssinians, it used to be thought that they took their name from their country of origin (Abyssinia, now called Ethiopia). But through the magic of genetic science, we now know they probably originated on the coast of the Indian Ocean and in parts of Southeast Asia.
Some cats have temperature-controlled coats. Well, sort of. Pointed breeds such as Birmans, Siamese and Himalayans are born white, with their darker points appearing as the kittens mature. That's because the gene responsible for the pointed pattern is temperature-regulated. The mutated enzyme isn't expressed at normal body temperatures, but becomes active in cooler areas of the skin: ears, paws, head and tail, which are the areas that darken. Because it's uniformly warm in the womb, the kittens are born white.
American wirehairs have coats that feel like steel wool, even the whiskers, although the texture can range from soft to coarse. The kittens aren't always born wirehaired, but develop the unusual trait as they mature. Others keep a normal cat coat throughout life.
Cat in fancy dress? When you factor in their short and long coat lengths; their more than 300 different colors and patterns (solids, tabbies, tortoiseshells, silvers, particolors, bicolors, smoked and shaded); and their blue, green or odd eyes (each a different color), the Oriental comes in a mind-blowing 600-plus looks. That must be where they get the saying that variety is the spice of life. It is certainly true when it comes to cats.
Why doesn't pup
like to cuddle?
Q: My little Yorkie puppy doesn't like to cuddle with me. Doesn't he like me? Or is there something wrong with him?
A: For us humans, the desire to snuggle a puppy, or cuddle a dog of any size, is almost irresistible. They're soft and sweet -- and puppy breath is intoxicating!
But dogs, even puppies, don't necessarily share our love of being cuddled, held, kissed and hugged. It doesn't mean they don't love us, just that the feeling of restraint that goes along with those things isn't pleasant for them. For some dogs, being held is stressful. They may show signs of anxiety such as panting, shivering or trying to get away. Other dogs think snuggling is the best and can't get enough of it.
Your puppy is probably just being a puppy. Puppies are active and squirmy and curious. They have things to do and places to go! If they're tired from playing, they might be happy to fall asleep at your side or in your lap, but otherwise, expect them to be busy, busy, busy.
Knowing how dogs communicate might help you feel better about your puppy's behavior. When they're showing affection toward each other, dogs might lick each other's face or give a good all-over body sniff. Toward us, our dogs might show affection by making soft eye contact with us (as opposed to a hard stare), bringing us a favorite toy or giving a full-body tail wag.
Your Yorkie may develop into a lap dog as he matures and slows down. Or he might simply prefer to have you scratch behind his ears or beneath his chin, rub that sweet spot between the eyes, or gently pet his chest. Don't force affection on him, and we bet he'll gradually show you how he likes to interact. -- Dr. Marty Becker and Mikkel Becker
Do you have a pet question? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker.
save the day
-- Canine lifeguards on an Italian beach in the town of Sperlonga helped save a group of 14 people, including eight children, struggling in high wind and waves, according to a report by CNN. Dogs are an important part of Italy's beach patrol, and there's even a canine lifeguard school where they learn more than dog paddling. Besides pulling people from the water, they're also trained to jump from search-and-rescue helicopters to perform rescues. Breeds that make good doggy lifeguard candidates include Labrador retrievers and Newfoundlands, both known for their mad water skills.
-- Cats rescue people, too. In Cornwall recently, an 83-year-old woman fell 70 feet down a ravine into a stream. Injured, she was unable to get back up the rough, uneven terrain. Concerned neighbors, who noticed she was missing, had already called emergency services, but it was the loud and persistent meowing of her cat, Piran, that led rescuers to her location. At last report, Piran's person was in stable condition and expected to recover. It's no wonder that in Britain, black cats are considered lucky. "Piran the cat saved the day," local police told reporters.
-- You've probably heard of leopard geckos and bearded dragons, but are you familiar with gold dust day geckos? These lovely lizards are active during the day, and are entertaining to watch as they explore their environment and chow down on small live insects. They enjoy resting on and under live plants, and do best in cages with temperature ranges of 70 to 90 degrees. They need a heat lamp for basking and a piece of hollow bamboo (or a similar item) for a hiding area. Note: Don't get one of these lizards if you want one you can handle and interact with. They are nervous and easily injured, so look but don't touch. -- Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker
ABOUT PET CONNECTION
Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet care experts headed by "The Dr. Oz Show" veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker, founder of the Fear Free organization and author of many best-selling pet care books, and award-winning journalist Kim Campbell Thornton. Joining them is behavior consultant and lead animal trainer for Fear Free Pets Mikkel Becker. Dr. Becker can be found at Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker. Kim Campbell Thornton is at Facebook.com/KimCampbellThornton and on Twitter at kkcthornton. Mikkel Becker is at Facebook.com/MikkelBecker and on Twitter at MikkelBecker.