Saturday, January 15, 2011

Caturday: Mad Science Edition!

Back when I was catless-but-looking, I researched different breeds to see if there was any specific kind of kitty whose personality would suit mine best.  In the process, I learned the coolest thing ever: the dark "points" on Siamese cats are temperature-sensitive!  Siamese cats are actually solid beige when they're born because their mother's womb kept them so warm.  Then once they're out in the world for a little while, the coolest parts of their bodies - the extremities plus their snout, which is continuously "air-chilled" from breathing - turn dark.  (I guess this means Birch's eyes are Siamese but his markings are pure calico, since he has dark spots on his torso as well as his face and tail.)

Anyway, yeah...a Siamese cat's markings depend on its temperature.  And this fact naturally reminded me of another animal fact I learned on a childhood trip to the zoo: a flamingo's colour comes from a particular kind of shrimp it eats (put the flamingo on a shrimp-free diet and it will turn white!).

Conclusion: it would be awesome to splice flamingo genes into a Siamese cat and then feed the cat shrimp.

artist's rendering
I mentioned this idea to my friend Shambolicguru and he said, "You'd make a terrible scientist.  But an excellent MAD SCIENTIST."

Best.  Compliment.  Ever.


  1. Remember Dharma? I was convinced he was a Siamese cat but it turned out he was a Blue Russian - his fur always did have a bluish tinge to it. His personality was more regal, too. That's right, he was even more uppity than a Siamese. Siamese cats are known to be chatty (tell you where to go), but when Dharma had something to say, the caveat was if you didn't listen he'd leave you a gift of shit somewhere. If you didn't give a shit about what he had to say, he'd give you one. Vive la difference!

  2. Are you aware of the GFP and RFP cats? Scientists successfully took a gene from jellyfish which encodes a green fluorescent protein (GFP) that causes the jellyfish to glow green, and inserted it into the cat genome. The result was cats that glow green (or red with the RFP variant) under UV or blue light:

    When I worked in a Drosophila lab, I had some flies that expressed GFP, too. They were neat because the soft tissues under the exoskeleton expressed the protein, while the exoskeleton itself was dark, so it looked like they glowed from the inside. (The cats are kind of similar since their hair doesn't contain GFP, but their flesh does).

  3. Vikram: y'know, I really only meant the flamingocat would be cool theoretically. I actually think that messing with genetics that way is scary and will probably accidentally create a disease that wipes out the whole planet.

    But, having said that...OMG GREEN KITTIES!!!!! :D

    The One: I hadn't actually heard that Siamese are uppity...I kept reading that they're almost doglike in the way that they bond with their an extent that's almost too high-maintenance even for a snuggle addict like me.

    My friend has a Russian blue and she is soooooo soft and pretty. Also, she makes dolphin sounds sometimes.