Have you ever heard of crossbreeding? Maybe in a high school biology class, right? Well, now the topic is back and it’s important to gatekeepers because some of the popular cats in Brazil are hybrid cats.
To refresh your memory, crossbreeding is the process by which different species reproduce, and generate offspring. It’s not the same thing as crossing a German Shepherd Dog and a Siberian Husky – we’re talking about two dog breeds here. In the case of hybrid animals, the breed includes animals of different species, usually domestic and wild. Among the most popular hybrids are cats.
But why would anyone do that? Vet Jose Mourinhoa wildlife expert, explains: “Cat fanciers have begun the process over the past hundreds of years to give a domestic cat the appearance of a wild cat.”
According to him, it is possible to breed a hybrid cat at home in accordance with the legislation of each state. Here in Brazil, there are two well-known hybrid felines that have already been incorporated into the domestic routine: the Bengal (domestic cat x Asian tiger cat), and the Savannah (domestic cat x serval).
Okeets, although reminiscent of wild cats, are quite a domestic breed and do not have wild DNA in their genetics.
According to a biologist and veterinarian, Jefferson PearceMBBS for wild animals, although the Brazilian legislation does not provide for hybrids, animals that enter the country in this way are considered domestic.
“Because our legislation doesn’t state it, people end up being able to buy like house cats, which is why, more and more, we’ve seen these animals here,” he explains.
What are hybrid cats like?
The appearance and behavior of hybrid cats depends on how far this animal is from its wild ancestor. For example, the F1 cat, the first offspring of a cross, is usually more aggressive and fearful, similar to wild cats, from which it also inherits drawing patterns and physical characteristics.
Jefferson explains, “The F2, which will be the cat of this cat, is usually already crossbred with other pets. So the trend is to be more malleable, with less wild cat characteristics.”
As for appearance, some examples of typical phenotypes of hybrid cats are, according to Jose, curved ears, spotted fur and a short tail.
Hybrid animals are not common in nature because different species generally have different number of chromosomes. When there is an intersection between them, some problems may appear along the way.
“The first point is that when you mix species, there can be fertility issues: the hybrid can be less fertile or sterile,” says Jose.
In addition, health problems related to poor selection are also possible. “When we create a breed, we get very attached to phenotypic characteristics, such as size, weight, ear type, hunting, behavior…but we can also create sicker animals,” he explains.
Diseases usually come from pet cats – especially heavily modified breeds, which already carry some susceptible genetic conditions.
“Usually, these are the breeds chosen to mix with wild cats. All of the changes we choose for puppies are often associated with inbreeding, which increases the chance of disease,” Jose continues.