Caturday felid trifecta: chimera cat, a GOOD cat artist, and Maru kneads a pizza

Venus is famous for being a “split face” chimera cat with different-colored eyes, but here’s a new and similar cat described by Bored Panda. Meet the lovely Quimera, who has her own Instagram page.

As a geneticist, I should know the cause of this, but I’m not sure. It could either be differential turning on of X-chromosome linked coat-color (and eye color) genes on one side of the body (this is what causes “split calicos”). Or it could be a true chimera, in which two embryos fuse into a single embryo early in development. That chimera can develop into a normal cat that has different genetic constitutions on the two sides—as different as siblings. That’s much rarer, but DNA testing could resolve this, and it wouldn’t cost that much. Inquiring minds want to know! An article in the New Republic suggests, not very clearly, that this involves coordinated inactivation of the X chromosome, the first hypothesis.


I’ve long complained that many artists, even in fairly modern times, seem to have trouble painting cats, especially when they try to be realistic. Reader Roger Latour, however, sent me an email noting that I had missed a good cat artist, Charles van den Eycken (1859-1923), a Belgian painter. As Roger noted, “Maybe I missed it if you posted anything from that artist. He was a cat painting specialist. I was unaware of that historical genre. A Google Image search shows out quite a lot of cat canvases! I did not know of him and I just found this image, the mom seems quite anthropomorphised, but here it is”:

Here’s one more, but click on the search image page above. His cats certainly are realistic.


Finally, we have the world’s most famous cat, Maru, who is shown here kneading a toy pizza. He’s previously kneaded a toy breadstick as well. Unfortunately, the realism is diminished since Maru kneads the finished product rather than the dough. I wonder if anybody has ever eaten bread, biscuits, or pizza genuinely kneaded in statu nascendi by a cat.



  1. Paul D.
    Posted November 18, 2017 at 8:03 am | Permalink

    I liked the episode where the orange/black cat chased the black/orange cat through the corridors of the Starship Enterprise.

  2. Posted November 18, 2017 at 8:20 am | Permalink

    I’ve seen similar bilateral asymmetries in butterflies, crabs and birds but they are cases of gynandromorphism. Is the cat definitely ‘female’?

  3. Randall Schenck
    Posted November 18, 2017 at 8:46 am | Permalink

    Think Maru was thinking about doing something else on this pizza. Not like Garfield who just needs lasagne.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted November 18, 2017 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

      I had that thought too!

  4. helenahankart
    Posted November 18, 2017 at 9:07 am | Permalink

    Have you heard of Louis Wain? If not–you might find him interesting. He was a psychiatric patient in Bedlam who murdered his father. As his psychosis deepened his cat portraits became more and more psychedelic

  5. Alan Clark
    Posted November 18, 2017 at 9:07 am | Permalink

    World’s most expensive cat painting, which sold for 95 million USD:

    • Posted November 19, 2017 at 4:36 am | Permalink

      That painting is truly hideous.

    • Gamall
      Posted November 19, 2017 at 7:39 am | Permalink

      You would have to *pay* me that much to take this into my home.

  6. helenahankart
    Posted November 18, 2017 at 9:08 am | Permalink

    And if you have the time–I’d love an answer to the following: I’ve been told that tortoishell cats are (almost) always feamle and have feline equivalnet of Turners syndrome (I thinka vet told me this but I cant track it down). Does this seem pluasible to anyone who understand cat genetics?

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted November 18, 2017 at 9:38 am | Permalink

      Almost always female yes. Don’t know about the rest.

    • Posted November 18, 2017 at 9:56 am | Permalink

      Cat colour genes are on the X chromosome so a female cat can have two, resulting in a tortoiseshell colouration. Male cats generally have one X chromosome so just one coat colour gene – unless they have an abnormality, e.g. have a XXY karyotype. Unfortunately this would also make them sterile.

      XXY karyotype is called Klinefelter syndrome in humans. I don’t know if they use the same terminology for other animals.

    • Posted November 18, 2017 at 10:03 am | Permalink

      Not an expert but Turner’s syndrome is a female having only one X chromosome so I don’t think cats with Turner’s could be tabby as they have only one fur colour gene.

  7. Warren Johnson
    Posted November 18, 2017 at 9:10 am | Permalink

    To the non-biologist this “split” cat is a giant surprise. If it happens with cats, wouldn’t you expect it to happen with most other mammals? What about humans?

    • Posted November 18, 2017 at 9:59 am | Permalink

      Like this?

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted November 18, 2017 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

      What characteristics in humans would display in a “split” like this?
      Hair colour – is it on the X?
      Skin colour? Same Q
      Eye colour? Same Q
      I seem to remember some artist with eyes of different colour – David Bowie – who had plenty of other splits in his character and behaviours.
      Given the number of genes involved in things like skin colour, then there’s a good chance that a “split” would have two marginally different skin tones across the split. Hair colour – fewer genes, so maybe more discontinuity?

    • jahigginbotham
      Posted November 18, 2017 at 9:17 pm | Permalink

      if you think that mosaic cat a surprise, look up gynandromorphism

  8. Posted November 18, 2017 at 11:12 am | Permalink

    Perhaps Paul Klee captured cats most accurately from the cat’s point of view:

  9. Posted November 18, 2017 at 11:19 am | Permalink
  10. Laurance
    Posted November 18, 2017 at 6:53 pm | Permalink

    Doesn’t the Davis California branch of, is it the University of California, offer DNA testing of cats? I googled, because I wonder if my recently adopted and lovable black cat has Siamese ancestry. It does cost some money, and I don’t know if it’s that important for my cat. But if I had a chimera-like cat I’d love to know and I’d have the testing done.

    Now, back in the old days when I used to watch TV I think I remember an episode of “House” (I don’t think it was “Bones” because that’s about dead people) in which the story hinged upon the fact that the child was a chimera and had some different DNA in certain parts of his body.

    I’m interested enough to ask Nice Mr. Google…

  11. Bill Gilliland
    Posted November 19, 2017 at 9:11 am | Permalink

    I doubt the cat is a gynandromorph, because the patches at the front are so big (as compared to the more tortoiseshell patterning towards the anterior end).

    Torties arise in a female cat where the two X chromosomes carry different coat alleles (in this case, orange and black). Because X inactivation results in small clones of cells where one chromosome or the other is inactivated at random, you get patches of skin where only one or the other allele is expressed.

    While the back leg looks like a tortie, the front has much larger solid patches of fur. I suspect that early in development there was a mitotic recombination event (which can happen rarely in response to DNA damage that is repaired through the homologous recombination pathway.) This can create clones of homozygous tissue as follows:

    1) there are two homologous chromosomes, one with the orange fur allele and one with the black fur allele. Lets call them O and B.

    2) DNA replicates during mitosis so you have two sister chromatids held together by cohesion (O_O and B_B). Normally, during mitosis, the sister chromatids for each chromosome separate to opposite poles, so you get one O and one B in each daughter cell:

    3) However, if you have a mitotic recombination event after S phase, you can get two sister chromatids with the two alleles swapped: O_B and B_O.

    4) At anaphase, these sisters orient independently. Therefore you have a 50% chance of the alleles segregating the same way; this means the two daughter cells will wind up homozygous for alternating color alleles. OB
    This produces a “twin spot” cells of homozygotes in a heterozygous background.

%d bloggers like this: