VCA Animal Hospitals

Study reveals how cats get their stripes

Published: Oct 05, 2012

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New research reveals why some cats are striped and others have blotches.

Scientists from Stanford University, the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology and the Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research analyzed DNA samples from feral cats in California as well as captive and wild cheetahs. They discovered a gene they dubbed Taqpep, which they believe to be responsible for the various patterns on felines. 

They say the same gene that produces dark stripes on tabby cats' coats is also responsible for the spots on cheetahs. However, when the gene is mutated, the stripes and spots become blotches instead.

The study is believed to be the first investigation into why cats have certain patterns.

"Nobody had any idea what the genes were that were involved in these things," Stephen O'Brien, a geneticist and researcher involved in the study, told The New York Times. "When the feline genome became available, we began to look for them."

The newspaper reports that scientists were also able to discover a second gene, Edn3, which controls hair color in cats' coat patterns.

According to, the two newly discovered genes work together to produce specific patterns on cats' coats.

"Somehow, cells in the black stripes know they are in a black stripe and remember that fact throughout the organism's life," lead researcher Gregory Barsh told the website. "We were curious about what's happening at the boundary between light and dark stripes and spots. How do these spots know how to grow with the animal?"

Regardless of the pattern on a cat's fur, felines are well-known for meticulously grooming themselves and helping to maintain a healthy and shiny coat. In fact, reports that adult cats may spend as much as half of their time each day grooming themselves.

According to WebMD Pets, pet health experts say there are a number of factors that may cause your cat's coat to lose its shine or to become dull-looking. They include poor nutrition, weight problems, age and bathing the animal too often. In addition, pet parasites, infection, diabetes in cats or another serious ailment may cause dry skin and a dull coat.

Veterinarians say it's important for cat owners to consult a professional if changes in their pet's coat occur and persist. Once the problem is determined, it can often be easily remedied.


General Practice

We have over 540 animal hospitals in 41 states that are staffed by more than 2,000 fully qualified, dedicated and compassionate veterinarians, with more than 200 being board-certified specialists. The nationwide VCA family of general practice hospitals give your pet the very best in medical care, providing a full range of general medical and surgical services as well as specialized treatments*: Wellness, Spay/neuter, Advanced diagnostic services (MRI/CT Scan), Internal medicine, Oncology, Ophthalmology, Dermatology, Cardiology, Neurology, Boarding, Grooming

*services may vary by location.

Our family of pet hospitals stands out by delivering the greatest resources in order provide the highest quality care available for your pets. By maintaining the highest standards of pet health care available anywhere, we emphasize prevention as well as healing. We provide continuing education programs to our doctors and staff and promote the open exchange of professional knowledge and expertise. And finally, we have established a consistent program of procedures and techniques, proven to be the most effective in keeping pets healthy.

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Specialty Care

Sometimes sick or injured pets need the care of a veterinary medical specialist. When that happens, VCA specialty hospitals work closely with the general practitioner veterinarians who refer cases to us in order to provide seamless veterinary care to your pet. When your pet is facing any kind of serious illness or injury, our specialty referral hospitals will provide the compassionate and expert care your beloved pet needs.

Our goal is to make sure that when you and your pet are in need that you have access to board certified specialists who are up to date on the very latest developments in their field. In our state of the art hospitals, our specialists also have access to the most sophisticated diagnostic and treatment tools and techniques from ultrasonography and endoscopy to CAT scans and even MRI.

We have twenty-eight specialty hospitals across the US so there may be one near you. Our specialized services include: cardiology, critical care, dentistry, dermatology, internal medicine, neurology, oncology, ophthalmology, radiology and surgery.

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In case of emergency, please call us immediately. If it is after hours, check with a local animal hospital emergency clinic.