Do my kittens have two dads?
June 21, 2011 3:31 PM   Subscribe

Do my kittens have two dads? They come from the same litter but have different hair length.

I recently adopted two kittens from the same litter. The female is short haired and the male long haired. Numerous sources on the internet indicate that kittens in the same litter can have different fathers, and this is not unlikely in this case since the mother is feral. Does the fact that they have different hair length necessarily imply that they have different fathers?
posted by vegetable100% to Pets & Animals (22 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
IANAG, but two people with the same parents can have wildly different features (straight hair / curly hair etc) and I have personally known litters of rabbits where all the babies definitely had the same parents but they came out looking like completely different breeds (one a Dutch, one a Californian etc) so I imagine cats can look way different but have the same parents, just a different mix of genes.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 3:37 PM on June 21, 2011

Quite likely. I had two kittens from the same litter some years ago. The mother was a striped tabby. The one born first was a tiny spotted tabby. The other three kittens in the litter were larger, with longer hair and were all black and white. The two different fathers were easily identifiable amongst the neighbourhood toms, a big striped tabby tom and a handsome long-haired tuxedo boy. With my cats, I think the tuxedo impregnated the mother first, followed by the striped tabby, so his kitten was last in, first out and smallest of the bunch.
posted by essexjan at 3:38 PM on June 21, 2011

Correction: The father was a spotted tabby, not striped.
posted by essexjan at 3:38 PM on June 21, 2011

One of my boys is polydactyl and twice as big as his brother, so it was kind of obvious. If it's just a difference in fur color, it's a tougher call. Their sister was a calico and I'm pretty sure she and the bigger cat share the same dad.
posted by moammargaret at 3:40 PM on June 21, 2011

I grew up across the street from a farm and I can 2nding essexjan's observations.
posted by k8t at 3:47 PM on June 21, 2011

Zenith and Quasar are littermates with the same parents, but Quasar inherited the recessive longhaired gene from both parents, while Zenith did not, so it's possible your kittens have the same father.
posted by Zophi at 3:49 PM on June 21, 2011 [7 favorites]

Since no one else mentioned it, you are aware that when asking questions about kittens that you are required to post pix right?
posted by ThomasBrobber at 3:51 PM on June 21, 2011 [7 favorites]

From the Wikipedia on Cat coat genetics.

Cat fur length is governed by the Long hair gene in which the dominant form, L, codes for short hair, and the recessive l codes for long hair. In the longhaired cat, the transition from anagen (hair growth) to catagen (cessation of hair growth) is delayed due to this mutation.

That being said, there is no way to tell just based on short-hair/long-hair alone. The gene isn't X-associated, so it's a standard dominant-recessive. Long-hair kitty got ll and is recessive phenotype. Short-haired kitty got LL or Ll, and is dominant phenotype.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 3:53 PM on June 21, 2011 [6 favorites]

What Mr. Fabulous said; it's not unusual to get long haired and short haired cats in the same litter, and two shorthaired parents carrying the long hair recessive can throw longhair kittens even if there isn't a longhair in sight for generations on their pedigrees.

Also, beyond the short/long hair genes themselves, there are other genetic factors that aren't mapped that appear to control just how long "long" hair is -- a cat that is long haired genetically can vary from just a bit "shaggy" coat length to full-on "dust the floor" persian style long hair.
posted by nonliteral at 4:14 PM on June 21, 2011

Possible combinations of parents which may have yielded your kittens: one shorthaired parent w/ a recessive longhaired gene plus a longhaired parent, or two shorthaired parents who both carry a recessive longhaired gene.
posted by illenion at 4:29 PM on June 21, 2011


Where's the pics?

How can we possibly discuss anything without the kitteh pics?
posted by BlueHorse at 4:53 PM on June 21, 2011 [10 favorites]

Female cats are polyfecund - so yes, entirely possible.
posted by maryr at 5:39 PM on June 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Also, that Wiki article on cat coat genetics is awesome. Go back and read it if you haven't already.
posted by maryr at 5:41 PM on June 21, 2011

Got any color questions about your kitties? Because I'm dying to share the cat coat color chart.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 6:00 PM on June 21, 2011 [16 favorites]

I believe a vet student once told me that cats can be inseminated by more than one tom during 'the same' pregnancy. But take that with a grain of salt because my memory is rotten.
posted by Ys at 6:02 PM on June 21, 2011

As requested, Charlie and Echo.
posted by vegetable100% at 6:24 PM on June 21, 2011 [11 favorites]

Excellent answers as always. Thanks everyone!
posted by vegetable100% at 6:27 PM on June 21, 2011

@ImproviseOrDie, that chart is awesome. Thank you for sharing.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 11:55 PM on June 21, 2011

Think Gregor Mendel and his peas: dominant vs. recessive traits.
posted by aught at 7:10 AM on June 22, 2011

Not exactly related to this but might come up in a related discussion: some coat color patterns are not genetic but determined during gestation. The classic example of this is how the cloned calico cat, CC, did not actually look exactly like her (genetically identical) clone-mother, because her coat pattern was determined by random factors in the womb, not by her genes.
posted by aught at 7:20 AM on June 22, 2011

Not scientific, but I just saw a litter that varied wildly. My friend declared that the puss was mounted by about every tom in the neighborhood: there were tabbies, tuxedoes, and a long-haired white kitten. According to her, each egg can have a different father.
posted by IAmBroom at 11:55 AM on June 22, 2011

I asked a couple different vets about this (about my dogs - same litter but different ears, eyes, and 35lb weight difference) and they mostly shrugged and said "I guess." Their mama was a rural North Carolina stray.

My father is a clinical geneticist. He has seen it in humans. Heteropaternal superfecundation
posted by Pax at 12:42 PM on June 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

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