Preserving Our Breed

author Kristen Wiley       Imperial RagaMuffins

A year ago I sent an email to all our breeders to discuss our breed and the outcross. As the Breed Chair for ACFA I was asked to discuss the outcross and to make changes to what is currently
allowable. I compiled all the responses and started really researching our breed database. We have seen the repetitive use of some of the same pedigrees and the seemingly shrinking pool of
our genetic diversity within our pedigree program. With that in mind I began working with a company (Optimal Selection) that does genetic evaluation of cats and determines a specific
samples heterozygosity.
For those maybe not familiar with the term heterozygosity I will explain that quickly. It is the term used to relate the genetic diversity. Hetero meaning opposite alleles of the same gene. The
greater the heterozygosity, the greater the genetic diversity. So a cat that is very homozygous (meaning same alleles of a gene) will typically be very “typey” and or line bred. I line breed my
cats to keep as closely to the type I desire in our breed. In doing so one risks loosing genetic diversity. As our gene pool is quite small we worry about the need for an outcross to help widen those numbers.
Currently when a breeder is considering a breeding they may call and ask to run a coefficient from the groups database. We like to keep our coefficient or inbreeding less than 10%. The number we get based from a coefficient is determined by the cats in the pedigree and not what actual genes the cats received from its parents are. Although heterozygosity might not vary too greatly between siblings, it is very interesting to see the differences. What I think is more interesting is correlations between heterozygosity numbers from cats of our breed vs other breeds and vs random bred cats ie barn cats DSH/DLH. This is the number to look at when worrying
about questions like “Does our breed need a outcross?”.
With the new information from Optimal Selection we can better predict a possible pairings heterozygosity. Since working with Optimal Selection my worries about the gene pool have
lessened. I do not have a huge in depth look at our gene pool through this company since there are just barely over 30 samples given. I do line breed and I was very surprised with the heterozygosity within my own cattery. So that is the info I presented to the committee after receiving requests for us to add to our outcross.
Optimal Selection has generated numbers from their samples for averages of breed heterozygosity and uses a scale to compare with pedigree cats in general as well as random bred
cats. Random bred cats heterozygosity is 38.7% compared to pedigree cats average at 33.7%. We finally have the minimum 30 samples needed to generate a median for our breed and it is
36.2%. Below are other breeds current average percentage for heterozygosity. If a breed is not listed it means they do not have enough samples. Numbers can change as more samples are
given to them.
Abyssinian 28.9%
Balinese 24.6%
Bengal 33.2%
British 35.7%
Burmese 21.3%
Cornish 32.9%
Exotic 33.1%
Korat 20%
Maine coon 34.7%
Norwegian 37.8%
Ocicat 30.2%
Oriental LH 26%
Oriental SH 24.5%
Persian 33.4%
Ragdoll 33.9%
Russian blue 31.7%
Siamese 24.1%
Siberian 38%
Somali 30.6%
Sphinx 34.7%
Turkish angora 36.4%
Turkish van 32.8%

I would LOVE to see more breeders using the Optimal Selection as a tool. It is an expense ($100/cat), but one I deem worth the results. The comprehensive report also gives blood type aswell as tests for numerous diseases including PKD1 and HCM. I think looking at the numbers comparing heterozygosity to a cats inbreeding especially interesting and think it’s indicative to our pedigrees errors. Either error of entering cats in or error of parentage. Cats with very similar
heterozygosity but vastly different COI and vice versa is odd. It confirms my thoughts on errors and also the lacking in solely using a coefficient for such decisions.
The use of the DLH as an outcross was brought up. I do have concerns about that. For one, I know of instances in our breeds history where cats have been registered as DLH for our breeds
use that possibly are purebred cats. My concern is the actual diversity within those cats we would use of DLH. Using Optimal Selection would tell us that but we cant implement its
requirement to use a DLH. I know from my experience growing up on the farm that our barn cats were inbred. Cats in the wild don’t use discretion when it comes to mating. And even though tom cats will wander there is still a circle of same genes running in those cats wandering.

My suspicions are slightly confirmed by the Optimal Selections number assigned to a random bred cat since it is not higher.
The average heterozygosity for a random bred (barn cat) cat is 38.7% and for a pedigree cat average is 33.7%. So the higher the number the more genetic diversity. Now also realize that
the number between a barn cat and a pedigree cat is not huge, but it will help you reference where our breed is on that scale.
Pedigree average 33.7%
Random average 38.7%
RagaMuffin average 36.2%
Below are RagaMuffins in the data base (the second number is that cats coefficient based off a 10 generation pedigree) They are not relatable as far as heterozygosity to coefficient but more to the
fact that we say breed under 10% coefficient to have safe health and diversity. So this will tell you ok we say 6% coefficient is great and relate to ok here is this cats heterozygosity or actual genetic diversity. In the following , bold print numbers next to each other are FULL siblings for comparison of heterozygosity vs coefficient.
heterozygosity vs coefficient . The third number percentage in each line is for samples I didn’t have pedigrees for to know coefficient
36.1% 11.1% 34.1%
36.5% 6.7% 36.7%
36.8% 6.7% 36.6%
33.9% 11% 34.4%
34.4% 11.3% 36.5%
34% 11.3% 39.9%
34.5% 7% 38.6%
34.2% 12.7% 38.9%
32.8% 12.4% 35.4%
34.4% 12.4% 36.3%
33.7% 16.1%
35.2% 6.4%
Samples from first generation BLH outcrosses using two sets of different parents:
39.8% (I dont have the BLH parent number but the Ragamuffin parent had a 34.2%)
39.3% (The BLH parent used had a 37.3% and the ragamuffin had a 35.2%)
40.3% full sibling to above kitten
Numbers from siblings of our Selkirk outcrossings and are 2nd generation.
38.4%
37.1%
So, some of the outcrosses have greater genetic diversity then that of a random bred barn cat!
That is why I think using a DLH is not the best answer. Cats in the wild can’t always be as diverse due to the small wandering circle of genes they can get to. And also they do breed to their siblings, parents etc….. With how we can ship cats today, it is more genetically diverse to get cats of known pedigree breedings than to use a DLH.

As far as “Do we need an outcross?” Well the numbers from the two BLH are nice to see. But if you look at the cats in the database
that are purebred RagaMuffins all but one are over the average of the average pedigree cat. This is why I say I don’t necessarily worry about adding one. Yes it will help and add diversity, but I
believe we will be ok without. Granted this is a small pool of our breeding pool cats. I would better be able to evaluate if there were more cats in the system.
Here are some predicted heterozygosity numbers vs trial mating coefficients with some of the samples.
predicted heterozygosity vs coefficient
37% 6.5%
36.5% 7.4%
33% 18.9%
36.3% 6.4%
35.4% 10.3%
35.3% 9.7%
37.5% 5.6%
36.1% 5.4%
35.3% 7.2%
I want us to make informed decisions. And this has been a very useful tool! For now ACFA is not adding to their outcross. But it is nice to see all this information for future reference in
determining the future for our breed.

CFA Annual

author Sara Thornton DVM      iCandy RagaMuffins

 

I spent the last weekend in June at the Cat Fanciers’ Association annual meeting. I went as a delegate for my club, the RagaMuffin Cat Fanciers and to get the award my cat had won in person. Pixi Stix was the best RagaMuffin in the country for the last show season. While I have had cats that won the award in the past (both Nougat and Fudgie), I did not travel to get the award.

This year’s event was sponsored by the North Atlantic Region. It was held at Turning Point Resort and Casino in Verona, NY. My four hour drive turned into 6 hours due to construction. I got there Thursday evening and settled in for the next two days.

All day Friday was the annual CFA meeting where delegates like me voted on changes to show rules. It was actually more interesting than I expected. A focus of the changes was to attract more people into showing cats as well as attending the shows as a spectator.

Saturday night was the big event: the awards banquet. I’d heard about it, but it was really something to witness. It’s nicknamed the cat prom for a reason. Many men wore tuxedos, women wore formal gowns or a cocktail dresses ( my choice). People involved in the cat fancy from all over the world were present.

To get Pixi Stix’s award, I lined up in an aisle formed between tables. As I got closer to the stage, a red carpet appeared. While headed to the stage, Richard Katris, a renowned cat show photographer snapped my picture. On stage with a looming image of Pixi Stix, , I received the award, was photographed again and trailed off the stage to a set up with another famous cat show photographer, Larry Johnson, for a formal portrait.

Spending the evening with friends, hooting and hollering for their wins, hearing them cheer for Pixi Stix made it a memorable evening.

North Atlantic Regional Cat Show

author Sara Thornton DVM      iCandy RagaMuffins

I entered two of my RagaMuffins, Smidgen and Sugar Daddy in the CFA North Atlantic cat show held in Cromwell, Connecticut this month. Friend Lynda Jay of Serendippity RagaMuffins flew in for the show, bringing her kitty Truffles to show and delivering my new show kitten Solo.

I was really looking forward to the show along with coming home with a new kitten.

Saturday started with walking into a show hall that was decorated to the extreme. It was amazing. The theme of the show was Into the Looking Glass from Alice in Wonderland. To get to the show hall, an exhibitor walked through an arch, starting the Wonderland decor. Each show ring was designed with a specific character in mind. The color scheme and arrangements and even the ribbons matched the specific ring décor. Paper mache characters lined the judges’ table. The judges’ lights were gloriously adored. One ring was the white rabbit, another was Alice,  others included the Mad Hatter, cheshire cat and there was even a queen of hearts! And, yes, even the judges were dressed in the theme!

After walking in and seeing how extraordinary it was, Lynda and I both hoped to do some winning in order to get those spectacular rosettes. Cat shows, like many other things have tightened their belts and downsized the ribbons, often awarding decorated paper. Not this time. The ribbons were HUGE. And they sported gold tassles. The first place winners even got a specially designed ribbon.

Both Lynda and I were fortunate enough to do some winning over the weekend on both days. The big winner for us was Solo. At just four months old, she wowed the judges, climbing the judges’ pole and showing off her beauty. It’s a pleasure to watch a kitty enjoy the ring. Both Lynda and I were proud of all the RagaMuffins we put in front of the judges. It is a fairly new breed, so having the judges evaluate consistent, high quality cats is important.

Poor Lynda had a problem on the way home. She’d won so many ribbons that she was afraid her luggage would be overweight for the plane. 🙂

North Atlantic Regional Banquet

Pixi Stix’s 2018-2019 regional trophies

author Sara Thornton DVM          iCandy RagaMuffins

Every June, it’s time for the big event.  Cat show people gather  to celebrate the previous season. This year the NAR ( North Atlantic Region) chose to hold the event in Cromwell, Connecticut. It’s further away than I generally travel, but, my Pixi Stix was getting two awards and it’s always fun to see the cat people dressed up.

The banquet was held on Saturday night. There was a cat show both Saturday and Sunday. so I made what was supposed to be a four hour drive with cats on Friday. It took six hours; heavy traffic is no fun. Once I got to the hotel, I unloaded the car and got my kitties, Sugar Daddy and Smidgen, comfortable. I then went out to dinner with a friend.

Another friend of mine, Lynda Jay of Serendippity RagaMuffins flew in from Illinois Friday for the show and banquet. She brought with her my new show kitten, Solo. I was looking forward to spending the weekend with Lynda and getting to know Solo.

The show kept us busy the next day, but we got out in time to clean up and dress up for the awards banquet. The theme for the weekend was Into the Looking Glass from Alice in Wonderland. The theme was carried through from the show hall to the banquet room. Tables were beautifully decorated with black and white harlequin table clothes. The centerpieces were fabulous continuing the theme using fresh flowers. Even the place cards were theme based. Somebody put a lot of work into this!

The meal was excellent. After dinner, the awards began. Best of breed awards were first. iCandy Pixi Stix earned  Best of Breed RagaMuffin in the region. The next set of awards were for the various categories cats compete in. Pixi Stix was a Regional Winner last year and repeated it this year. As in previous years, it was an enjoyable experience. Lynda had never been to a cat awards banquet; I’m glad she had a good time.

Selkirk Outcross

DramaTails Chocolat of iCandy- Selkirk Straight

 

author Sara Thornton DVM        iCandy RagaMuffins

In February 2016, CFA approved the RagaMuffin Breed Council request for an outcross using the long haired Selkirk Rex, silky variety. The purpose of this was to  help RagaMuffin breeders  by adding  new blood to the gene pool. Not only may we benefit from the Selkirk bloodlines, but the Selkirk has outcrosses with the British Short Hair and the Persian. Lots of possibilities exist with this. The duty of the RagaMuffin breeder is to choose individuals with proper type, keeping in mind the sweet expression we all love along with proper coat, ear set, and muzzle. In addition, health screening is paramount as we want to safe guard our breed.

Jelly Belly Had Kittens

 

 

author Sara Thornton DVM              iCandy RagaMuffins

 

My sweet twenty-one month old CFA Grand Champion iCandy Jelly Belly was due for her first litter this week. Her due date was Tuesday. Monday morning she was acting a bit different and went in the nesting box , joining another litter of kittens and their mother.

By two PM she was intermittently panting for short periods of times, but no contractions. I had to go to work, so had a kitty sitter come stay with her while I was gone. Nothing happened. She continued the same activity (or lack of it) well into the evening. She seemed comfortable with continued purring.

As the night wore on, I was getting worried about the lack of contractions. I drove her to the emergency clinic at 3 am for an ultrasound. It appeared all was well at that time. At 8 am, I called the reproduction specialist and drove her down to that practice. Again the ultrasound showed that all was OK. One kitten’s heart rate was borderline, so decided to have an emergency C-section done.

Surgery went smoothly. As it turned out, Jelly Belly had a tissue membrane separating one of the uterine horns from the body of the uterus. The kittens on that side would not have been able to pass. The veterinarian that performed the surgery has done hundreds of C-sections. She had never seen anything like it. She feels that membrane played a role in preventing normal contractions.

The good news is Jelly Belly and the kittens are fine. She is a wonderful mother and I am grateful she is healthy.

Dilute or Dense?

author Christine Jeffer          Mirror Mirror RagaMuffins

Do you love RagaMuffins with bright, bold colors of the Blacks, Browns, and Reds?

Or do your eyes always seem to wander to the softer, cozier pastel tones of the Blues, Creams, and Lilacs?

 

Our Muffins are soft, squishy Teddy Bears that we all love to hug and cuddle. So it comes as no surprise that many of us adore these snuggly personalities combined with the snuggly lighter tones that come in the dilute series of cat coat colors.

 

But did you know that dilute colored cats are in fact genetically black, brown, or red?

The only difference between a black cat and a blue (gray) cat is how the color pigment in each shaft of hair is programmed to be mapped out on the hair.  This is controlled by the pigmentation Gne.

 

For scientific minds: The main Alleles for the Pigmentation Gene are Dense (D; Dominant) and Dilute (d; Recessive).  Two (2) copies of the Dilute Allele are needed for the Dilute colors to be seen while only one (1) copy of the Dense Allele needs to be present to take effect.

 

Cats that have Dense Pigmentation (D/-) programmed in their genes will have the color granules deposited evenly along the entire shaft of hair.  When light hits the coat, all the pigment granules absorb the light so less light reflects back to our eyes.  This results in us seeing a darker color like Black.

Cats that have Dilute Pigmentation (d/d) programmed in their genes have their color granules deposited in clusters along the hair shaft, leaving tiny sections throughout the length of the hair shaft without any pigmentation; In effect diluting or watering down the amount of pigment granules on each shaft.  This clumping of colors on the hair shaft is also referred to as maltesing.  When light hits the coat, the colored clusters of pigment granules absorb light exactly the same as it would in a Dense Pigmented cat.  However, the tiny areas where no granules have been deposited, there are no granules to absorb light and as a result, most of the light is reflected back to our eyes. This mixing (diluting) of reflected and absorbed light results in us seeing the lighter colors.

 

So which dark colors correspond to which light colors when a cat has two (2) copies of Dilute?

The chart below is a quick and handy reference.

 

DENSE / DILUTE PIGMENTATION
Black -> Blue (Gray)
Chocolate -> Lilac
Cinnamon -> Fawn
Red (Orange) -> Cream

 

 

The photos below  demonstrate the differences between the same genetic colors, but under Dense versus Dilute Pigmentation effects.  Enjoy!

 

 

 

Tabby Patterns

author Lisa Rowe        Heavenly Muffins

There are four types of tabby coat patterns.  Tabby is not a color or a breed but a pattern and is in many breeds, not just the RagaMuffins.

classic tabby photo courtesy of iCandy RagaMuffins

The classic tabby has bold, swirling patterns along the sides, much like a marble cake. The pattern of circular smudges on the classic tabby’s body closely resembles a bullseye.

A mackerel tabby or “mctabby” has narrow stripes that run in parallel down the sides. This is what some

mctabby photo courtesy of Heavenly Muffins

people refer to as a “tiger cat.” The body has narrow stripes running down the sides in a vertical pattern.  Ideally the stripes are non-broken lines; evenly spaced. They branch out from one stripe that runs along the top of the cat’s back down the spine, resembling a fish skeleton, which is why the term “mackerel” is used to describe it.

spotted tabby photo courtesy of SantaCats Ragamuffins

A spotted tabby has spots all over their sides. These spots can be large or small, and sometimes appear to be broken mackerel stripes. They can be round, oval or rosettes.

ticked tabby courtesy of Mirror Mirror RagaMuffins

A ticked tabby does not have the traditional stripes or spots on the body. This coat pattern has tabby markings on the face and agouti hairs on the body.  If you look up close at the lighter parts of a tabby’s coat, you will see that the individual hairs are striped with alternating light and dark bands, known as the agouti hairs. The ticked pattern is often associated with the Abyssinians.

My First CFA Regional Awards

author Sara Thornton DVM            iCandy RagaMuffins

 

The last half of the 2013/2014 cat show season was busy six months for me at the cat shows. I missed the first half of the season, but then took out my Grand Champion, Kaerik Canterbury Nougat as a premier. Premier is the category at cat shows that is made up of the spayed females and neutered males. While this division does not have the high quantity of cats that are in other divisions, it has a high level of quality as only the best cats go on to compete in this group. In addition, Nougat’s son, Ganache, made his show debut in the kitten class. Kittens may compete from four to eight months of age.

It was a successful six months spent traveling to shows, spending the days cheering on my cats as well as friends’ cats. One of the things I like about the cat shows is the time I get to spend with other cat people. We all have a common interest, if not a common breed. I often set up my cats near friends with Persians. We help each other get to the rings on time, chat between judging, and, occasionally, go to dinner in the evening.

When the season was over and the results were tallied, I came home with a plethora of ribbons for both kitties! Ganache, Kaerik Ganache of iCandy, was the top ranked RagaMuffin kitten in the nation while also an all breed Regional Winner. That means he ranked among the heavy hitters of the cat world in this part of the country. Nougat was the top RagaMuffin premier in the nation while also being a Regional Winner. This was the first time RagaMuffins were Regional Winners.

To put it mildly, Mama was proud of her boys. It can be hard on cats to travel around like they did. I could tell they were getting tired despite having short breaks. It was time for a longer break. One of my rules was and is that the cats have to come first. While I love the competition and spending time with my friends, I have to be sure my cats are in good health mentally and physically. My obligation as a pet owner is to ensure my cats have good lives and that I make good choices for them.

 

Pet Transportation Safety

 

a crate can be a nice place to nap too!

author Sara Thornton DVM     iCandy RagaMuffins

Most of us wear seat belts in the car. At least, I know I do. How much thought do you put into the safety of your pets in the car? With any luck, nothing will happen, but what if there is an accident? I’ve heard too many horror stories of pets that survived an accident, only to run and be killed by another vehicle or escape, never to be seen again.

One time, I found a dog on the side of my road that was injured. I assumed it was a run away from a neighbor and been hit by a car, even though I saw no bruises. After careful examination of the dog, it was clear it had a back injury. I initiated treatment along with a search for the owners. No one in the neighborhood claimed the little dog. I expanded the search to local shelters. As it turned out the dog had actually jumped out the rear car window (how it hurt its back, I’m sure) and the owners didn’t even know it was gone until they got home!

Many years ago, I drove very long trips in a small hatchback car. My cat loved to lay in the sun on the items I had packed in the back. So, I would let her out thinking the trip would be better for her that way. Until the day I had to slam on brakes and she became a missile flying into the front windshield. I thought I had killed her. I learned my lesson. She always rode safely restrained in a carrier after that as have all my cats since. As far as type of carriers for the cats, I prefer hard sided ones to the soft sided variety. If there are projectiles in an accident, a good hard sided buckled up carrier stands a better chance of protecting a pet.

Recently I upgraded my dogs’ crates in my SUV. I bought stronger much more impact resistant crates for their safety. I know that the chances are that I won’t need them ( And I surely hope I don’t) , but if I do, it will be too late and I would be devastated.

So how should pets ride in a car? Safely restrained. Always. This web site will give a pet owner information on the testing that has been performed https://www.centerforpetsafety.org/ . Use common sense. Dogs or cats that are loose in the car are at risk. Even more than that, the human passengers can be at risk if the pet interferes with driving. None of us want our pet in a situation like this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Sbbx3JQTZk ( and this pup was lucky!)