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 CatChannel.com, 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, PetFinder.com 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.