Frequently Asked Questions
Interview format with “you” / “your”
referring to me.
Q. Have you achieved your goal in starting this endeavor?
A. Yes and No. My goal was to shake-out a gene pool. I believe that I have mostly accomplished
this. I have four basic color-types, in two different hair lengths, with both single/double and detached toes.
That's the "Yes" part. The "No" part is that I never was able to replicate the tuxedo color, short hair length,
and detached toe of the queen. In additon to the black & white I did have two, short-hair gray tuxes; however,
they did not survive. Interestingly, I have never had a birth that even started to resemble the orange tiger stripe
of my foundations queen's sibling.
At this point there might be a few other variations, but I feel that I have isolated types
to a point of certainty except for the occurance of the Siamese marked cats.
Q. Have mistakes been made along the way?
A. Yes. Like most pioneering
endeavors, mistakes -- with respect to the overall goal -- are made through unknowing, happenstance, and even "surrender.”
I suppose that the first mistake (if it could be called that in that I was determined to scrub-down some gene pool anyway)
was made through "surrender," with the selection of the foundation tom, which was not my ideal choice.
However, finding a "whole" adult cat in shelters is impossible; all are neutered. I really did not want a male
kitten when I started, for it would be about a year before I even knew if I had a fertile tom, let alone the correct one.
Nonetheless, after searching and resigning myself to the fact that I was not going to find a fertile, adult, polydactyl tuxedo
tom, I settled on a male kitten, which was a non-polydactyl tuxedo, whose fur was what I would describe as a medium-shorthair.
Still, I was fortunate to see the black and white queen and her other black and white kittens from the litter... AND
I saw another black and white queen reportedly bred by the same tom and all of her black and white kittens. There was
not a polydactyl in the 2 litters. Still, I decided to go with the best-marked tuxedo. Fortunately, he grew to
be fertile, and my foundation tom. He is still alive and present in the cattery.
My thoughts back then were that I would get to the polydactyl through inbreeding the queen. Somewhere, the genes
would randomly come together and I would move forward from there. To my surprise, in the very first breeding, which
resulted in a two-kitten litter, I had a polydactyl that resembled my queen’s neutered full brother, and not her.
From this first breeding, I discovered an increasing diversity of looks and size, not the converging of attributes.
Hence, today, I have several "types" on the ground... and several types yet to be explored.
Q. What do you hope to achieve by donating this breeding program to a veterinary school, college biology department,
or feline research center?
A. That's a very good question with multiple answers. Having invested 15 years and tens of thousands dollars,
I would like to provide a perfectly isolated community for genetic/behavioral study. Unlike other breeders, I have kept
all of my kittens and cats. That's generations of cats all sharing the DNA of one tom and one queen, plus the buried
remains of others in which the DNA could be harvested. Behavioral/instinctive insight, genetic knowledge (which extend
far beyond appearances to muscle tone, bone structure, auto-immune and natural resistances and much more) are locked in that
community. And so, there is science to be explored in this clowder of cats. There is knowledge to be gained.
I have gone as far as I can go without breeding more cats based on hunches conceive through text books and empirical
knowledge. At this point genetic laboratories are required... and more people to handle the project. If I can find an
institution which will adopt the program, generally as conceived it will be a better program.
Q. Speaking of the project, how do you view its future?
A. I have retained every kitten and cat under the assumption that what I see is not what I necessarily will get.
The "old fashion" way would be to further breed these cats to "scrub" its gene pool. However, that creates a geometric
populations problem. Rather, with this pool, I would do the following:
1. Take the DNA from all of the cats
2. Take measurements and make observations from each cat
3. Map Step #1 with Step
#2 (genetics to behaviors/physicality), set breed
standards, hypothesize future outcomes
and set program goals.
4. Cull the cats, if any, for reason that do not fit within the parameters of #3,
Give them to other breeders for outcrosses, or general adoption.
5. Commence with breeding and/or observation
program tied to curriculums.
Q. What is it like to have all of those unaltered animals? The toms must be fighting all the time.
A. The fact is that the males are breeze. Everyone thinks that they would be constantly fighting. There is
ALMOST NONE. When it does occur is it usually after I have paid attention to them and they are excited. Then
again, they are isolated from the females so there is nothing over which to fight except their part of the cattery.
Further, the males are real gentlemen with respect to females. With the exception of one tom who goes through a springtime
ritual of howling, none of the others do... The females are a different story. Regarding heat periods, I have some that
are affectionate and silent... Then, I have other females that are real screamers!
I have two communities of males and three of females ( the third is composed of "misfits" who get isolated by the other
qeens). Even the communities, by gender differ greatly: One male community has a predominance of sprayers... the other
has no sprayers. In one community of females there is huddling; in the other, the huddling is intense within a clique
in which there are outright same sex lover fights and sexual behaviors.
Q. Overall, what one thing amazes you the most about the cats?
A. Truthfully, there is no one thing; there are many things.
For example: All communities have a general protocol regarding the use of the litter boxes. Certain boxes are for
urine, the other for stools. More amazing is that this box designation can change over time and that somehow this change
is “picked-up” by the commune. Which cat/s change it, is unknown.
Another example: Excepting for one queen who fiercely protects her kittens from at least me, all other mothers
are passive towards my intrusions and that of other cats to the point that other cats can be harming/lethal to the kitten
and the mother DOES NOT defend its offspring.
Another example: Most people understand the concept of a “pecking order” with focus on the “alpha”
as the regulator of the order. However, this is not so clear in my communities. In fact, I have observed dramatic
changes in a beta’s behavior after the death of a lower beta. It seems that there is a peer pressure, especially
among the shy cats to remain shy. And, when a very shy cats leaves, the less shy then has “permission” to
become friendlier. As noted elsewhere, marginally shy cats gravitate toward more shy peers to become very shy, rather
than adopt the out-going behavior of the more social cats. The resultant very shy cat over time develops an interesting
personality; one which despite not being available to be handled gets to see that the social cats are “getting some
sugar” which they want to get, but are not confident enough to surrender to. Currently, I have three long-standing
scaredy-cats showing the conflict of wanting attention, but not trusting that they should get it. The transitioning
behavior is always the same; they start to reduce the distance between us, semi approach as if to be touched, and then bolt.
Eventually, and awkwardly, they allow themselves to be caught.
In all, I prefer dealing/owning multiple animals of the same species. While there is no question that each animal
still focuses on me for food and fluffies, I am not the animal’s only focus, a status that happens with single pets.
The natural camaraderie of groups allows one to enjoy the animals’ native behaviors as well as it adopted human ones.
Q. Assuming that the above program is in place, would the recipient have to hold on to ALL of the cats and
A. The answer is NO, but the other answer is that there may be value in holding on to more kittens that just harvesting
their genetic make-up for study. Over the years, I have been amazed as the flows and goes of development and behaviors
of most all the cats. Literally, I have seen feral personalities come around, dominant cats topple, all communities
set litter box standards, etc. So, from a genetic point of view, there is no need to keep all the cats; however, from
other points of view, there are justifications for doing so.
Q. So, why are you giving this program up for adoption?
A. Teddy Roosevelt is quoted as once saying "Do what you can do with what you’ve got." To this point, I have
done so. However, I do not have more "got," other than to scale down the program on genetic hunches. Even if I
were to take one of the "types" which has emerged and further the isolation, crossbreeding, and outbreed it, I would still
be dispersing the great majority of this gene pool, which I view as akin to tossing out years of lab results, and over 50
Unlike the "Peter Principle," I have not reached my level of incompetence, in fact it is my competency that tells me
that it is time to further establish this program which would benefit from more analytic science from researchers
and lab instrumentations, etc; more people handling and interacting with the cats; plus improved veterinary services/study.
Q. Was there any one factor which led to your decision?
A. Yes, the cats, themselves, provided the signs with both good news and bad news!
The Bad News: In the winter of 2006, my brother’s wife unexpectedly died. Obviously, it was a time
during which a family comes together. It was also during the same period that I was to create a new section for the
toms from the previous year’s litters which were coming of age.. I did not get to this project on time to prevent
pregnancies, which I did not want for a perceived lack of space.
We all have heard about animal instincts and animal mothers abandoning offspring, which they instinctively determine
are not fit. Through the years of breeding, I have witnessed this phenomenon as well as the corollary phenomenon of
a newborn’s unbelievable instant aggression to survive As mentioned elsewhere; I have also witnessed the
passivity of communal mothers to the protection of their kittens. However, last year, I witnessed something out of the
ordinary. I found dead newborn kittens in a male section, adjacent to a female section. I found one each day until
all four from one litter were dead.
This was different! I viewed this as a sacrifice of sorts. It was not possible for the males to get near the newborns.
The kittens were transported to the fence, within the males’ reach. I did not see these events happen; I just
discovered the results over four straight days.
I have noted elsewhere, my walking in on year-old cats menacing newborns. Therefore, it was my hypothesis that
what I was really observing was a community regulating its number within a defined area (as opposed to feral cats that can
reproduce without limit).
Interestingly, other newborns were not sacrificed. So, there are simultaneous questions worthy of answers:
1) Are newborns, which are either abandoned by a mother or terrorized by other cats, really only “defective” and
being eliminated by any “agent” in the community? 2) Is there some form of selective communal instinctive
which reduces the number of residents based on the genetic weakest out first. 3) Has any researcher ever studied
the genetics of abandoned offspring to quantify/verify/justify the maternal instinct that is purported? 4) Do other
cats in the community also have this “maternal” instinct, or are their actions just those of animals wanting to
eliminate the future strong competition. I have no answers.
The Good News: Fortunately, accidental scientific discovery is axiomatic and through these breedings, I have 1)
very refined tuxedos (regular feet), 2) a further refined black and white line (regular feet), and 3) a full phenotype Siamese
male (regular feet). (From previous litters I have one female, Siamese phenotype (polydactyl) and two medium length
coat males with white boots (regular feet)).
As stated, I was not planning to breed as deeply as happened. However, am pleased that it happened, for it showed
the variation and vitality in the gene pool.
Today, I believe that further, safe, genetic combinations are possible.
Notwithstanding, taken together, and considering the Bad News and the Good News, I recognize that I do not have the laboratories
to investigate the questions asked in the Bad News section, nor investigate the genetics which led to the GOOD NEWS.
In Teddy Roosevelt’s terms, educational institution have what I need, but are not a part of what I have in my possession.
Q. So, what is the final take?
A. Great pioneering projects seldom happen in one-fell-swoop. The West was not discovered in one trail-ride;
the White House was built in one construction, nor were the Washington Monument; Panama, Eire, and Cape Cod Canals or Boston's
subway which is still under development. And so it goes.
The development of Johnny HiHat Cats fits into
this paradigm: STAGE ONE is complete; there is a large pool of cats sharing common DNA, generations deep. It is
time to ignite STAGE TWO. For this reason, I am attempting to spark the interest of a vet school, biology department,
and even pet food manufacturers to bring this genetic endeavor to its full potential.
Q. Finally, would you do it all over again?
A. Absolutely; however, differently in certain respect! It has been costly, time-consuming, and certainly frustrating/angering
at times, especially deaths However, all is to be expected. Cats on average have life cycles 1/5 to 1/8 of humans
life expectancy. (As I always contend, if one does not want to bury a pet, get an elephant . They outlive humans.)
Nonetheless, it has provided knowledge, plus a sense of pride in hopefully building a better cat, and/or leading to a greater
understanding of them.
More Q&As to follow.