Kathrin Stucki on hybrid cat DNA and cat species evolution


This is a little news story about hybrid cat DNA and cat species evolution. You won’t read it anywhere else. The story comes from Kathrin Stucki, who is a well know figure in the world of cats partly because, with her husband, Martin, she owns and manages A1 Savannahs in Oklahoma. A1 Savannahs is a very high profile breeder of Savannah cats and servals. They raised the famous Scarlett’s Magic, “the world’s tallest domestic cat“.

Kathrin knows a lot about cats in general and wild cat hybrids in particular. She wrote a very interesting article for PoC some years ago called Full Moon Kittens. Here is an extract:

“Martin, my husband, has the current moon phase displayed on his cell phone because he knows the night of the full moon will bring us babies…”

Anyway, Kathrin has been working on Hybrid Cat DNA. In this instance she refers to wild cat hybrids. These are domestic cats that are a product of the mating of a wild cat species, such as the serval, and a domestic cat.

Feline Hybrids Chart
Feline Hybrids Chart copyright William Murphy, Texas A&M. — “MYA” means “million years ago”. If you want to use it please leave a comment and ask.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

Wild Cat Hybrid DNA

Genetics lab Texas A&M
Kathrin Stucki at Genetics lab Texas A&M — Preparing the amplifying of genes of a Serval and a Savannah cats with the help of a PCR

I can’t do much better than to quote Kathrin verbatim:

I had the opportunity to work at A&M University, Texas, in the Laboratory of Veterinary integrative Biosciences. I wanted to share some insight and thought you would possibly be interested to hear about it.

I moved into an extended stay and worked full-time in the laboratory, under the supervision of Professor William Murphy, who is world leading in the field of hybrid feline sterility research. The time in the lab, enabled me to work with my own cat’s DNA as well as that of cats from other hybrid breeders.

In preparation for this stay, I had collected DNA samples from all our breeding cats and kittens, including the Servals. For most cats we took the DNA through a cheek-swab, but for the Servals, we preferred to draw a blood sample.

Back in the lab, I learned how to extract the DNA from the blood of the wild and hybrid cats and I was able to amplify certain genes with the help of a PCR1. By comparing the genes of different Savannah cat generations as well as those of Serval, Asian leopard and Chausie cats, I was able to see the genetic differences and similarities of each species. A discovery that matched up with the experience I had with these cats in person.

On the same stay, I thawed skin cells from an Asian Leopard which were frozen in the ’80s. With careful nurturing and incubating of the at first lifeless cells, I was able to witness the miracle of mitosis2 and with it, the growing of new leopard skin tissue, right in front of my microscope viewer.

Kathrin Stucki in Genetics Laboratory
Kathrin Stucki in Genetics Laboratory — Preparing Chausie cat genes for amplification

As a longtime Savannah cat breeder I am familiar with a little bit more than the basics of how it comes to the creating of a hybrid cat. But to be able to enter the sub-microscopic world of the genes of my own cats gave me a whole new understanding of the uniqueness of the Savannah cat breed.

In the attached graph (see above) that was created by my colleges at the A&M University, one can see the evolutionary development of different cat species. The time table shows the estimated time frame when individual feline species have evolved. The table shows that the Bengal cat’s ancestors are 3 Mio years3 apart while the evolutionary difference in the Savannah cat’s ancestor is 5.3 Mio years.  

It is perhaps that differing genetic pool which makes the Savannah cat so unique not just in her appearance but also in her unusual sharp intellect.

The visualized genetic difference in a F3 Savannah cat and a Serval cat
The visualized genetic difference in a F3 Savannah cat and a Serval cat


  1. PCR stands for “polymerase chain reaction” as far as I am aware. It is the process of “generating thousands to millions of copies of a particular DNA sequence” (Wikipedia).
  2. A form of nuclear division – the word nuclear refers to the nucleus of an animal’s cells.
  3. MIO stands for Million

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22 thoughts on “Kathrin Stucki on hybrid cat DNA and cat species evolution”

  1. I can’t say anything more at present about the Sand cat hybrids.

    The chart shows Jungle cat x Bobcat as a hybrid, but the information I have is that all attempts at this hybrid failed. Long Island Ocelot Club newsletter of July/August, 1971 an item by by John M Jackson noted that in spring 1970, the Jacksons were very actively involved in an attempt to breed the jungle cat (F chaus) to the bobcat though this was totally unsuccessful. Singh (a proven fertile three-quarter chaus hybrid) spent a week with a bobcat 40 miles from the Jackson’s home before escaping. No hybrids were born. (There might be confusion with the “Jungle Bob” breed which is PixieBob x F Chaus?) I’d be very interested if there are authenticated Bobcat/Chaus hybrids or whether this is an error on the chart.

    In addition to the hybrids listed there are domestic x Ocelot (2 litters born, one accidental and the 2nd to test the paternity of the first litter) as well as bobcat x ocelot hybrids (bred in Texas in the late 1960s). There also seem to be domestic x Chinese desert (F bieti) natural hybrids.

  2. The domestic cat has just been hybridised successfully with the Sand cat. This proves the previously anecdotal accounts of the 2 species interbreeding in the wild where domestics encroach on Sand cat territory. Next step is to determine whether the hybrid females are fertile.

  3. Hi Marc. Thanks for your concern. I am a long way from the Akrotiri, Episkopi or Dhekelia bases. They have changed a lot since I was there with a lot of it underground now. It’s the civilians nearby that have to be careful. You never know how these things may escalate but I feel I am very far away from any flash point. I don’t see or hear any signs of Turkish military activity either. There are usually helicopters patrolling along the coast and mountains but I don’t see ant today. Maybe they are deployed elsewhere in case. The alarming thing is that the Western powers are already gearing up for an attack and they don’t even have conclusive evidence who carried out the gassing!! It reminds me of Colin Powell telling the world that there is 100% proof that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction. Just a big liar! It looks like a repeat performance of concocted evidence.

    • Good Harvey – I am glad you are far away – I responded with my opinion to Michaels question above. You are right. It’s like they don’t even want detailed evidence.

  4. Hi Michael. I did finally get a reply from Cornell. It turns out that they will be studying cats with a known inherited disease. So I don’t understand why they need a breed data base. They said that breed samples may be needed in the future and to keep tuned. I think it advisable to contact someone else.

    • Harvey – apparently our warmongering governments can’t keep the f***** hands off the trigger. I do hope you are not close to the British Military base in Cyprus as it is an obvious first target for a retaliatory strike from the Syrians.

        • I think a list of options should be considered. I just read about one option nullifying all contracts related to the regime without the next regime incurring the debt. That would require Asaad to step down for the sake of economical legitimacy. Here: http://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2013/aug/28/syria-sanctions-bashar-al-assad Pre-emptive sanctions.

          I’m not a believer in hitting violence with violence – or in revenge per se although I understand it. It’s possible a rogue officer ordered it. Why not send him to be tried for war crimes. Or even Asaad. I don’t think bombing them is a good idea. They might do something back. One thing we apathetic westerners might never understand is that people in the world are willing to die for what they believe in. That’s exactly why we should be afraid of Asaad.

          Also – why this now? Israel used phosphorous in 2009. The US used phosphorous and depleted uranium in Iraq – the US and UK allowed all kinds of terrible things to happen in the past without butting in. They even did terrible things other than those 2 I just mentioned.

          In Egypt 1000 people die “restoring” democracy and in Syria “300 – possible over 1000” die and we need to spend billions of tax money slapping Asaad’s wrist. Hypocrisy is an awful thing. Terrible. At least Milliband is pushing for more reasoning before saying ‘yes’. It helps. 100,000 people have died in Syria and nobody did anything except arm Islamic extremists who do pose a threat to us. Asaad doesn’t until now pose a threat to us. Carla Del Ponte said after aUN investigation it was more likely the rebels used sarin – on a number of occasions, and they left it behind in tunnels – suffocating regime soldiers. They have sarin gas too it would seem. Maybe they cant shoot it with a missile but they can dump it in a neighbourhood and blow it up. I don’t know – thats a tangent from your question though. If Asaad used those chemicals then of course something should be done. But something should equally be done to the rebels then for using it.

          Don’t we have money problems amongst other things? War is pricey and nobody knows the outcome. Military peers and generals are even against it. Plus intelligence from Israel? Really? Israel…. come on. We are not threatened. All of a sudden we will be threatened and it will be expensive too.

          I believe there are other ways to make it clear that it’s unnacceptable to use chemical weapons. Firstly be reacting on every instance and not just one. Secondly there are many other ways it would seem. There are people who are paid to come up with other ways. Why are we not talking about those other ways….

          That war has been brutal. This incident is another brutal incident.

          The islamists ‘rebels’ like to line people up and execute them. They recently executed 450 or 480 people from some sect or other, shia or the other one I don’t know but anyway – they are lovely aren’t they.

          I think if we had not interfered Asaad would have won by now anyway – without us arming the rebels etc. Most syrians choose Asaad as the lesser of 2 evils because he affords them a more secular lifestyle – not Sharia law as the Islamists would have it not doubt. They just want to live and grow their food and go to school and be left alone.

          Public opinion in Syria is that most don’t want us to butt in.

          Furthemore I read about how only 50% of these missiles succeed in hitting their surgical targets. They aren’t that precise and nor is the intelligence which leads them to those targets. Civilians die either way.

          It’s all terrible.

          The US was dumb to draw a red line and then not cross it and then suddenly cross it. Furthermore now they have to send a few missiles just so they look tough because they said they would. FFS it’s absurd.

          Why not discuss options. Why the hurry. Why the desperation to avoid finding out the UN envoy’s evidence. IT’s like they don’t want to see the findings or something. Why not openly discuss other options.

          ……and 75% of UK/US civilians don’t want to bomb. It’s the governments who want to and they are supposed to represent us. Do we want yet another enemy? What about Russia.

          The hurrying bothers me and looks suspicious. It’s impossible to trust our leaders anyway. It’s hard not to want Asaad to bloody well retaliate if we bomb him. He has almost said he would and bring his neighbour countries into it too. It’s hard not to want him suprise the US a bit and retaliate if but for the danger of an all out war.

          Do the US want him to retaliate?

          Is this a bid for Iran? Is this for Israel?

          Next Israel with say a missile was shot at them and they will unleash themselves on Asaad and nobody will even believe it – and think they made it up so they could finally get the party started. It’s impossible to trust. False flags. Iraq. The US is the only country to have ever dropped atomic bombs. What about that? I know whataboutery is not useful but it’s a part in everything our governments do because our governments always make the rules and talk the principles so they deserve the whataboutery in my opinion.

          Non violent methods are better.

          If they send missiles all it takes is for one missile to be returned, or one act of retaliation and then what? I can imagine Israel false flagging us into WW3.

          What if we send missiles and then later Asaad uses chemicals again (if it was him, was it? really? the rebels used it too, just smaller) – then the west will be compelled to again send missiles. It sets a perrogative.

          What about trying to take control of the chemical weapons in Syria?

          What about sanctions or asset freezes?

          What about getting Russia to back some kind of non violent response. If Russia is part of it then for Asaad it is much more serious. Maybe Russia would agree to pre emptive sanctions.

          Maybe the Russians have given Asaad serious weapons we don’t know about and they have said they don’t want to get in any fights but maybe they know something we don’t – it’s been said over and over Asaad has the capacity to ‘suprise’ the west.

          ……..I was mostly worried about where exactly Harvey and his cats are living because I fear retaliation and Cyprus is a very possible target for that. A man wrote a book about how imprecise these surgical strikes are – 50% or so go wrong for a large number of reasons. I wouldn’t like to be withing 20 miles of any target to be honest. Especially if there’s a risk of chemicals.

          • Fantastic answer, Marc. Excellent ideas. Do you think the international community could agree on any of them? And if they did, effect them and then do you think Assad would wriggle around them using his tyrant mates? The international community cannot agree on anything. Governments struggle to agree. It is impotence and Assad knows it. That is why he can get away with this sort stuff. This sort of thing will go on for the indefinite future. Many kids will die.

            • America seems to have alot of power sanctioning Iran. I don’t doubt, to use a typically american term, a ‘coalition of the willing’ would be alot larger if peaceful means of punishment (that’s what this is about) were used. These countries have plenty of power and I can imagine other countries getting involved and backing it all up if the punishment didn’t require killing people and extending an already long war.

              How or what Asaad would do would depend on what was being thrown at him. I like the pre emptive sanction idea because ultimately it forces him to step down.

              Lets also not forget that whether he steps down or is toppled off, it will be no better afterwards anyway. But at least the next lot wouldn’t be stuck with Asaad’s debts and sanctions. Regardless of whether it works in the end or not it would cause enough of a debacle for Asaad that you could easily consider it a long term punishment for him. Not a short term one.

              He would probably prefer a few missiles depending on the targets, to extended financial and political incapacity. It would be a long nightmare for him.

              But what we don’t also know is what he will do if he is shot at. And what targets will have what effect on him. Empty hangars is one thing but electronic and intelligence command and control centers would be debilitating and no doubt drag the war on for much much longer.

              You are right though about nobody being able to agree.

              I just think you will get a larger coalition and a more legitimate action if that action is non violent. It’s important to have the world behind you even if a few warmongering countries feel frustrated they cant just shoot up somebody they happen not to like.

              • Meanwhile the US is trying to forget about Egypt “restoring democracy” – if they lost Egypt’s favour then Israel would have another dodgy border.

                Personally I have a great resentment towards Israel both personal and political. When I travelled to Asia and Australia when I was younger I ran into plenty of groups of Israeli’s fresh out of military service – they are incredibly antisocial people – if a group (they are always in groups) moves into your guesthouse or hotel then you may as well leave and go somewhere else. I won’t carry on digging in about it.

                I think part of the reason why the little actual real intelligence is being hidden is because it all comes from Israel. Just my guess.

            • Michael – it looks for once like some kind of Democracy just worked last night. I just woke up to find out that Britain is not going to punch Asaad in the face. I assume that the US will still do it because they have a more of a ‘we are tough and when we make threats we can’t back down or we will look weak’ approach so they are kind of locked in by their own red line. I understand the principle of the whole thing but drawing that official red line was the most stupid thing to do- it should have been drawn in private at least.

              I am very happy this has changed the ‘special’ relationship with the US because people in the UK are so different to people in the US and the UK should not be doing whatever the US asks and I am bloddy glad it isn’t. Now if it all backfires the UK won’t be stuck in something. Furthermore the US can finally realize that they are alone in their way of thinking and their size and power is not simply enough to make us all follow along. Good!

              • I agree with you. Cameron kicked off by trying to be supportive of Obama and to be the “US poodle”. Then the people through their MPs spoke and stopped it. It is democracy in action – pleasing. Pleasing too that the “special relationship” is exposed to being not really what it is cracked up to be. I think it is a bit of a sham. When push comes to shove America does what it likes. It is not an agreement.

                We are different. That said I have a some nice friends in American. One of them is VG (Valley Girl). She’s a good lady.

        • Michael – so do I but the difference is clearly that in the US the nice people have no say in what the government does whereas here we have just seen that the government does what the people wants to a great enough extent as to avoid war. The ex head of the british army talked about how our troops are citizens and that no war should be fought without the consent of the british people because the troops are british people and they need to feel like its all for a good reason.

          Whereas in the US the purposefully make sure the their troops have absolutely no idea about anything – except the basic politics the government feeds them so they all just go running into war because they believe their government, not because they are the people and the people have spoken. HUGE, ENORMOUS difference in my opinion. They are actually trained to look at arabs as “dead bastards” and so on. It’s an entirely different mindset.

          Yet the US is full of people who also have the right idea, but they aren’t technically speaking in a true democracy so it doesn’t work according to the people, but according to money, which diverts the government from the will of the people.

          • Incidentally – although I wasn’t born there, my mum is from LA and I am american – I’m a dual national, french as well. But you would never believe it, thinking I am 100% english if you met me 🙂

        • And finally – incase the amnesia continues it should further be remembered that:

          “In the late 1980s, the US and UK took no action when Saddam Hussein used chemical weapons against Iranian forces — and Iraqi Kurds in Halabja.

          The US knew about, and in one case helped, Iraq’s chemical weapons attacks against Iran in the 1980’s, according to recently declassified CIA documents obtained by the US website Foreign Policy.

          Its report indicated that the US secretly had evidence of Iraqi chemical attacks in 1983. The evidence, according to FP, is “tantamount to an official American admission of complicity in some of the most gruesome chemical weapons attacks ever launched.”

          …………………………….so it’s impossible in my mind to get my head around any of this grandstanding to begin with. The government relies on our average person’s lack of knowledge. If people bothered to dig a bit deeper they would of course be shocked and history different.

        • Michael – now if only the british media would not denigrate Cameron but appreciate the fact that he did what the country wanted and succeeded in allowing democracy to work. Instead they are all calling him a loser except the guardian of course. Politics is sad – it’s not realistic, it’s competitive for all the wrong reasons. He deserves applaud for doing the right thing.

  5. Hi Michael. Do you think it might be useful to contact Kathrin Stucki over our project to study Turkish Angora cats versus the American Angoras, Turkish Vans, etc?
    I have contacted Cornell who responded positively but since then only silence.

    • Yes, good idea. I will ask her. She is in contact with me by email. She probably can’t help because her field is wild cat hybrids but I’ll ask. She may comment anyway so we could make contact that way too. It would be great to obtain definite DNA profiles of (a) Turkish, Turkish Angora (b) American, Turkish Angora (c) Turkish Van (USA).


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