HYBRID SMALL CATS
This page notes those hybrids that are not covered elsewhere on this website. Domestic cats have been crossed with a wide variety of small wild species. Details of these can be found at Wildcat X Domestic Hybrids
In the 1970s, John M and Juleen Jackson attempted to breed the jungle cat (F chaus) to the bobcat though this was totally unsuccessful. Singh (a proven fertile three-quarter chaus hybrid) spent a week with a bobcat 40 miles from the Jackson's home, but escaped into the middle of San Fernando Valley where he remained at large for 11 days and travelled 10 miles further away before being recaptured.
The Jacksons also tried breeding jungle cats and leopard cats, but admitted their effort was little more than a token effort.
It was believed that Oncillas and Margays might interbreed in the wild. According to the Long Island Ocelot Club newsletter of September/October 1981, Leyhausen kept a number of oncillas and bred them, comparing their behaviour to that of other small wildcats as well as to domestic cats. This was in the 1960s. It was considered difficult to decide on the basis of appearance whether a cat is an oncilla or margay Cat and authorities believed that the two species sometimes hybridized in the wild though, according to Roy Robinson, Margays and Oncillas have slightly different karyotypes. Hybridization of the Oncilla with the Geoffroy's Cat (Leopardus geoffroyi) has been found in the southernmost part of the Oncilla's range. Hybridization with the Pampas Cat (Leopardus pajeros) has been found in central Brazil.
Margays and Ocelots have interbred in captivity, the hybrids were known as Marlots. Ocelots and Margays were frequently kept together by owners that did not realise they were separate species (the Margay was previously known as the Tree Ocelot.)
DNA analysis has found evidence of gene flow from the Indochinese leopard cat into the Fishing cat species. - Gang Li, , Brian W. Davis, Eduardo Eizirik and William J. Murphy; “Phylogenomic evidence for ancient hybridization in the genomes of living cats (Felidae)”, Genome Res. published online October 30, 2015
DNA analysis has found evidence of gene flow between the Jungle Cat and Sand Cat. -Gang Li, , Brian W. Davis, Eduardo Eizirik and William J. Murphy; “Phylogenomic evidence for ancient hybridization in the genomes of living cats (Felidae)”, Genome Res. published online October 30, 2015
DNA analysis has found evidence of gene flow between the Black footed cat and Domestic cat/silvestris group. - Gang Li, , Brian W. Davis, Eduardo Eizirik and William J. Murphy; “Phylogenomic evidence for ancient hybridization in the genomes of living cats (Felidae)”, Genome Res. published online October 30, 2015
In brief, domestic cats have been crossed with African Wildcat, European Wildcat, Geoffroy's Cat, Jungle Cat, Margay, Ocelot, Oncilla (Tiger Cat), Black-Footed Cat, Fishing Cat, Asian Leopard Cat, Serval and Caracal plus unconfirmed reports of hybrids with Pallas's Cat, Rusty-Spotted Cat, Bobcat and Lynx. Some of those have been developed into domestic cat breeds by breeding out the wildness, but retaining the colour/pattern and size. Contrary to rumour (and hype from less scrupulous breeders) the Bengal cat is NOT a cat/leopard hybrid; it is a hybrid of domestic cat and Asian Leopard Cat (a small wildcat species). Existing wild/domestic hybrids are being further hybridised with each other and with other wild species. There are attempts to mate domestic females with a male Jaguarundi, but it isn't yet known if the mating will result in offspring.
FELINE HYBRIDS AND KARYOTYPES
A factor influencing fertility of hybrids is the chromosome complement (karyotype). Geoffroy's cat (and the related Tiger Cat/Oncilla and the larger Margay and Ocelot) has 36 chromosomes. The domestic cat and its relatives have 38 chromosomes. The F1 hybrid offspring of the Geoffroy's Cat and a domestic cat have 37 chromosomes - 18 from the Geoffroy's cat parent and 19 from the domestic cat parent. One could reasonably expect these offspring to be infertile. In fact feline hybrids have proven remarkable fertile with most female hybrids being able to breed with either parent species. The male hybrids are less likely to be fertile. Some of the second generation F2 hybrids (i.e. F1 hybrid is back-crossed to the parent species, usually to the domestic cat to create a domestic-type temperament) also have 37 chromosomes while others have a count of 38. This is apparently because the F1 hybrids are heterozygous, and can produces eggs or sperm containing either 19 chromosomes or 18 chromosomes. F1 hybrids tend to be large while F2 and later generations are the same size as domestic cats. By testing for chromosome count, it is theoretically possible to select and breed hybrid cats which consistently have 38 chromosomes (like the wild ancestor) to maintain the size and appearance of the initial hybrid.
In an article in the Long Island Ocelot Club (LIOC) newsletter of May/June 1976 Dr Lorber discussed the possibility of breeding old world cats with their new world cousins. While some authorities on the subject insisted it couldn't be done, Dr Lorber felt that since people from different continents could interbreed successfully, cats should be successful at it as well. The Newsletter editor noted: Cross-breeds of old world/new world cats is possible - but because of the number of chromosomes - most such crossbreeds prove sterile - all humans have the same number of chromosomes - cats do not)
The LIOC newsletter of November/December 1980 noted that the basic similarity of the felid karyotypes is indicated by the comparative ease of hybridization. Hybrids were prevented in the wild through different reproductive behaviour and geographical barriers, but in zoos the different species became familiar enough that the normal sexual behaviour was subtly modified. Hybrids between the big cats attracted the most attention and in general, the male hybrids were sterile while the females may be "feebly fertile". A similar picture was emerging for small cat species with hybrids procured between the domestic cat and the bobcat (DNA tests have dismissed these), black-footed cat, leopard cat and tiger cat (oncilla). The most interesting hybrid at the time was considered to be that between the domestic cat and tiger cat (F tigrina) produced by Leyhausen and Falkena-Rohrle in 1966; the domestic cat has 19 chormosome pairs while the tiger cat has 18 pairs, yet 7 hybrids (3 stillborn, sex not known) were produced. The 4 survivors were all female and all sterile. It was believed that both males and females of hybrids between species with different chromosome counts would be sterile though this was later disproved with Geoffroy's Cat hybrids.
Fully fertile hybrids between the domestic cat and European wildcat were obtained repeatedly. Hybrids of the domestic cat and steppe cat (F caudata) were reportedly fertile. Hybrids were known between the European Wildcat and African Wildcat, but their fertility was not proven in 1980. Crosses between the domestic cat and jungle cat were produced and the females and F2 males were fertile (Jackson & Jackson 1967). The inter-fertility of hybrids between the domestic cat and either European or African Wildcat was unsurprising as they were thought to be members of the same species (Weigl, 1961) (and are now considered subspecies) with F chaus being closely related.
KARYOTYPES & MEIOTIC DRIVE
In species with different numbers of chromosomes (e.g. 36 and 38 respectively), the hybrids inherit an odd number of chromosomes (37). When there's an odd number of chromosomes, meiosis (cell division to form gametes (egg or sperm cells)) doesn't work correctly causing hybrid sterility. Nature has a way round this called meiotic drive. Genes from each parent become tightly linked instead of independently assorted. The genes from one parent - usually the mother - will be over-represented in the gametes produced by the hybrid offspring.
Normally when cells divide to form gametes, a random mix of maternal/paternal alleles ends up in each gamete. With meiotic drive, there is distinct segregation of maternal and paternal alleles: all the mother's genes end up on one side of the cell and all the father's genes end up on the other. The cell then splits unevenly. The daughter cell containing the mother's genes will get the necessary machinery for life (genes from the mother, mitochondria, cytoplasm etc) while the other cell is discarded along with all the genes from the father! This is best illustrated by fertile mule mares. The mule mare passes on a complete set of her maternal genes (from her horse mother) to the foal. A female mule bred to a horse will therefore produce a 100% horse foal (which is fertile) while a female mule bred to an ass will produce another mule.
In cat hybrids the situation seems to be different otherwise a female F1 Safari cat bred to a male domestic should either be completely sterile or should produce wholly domestic offspring. In reality, F2 Safari cats have either 37 or 38 chromosomes though they are hard to produce. In Oncilla/domestic hybrids, however, the 3 known females were sterile.
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