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New Species of Cat

GM a new species of domestic cat to reduce feral breeding.
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Feral cat colonies are a bit of a problem in many parts of the world. Small colonies are not much of an issue, because cats are somewhat territorial, and a small colony will tend to keep other cats out. Unfortunately, since cats breed, even a small colony can become a very large colony in short order.

The current proceedure is to locate breeding feral cats, capture them, have them fixed, and then re-release them to the wild.

Now that's all well and good, but might there not be a simpler way to do things?

Well, yes, there might. When a horse and a donkey are bred together, the offspring is a mule. Mules are naturally sterile, and cannot reproduce. When a sheep and a goat breed together, the offspring is likewise a sterile hybrid. Again, we see the same pattern, for when a hare and a rabbot breed together, the offspring is a sterile hybrid.

If we could cause a breed of cat to have sufficiently different DNA from that of existing cats, we should be able to produce a new species of cat. Regardless of what the new cat looked like, Regardless of how the DNA changes were made, chances are the new species of cat would be similar enough to existing normal cats that the two would be capable of interbreeding, but would produce sterile offspring.

How do we make this change? Well, I'm no geneticist, but we're not looking for rocket science here. We just want sufficient genetic difference that when the new species and the old species interbreed, there will be sterile offspring. Causing genetic drift can be made possible through selective breeding over generations. Low-level radiation can also induce spontaneous mutations. Tests with fruit flies were able to induce a speciation event in this way. I suppose that with cats, it should be just as easy, although a somewhat longer process. I've heard that very small glass pipettes can be used to suck chromosomes out of cells during meitosis or meiosis. Maybe we could use that to mix and match a bit between species, but really, suggesting GM that involves anything of that nature is probably overkill, and out of my specialty range anyway.

Now, once such a new species is created, and supposing that it looks enough like a regular cat that the two species breed indiscriminantly, we will have a new era of feral cat control.

In the early stages, not much would happen, as there are far more of the old cats. However, policies, and legislations could start to discriminate against old cat species, so that in risky areas, the populations of new cats VS old cats could rapidly equalize.

At risk areas (such as Hawaii) could mandate that only new cat species could be brought in as un-fixed for a period of time, they could forbid the sale or purchase of old cat species, allow no-kill animal shelters to accept only new species cats, etc. As the old species of cat gets old, or are caught and euthanized in the non no-kill animal shelters, the two species would soon be more or less evenly distributed. Feral cat colonies would be composed of both, or either species. Obviously, the feral cat colonies composed of only one species would continue to have problems as ussual, but the mixed species colonies would interbreed, producing sterile offspring, which would slow the rate of population explosion among these colonies.

Admittedly, it's a long way to go for a small improvement, but feral cats are a pretty serious issue in some areas.

ye_river_xiv, Mar 06 2009

New species http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/7919495.stm
Ugly bat boy. [theleopard, Mar 06 2009]


       May I assist at all? I am a bit or a weirdo and I do enjoy sex. The offer is there if you care to take me up on it.
The Kat, Mar 06 2009

       Life will find a way.
Smurfsahoy, Mar 06 2009

       In theory this isn't so hard. IIRC the reason while mules are sterile is because donkeys and horses have different numbers of chromosomes from each other. It should be possible, then, to add a chromosome or two onto cat dna. That would have side effects, of course, ranging from at worst miscarriage to some kind of cat down syndrome or something, I'm not a scientist. And these would probably just look like ordinary cats, which would be a problem.
Spacecoyote, Mar 06 2009

       //And these would probably just look like ordinary cats,//
Couldn't they add in one of those glow-in-the-dak genes?
coprocephalous, Mar 06 2009

       There are species which are separated as a result of factors such as size or behaviour. Breeding cats whose genitalia are either much smaller or much larger than previously, or the whole animal for that matter, might be one way of doing it. One way of doing that would be to spay all cats which aren't Maine Coons. However, Maine Coons have serious health problems such as cardiomyopathy and joint problems. Both of those in humans are associated with giantism. It also suggests that tinkering with a genome, even by selective breeding rather than genetic engineering, is likely to be a bad move. It would mean that many future domestic cats would be unhealthy, which sounds really bad to me.   

       The other thing is that cats breed like mad, and i can't imagine a simple way of eliminating feral cats which haven't been bred or modified in this way.   

       Cats in cities are pests in a sense because they tend to eat lots of small vertebrates. I once saw a goldcrest which had been mauled by a cat. That is really not good. However, unless cats are always kept indoors, which would solve the problem anyway, this is going to happen whether or not the cats are domestic or feral.
nineteenthly, Mar 06 2009

       Too Many Cats. Like all population growth problems this has a simple solution - limit the food source. So just kill off all the small birds and mamals in your area and problem solved.   

       The same limiting will happen with Human Beings although we tend to overlook this for the short term happiness of having lots of sex.
eight_nine_tortoise, Mar 06 2009

       here, the problem is that too many cats are killing off the small bird and mammals. In small doses, feral cats can be OK, as long as there are no endangered species.   

       However, with an unlimited number of crazy old ladies, and well-meaning children, feral cats that can cozy up to humans have a virtually endless supply of food.   

       Sterilization programs tend to be underfunded and slow, so that what would have been a little problem if taken care of rapidly becomes a huge problem that they cannot afford to fully take care of.   

       With two species of cat interbreeding, and sometimes producing sterile offspring, the rate at which a small problem becomes a large problem is slowed down somewhat.
ye_river_xiv, Mar 06 2009

       //The Help file clearly states that genetically modifying animals to do ANYTHING is considered magic and grounds for deletion//
I think that's to cover someone magicing, say, a GM elephant with eagle genes to produce an animal with exceptional memory, eyesight and soaring capabilities, but which is incapable of catching mice.
Not being a geneticist, I'm not sure that this is what's being suggested here, though I'd prefer not to see annos deleted.
coprocephalous, Mar 06 2009

       I thought the cat in the BBC clip was really nice. There is no such thing as an ugly animal.
xenzag, Mar 06 2009

       If you want to reduce feral breeding stop neutering housecats and start performing vasectomies and tubal-ligations instead. Remember that cared-for housecats are in better physical shape than ferals. Males will go out and take breeding opportunities away from feral cats, and an indoor female cat will attract every single friggin' male cat from miles around... which is an opportunity to grab and vasectomize *them*, or let her out and the feral males will waste their load, so to speak.   

       I don't suggest this facetiously, nor for most of the world where a balance has already been reached as this would bollocks up the feral/domestic brownian motion somewhat and result in deprecation of the species, just where indigent species are seriously endangered.
FlyingToaster, Mar 06 2009

       Spaying. Are you talking about hysterectomies or what? I didn't find it clear i'm afraid.   

       Incidentally, my understanding of magic by genetic engineering as in the help file was that if you provided enough detail, it wouldn't be seen as magic. For instance, you could make a lot of things glow with that green fluorescent protein thing, the gene is well-known, it can be incorporated into organisms and it expresses itself in a particular way, so i imagine an original idea based on making animals glow could be convincing, though clichéed.
nineteenthly, Mar 06 2009

       //hysterectomies?// no, "tubal ligation".(anno edited)
FlyingToaster, Mar 06 2009

       This suggestion has a critical mass problem in the wrong direction - it only works until a lot of people do it.   

       Those feral cats are offspring of former house cats, right? So, after a few years, all this would do is create two sets of feral cat-like animals that mostly breed amongst their own species. *Especially* if their human hosts take this as an excuse to not spay or neuter their pets.   

       [OK, what about the magic thing? Tricky. Yes, the genetic details are offensively hazy to people who understand the details and are easily miffed (I'm not a geneticist, but I have a similar experience just about every time someone here tries to describe software). But at least the post's central theme is an aspect that actually has something to do with genetics - the fact that different species rarely have fertile offspring with each other.   

       Coprocephalous is right, by the way. When I wrote "modifying animals to do anything" in the help file, I meant "anything" in the sense of "whatever you want, even if it's really unlikely to happen", not "anything" in the sense of "every time you genetically modify an animal, even if the modification is perfectly likely, that's considered magic". I'll have to fix that wording. I think 21 Quest read it the second way.]
jutta, Mar 06 2009

       [Jutta], how do you feel about creative interpretation of the help page? Ideas could fall technically into what you wrote but not into the spirit of it. Or, could they do the reverse?
nineteenthly, Mar 06 2009

       There are several problems with this idea. The first delves into the morals of genetic tinkering, which I'm not about to touch. The obvious problem with this is that you would just end up with two species of feral "cats."
saprolite, Mar 06 2009

       I really don't get this. Yes, you could create mutually inter-sterile populations (quite easily, I'd guess), but so what?   

       Let me see if I understand this. They don't want feral cats running around, so they catch them, anaestetize them, sterilize them, and release them, yes? Why on earth not just shoot them or, if you think it is less stressful, euthenase them once you've caught them? I completely fail to comprehend the mentality that says "these animals don't belong here, so we'll anaesthetize them, operate and release them; instead of anaesthetizing them and leaving them that way." This is just stoopid and mawkish.
MaxwellBuchanan, Mar 06 2009

       [21 quest,] I deleted your anno for three reasons: 1: because it was insulting to me. In it you stated that I did not understand even the most basic principles of selective breeding. 2: because I felt that the MFD for Magic did not apply, and 3: because a M-F-D comment that does not apply is not a valid point at all.   

       MFD for magic applies when "the author is using technology they know little about..." which "Imparts superpowers, among them...to make any organic matter do anything (just add genetics)"   

       First off, the I am not using GM to impart super powers, I am using it to cause a speciation event.   

       Second off, I am not getting any organic matter to do anything. I am working with a specific organic matter: cats, and I am not trying to make them "do" "Anything." I am trying to cause a speciation event in the Felix Domesticus, I am not trying to make bulletproof flying cats.   

       Third off "Magic" requires me to "Know little" about a technology. Maybe from your point of view, I do know little about it, but who defines that? This is the halfbakery, not a doctoral review board. You've posted ideas on swarming alarm clocks, anarchist chess, ballistic missile vending machines, "Hide goods in water," etc. I dare say you do not have multiple master's degrees in computer science, genetics, materials engineering, political science, veterenary medicine, etc. Probably, there are a number of ideas on there for which you have only a basic understanding of the concept.   

       I suggest that "Magic" involves using a particualr technology in ways the individual does not fully understand, and that the "Magic" of GM is getting organic matter to do exactly "Anything," rather than one specific thing.   

       Therefore for an M-F-D magic to apply, an individual must post an idea that goes beyond their level of understanding into the realm of the impossible.   

       I may be no expert on genetics, but I was taught in grade school that the speciation is one among many of the more well tested theories that support evolution. I also learned in grade school that individuals from species that have recently speciated often are able to interbreed and produce a sterile offspring. Horses and Burros interbreed to produce Mules, Goats and sheep interbreed to produce a sterile animal. All of this is well established fact, and more or less common knowledge.   

       Now: My idea is to cause a speciation event in Felix Domesticus. Assuming for a minute that you agree speciation events can occur, perhaps we can look into my methods:   

       I have no hard and fast methods, because the result is the goal. It's sort of like asking for dumbbells. I don't care if they were drop-forged, or turned on a lathe.   

       I suppose that after several generations of selective breeding, cats could speciate. That cats can be selectively bred is pretty well established by the existence of cat shows and pedigrees. That this could cause a speciation event is somewhat more theoretical.   

       I also suppose that speciation events involve a few random mutations, and it's a pretty well established fact that low levels of radiation can cause more random mutations to occur. That sounds a little bit promising.   

       Once again, it's not rocket science here. We aren't trying to add any one specific gene. We're just trying to get enough change to make them unable to produce viable offspring.
ye_river_xiv, Mar 07 2009

       The problem with feral cats is not that they are predators. Their typical prey include a number of small animals, which, in an urban dwelling, are often considered pests in their own right, and may be introduced, or invasive species. Cockroaches, house flies, crickets, mice, rats, pigeons, moles, gophers, and even the occasional juvenile squirrel, skunk, or opossum have all been documented in the diet of feral cats. The control of these species is a benefit to city dwellers, and even some rural individuals.   

       The problem with Feral cats is that they breed too rapidly, outstripping their pest food source, and then becoming pests of their own, keeping people up with the noise of their fighting and breeding, eating food intended for humans, becoming vectors for disease, becoming roadkill, and interefing with traffic, entering into unwanted areas, and damaging, or killing desireable species, such as vegetable gardens, household pets, or endangered species.   

       Those who study feral cats have discovered that killing off the cat colonies simply makes room for another cat colony to form, and as nothing has been controlling the food population in the area, rapid breeding of feral cats takes place, making the problem even worse.   

       In Short: No Feral cats = too many other pests. Breeding feral Cats = Feral cat pest problem. A Few Steril Feral cats = good.   

       Some means of controlling the breeding speed without involving so many underpaid animal control officers is desired.   

       As a pet is a pet to most people, the fact that there are two different species of cats will likely be of little concern. Buying cats will not double because there are two species, abandoning cats will not occur twice as fast. Nor will the rate of fixing pet cats be likely to change significantly.   

       As the "New Cats" occupy the same ecological niche as the old cats, and will not be likely to have much biological advantage over the old cats, the two species will be in competition. However, if they do not realize that they are competing species, they will intermingle, and interbreed. The interbreeding will produce as many offspring as regular breeding, but those offspring will be sterile cats. These Sterile cats will not produce offspring, thus slowing the rate of feral cat colonies. Moreover, the sterile cats will likely have sex organs which appear functional, and impart similar biological drives to their owners. The Sterile cats will therefore be able to have sex with both species of cats, delaying actual breeding that much more.   

       If the growth of feral cat colonies can be slowed naturally to a point at which the cats form a stable population, and are not a problem in their own right, the animal control can worry about more pressing matters elsewhere.   

       This idea is somewhat different from the 'VMI" idea, in that it does not propose an imbalance of the genders, it will clearly function only on feline species, and it is not intended to restructure any culture, human or feline.
ye_river_xiv, Mar 07 2009

       Cats kill what we think of as vermin, and those particular animals unchecked would lead to an ecological imbalance. However, they also kill indiscriminately, for instance species which are fairly endangered. Those prey which survive may then increase in population to take advantage of the increased food supply. Cats also compete with other predators, so their populations stay artificially low. This is, i hear, particularly a problem in Australia and New Zealand, though never having been there i'm sure people on here can give a more informed opinion than mine. The back yard here is devoid of birds, but we get rats and mice. I would prefer birds to rodents because the former don't create the same kind of hygiene problem or allergy problem, since they stay outside.   

       There are also a lot of red foxes here. There's too much bias to know if that's good or bad. From an æsthetic perspective, i would prefer greater vertebrate predator biodiversity than what we have now, which seems to consist of magpies, cats, foxes and grass snakes.
nineteenthly, Mar 07 2009


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