DOMESTIC X GEOFFROY'S CAT, JAGUARUNDI, FISHING CAT HYBRIDS
Copyright 1993-2012, Sarah Hartwell

According to Charles Darwin in "The Variation Of Animals And Plants Under Domestication" (1860s), "Azara states, but only on the authority of the inhabitants, that in Paraguay the cat has crossed with two native species."

DOMESTIC X GEOFFROY'S CAT HYBRIDS

Geoffroy's Cat (F. geoffroyii) females will mate with domestic tomcats. In early experiments male Geoffroy's cats killed all domestic females presented to them. Halle Zoo attempted to cross-breed their male Geoffroy's cat with domestic females, but the male attacked and killed all the females that were introduced into its cage. Modern breeders of hybrids say this is avoided if the male is raised with domestic cats and imprints upon them. Geoffroy's hybrids are called "Safari Cats" and are reportedly tame and fertile. Infertility is a problem with the F1 hybrids which are reported to be large, intelligent and have gentle temperaments.

Geoffroy's Cats; the wild parent of the Safari Cat breed

The gestation period of the Geoffroy's cat is 75 days, whereas a domestic cat gestation period is 65 days. This is a major contributing factor to the problems breeding F1 Safari cats. The F1 Safari is therefore usually born premature by Geoffroy's cat standards and may require hand-rearing. Although Safari kittens can be nursed by a domestic mother, their growth rate and size (larger than either parent) means she may be unable to supply enough milk for and they will still require supplemental feeding. F2 Safaris are rare and difficult to produce.

A factor influencing their fertility of hybrids is the chromosome complement (karyotype). Geoffroy's cat has 36 chromosomes. The domestic cat has 38. 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. 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 the Long Island ocelot Club newsletter 23/2 April 1979, Pat Warren wrote that hybrid cats had been around for decades though little general information had been written about them. Some were accideental breedings where both exotic (small wild species) and domestic cats lived together. Others were planned. In her article she described two beautiful hybrid kittens with jet-black markings and spots on a ground of silver ticking. Their sire was the Payton's Geoffroy's Cat "Greg" and their mother was a black American shorthair named "Serrina". The Paytons were keeping one kitten, Jasper, but the other little girl, Leopard Lily, was bought by Warren.

"At 1.5 years, she has grown into a magnificent animal. She weighs 15 pounds - more than either of her parents. ... In type, she strongly resembles a Geoffroy cat, though she has the deep, plushy resilient American shorthair coat instead of the bristly Geoffroy coat ... Like all hybrids [at least all known in Warren's time], she wears the exact markings of her exotic sire. She has the bar under the chin, the ocelli on her ears, the elegant lines down her neck and back, the round dots on her sides and belly - even the tiny dots on her toes." Being a hybrid, Lily had many of the little behavioral ways of exotics. Her tail language and body language were pure Geoffroy's Cat and she had the Geoffroy's complaining little voice and its deep loud purr. At the same time, she lacked the wild cat's wariness and instant nerve-ends and she boldly made friends with anyone who walked in the house. The Warrens were curious to know how Lily would react at a cat show. The judges and exhibitors were smitten by Lily's good behaviour and gentleness.

The Warren's second Geoffroy's Cat hybrid was Gaucho, bred by the Jusseames from their Geoffroy's Cat "Shamus" and a sealpoint Siamese named "Sheba". Gaucho was acquired at 9 weeks old and had the habit of sucking earlobes. At nine months, he weighed around 17 pounds and was still growing. "Because of his Siamese ancestry, Gaucho has less of the Geoffroy type than Lily, but his markings are more striking than Lily's. His ground color is a bright silver and the markings are very crisp. Some of his spots cluster in rosettes. On his ears the ocelli are bright and round." While Lily [Geoffroy's hybrid] and Tonga [Bengal] were athletes, Gaucho was clumsy and not very bright, but had a very sweet temperament. Warren described him as a gentle giant. Like Lily, Gaucho was exhibited at some cat shows where people found it hard to believe he was a "wildcat". In the show hall Gaucho revelled in the limelight and sucked on the judges' earlobes.

Long Island Ocelot Club Newsletter May/June 1990: Ethel Hauser announced a litter of 8 Safari kittens (Geoffroy's Cat hybrids) of which 6 survived. The kittens were mixed with some having distinct spots and others having a swirled pattern.

In 1981, Phyllis Lauder wrote of an article about the hybrid Safari cat that had been published in Cats Magazine in March, 1980: The article and accompanying picture described the Safari as a cross between a domestic shorthair and a South American feral cat known as Geoffroy's cat, and belonging to the genus Leopardus. (The term feral was used wrongly; the author meant "wild species"). Lauder wrote "To judge from the pictures, one of them in full colour, and the descriptions given by the writer, Patricia Hall Warren, the Safari strongly resembles the Spotted cat who is one of the domestic shorthair Tabbies. This cross-bred cat has a great deal of patterning which includes many clear, distinct spots, and Mrs Warren describes the Safaris as '... Shorthairs. They wear a rich and specialised Spotted Tabby pattern of bars, dots, rosettes, face streaks, wavy stripes, leg bracelets and tail rings'. In her description of the type of these cats Mrs Warren tells us that they have long bodies, but she also says that they are robust and that they have small ears. It appears that the Safaris have been crossed successfully with Siamese and also with North American shorthairs. It seems likely that the cross with a Spotted Tabby shorthair could produce beautiful kittens. And it is interesting to note that the progeny are fertile. The writer says that people believe that a hybrid must be infertile, but that this is not the case with feline hybrids."

According to cat population authority Neil B. Todd, introgressive hybrids may also occur in rural South America where European settlers imported domestic cats for their farms and ranches. Occasionally a small cat, identified as a Geoffroy's Cat, turns out to be a possible hybrid (female Geoffroy's Cat x domestic cat hybrids are fertile).

The Safari cat hybrid was used in medical research. They were used for leukaemia research at Washington State University. In 1994-5, 6 Safari cats were used to study the behavior of blood forming stem cells in large animals. It appears these cats were irradiated as the research caused the Safari cats to become pancytopaenic i.e. there was a pronounced reduction of white blood cells, platelets and red cells in their blood; something normally caused by radiation, chemotherapy or disease. The cats were then "sacrificed" - the experimenters' roundabout way of saying the cats were killed by, or after, the experiment.

DOMESTIC X JAGUARUNDI HYBRIDS

A Jaguarundi x domestic cats is proposed by Mandala Exotic Cats. This is an unknown as the species may be too distantly related to produce viable offspring. The aim, if matings and offspring occur, is to produce a domestic cat whose conformation resembles the jaguarundi. Several years earlier a "Jaguarundi Curl" had been reported, but there was no confirmation of that hybrid.

DOMESTIC X FISHING CAT HYBRIDS

The Asian Fishing cat (F viverrina) is an Asian species with a notable love of water. It is a muscular, medium-sized wild cat with adaptations (such as partially webbed feet and dense water-resistant fur) for living in marshy regions. It has brown fur with dark irregular spots and a paler-coloured belly.

Experimental hybrids called the Machbagral, or Bagral, have been bred in the USA/Canada, using the Fishing cat and a genetically spotted melanistic domestic cats i.e. black cats with the gene for spotted tabby and showing a shadowy spotted pattern. The aim was to create an exotic-looking cat that combined the domestic temperament with the appearance of a small black panther with a shadowy spotted pattern visible in certain light. The aim was to create a black panther-like breed rather than a domestic cat resembling the Fishing Cat. The breed encountered problems of low fertility in the F1 hybrids and does not appear to have progressed since initial reports. The early hybrids resembled the Fishing Cat and were large, very rounded and had thick, dense fur. They had a silveryto charcoal-blackish background colour with black spotting and markings similar to the wild parent. The F1 hybrids were claimed to be very friendly and to use the litter tray like a domestic cat, but they had voracious appetites! They were also intelligent, active and inherited the wild parent's attraction to water.

Another Fishing cat hybrid was the Viverral, first bred in 1995, but not considered genetically stable until 2001 when fifth generation Viverrals were born. This suggests it progressed beyond the F1 generation. Fishing Cats were bred to early generation Bengals (i.e. with a relatively high percentage of wild genes). They resemble the Fishing Cat, but have a domestic temperament. Viverrals are large, very muscular and solid. The Viverral breed standard requires an agile and very muscular cat with a spotted coat. They have a wide nose, prominent whisker pads and large round eyes in a smallish head. The face has a slightly convex profile and short rounded ears with wide bases. The tail is thick, low-set and medium in length. The coat is described as short and plush with a randomly spotted pattern of black, brown or tan spots. There should be dramatic contrast between the base color of the coat and the spots. The underbelly should be pale cream or white and also spotted. There are white spectacles around the eyes. In recent years, there has been no news of the Viverral.

The third Fishing Cat hybrid is called the Jambi and appears to recreate the Viverral in that it also aims to produce a large, muscular spotted domestic breed resembling the wild Fishing Cat. Again, this appears to be at the F1 generation and the fertility of hybrids hasn't been stated.

MESSYBEAST SMALL CAT HYBRIDS

 

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