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  • This story is about small cats...

  • ...that look like big cats...

  • and the people that made that possible.

  • But before we get there, let's back up a bit.

  • We went to an event at the Westminster Dog Show

  • and this year cats were invited.

  • So we went to film them, and we weren't the only ones.

  • In the middle of a crowd there was a man, holding his pet cat called a Bengal.

  • That's Anthony Hutcherson and his whole life, he's had one dream:

  • “I always wanted a pet leopard, or a pet ocelot.”

  • Wanting a pet ocelot might sound odd, but until recently

  • owning an exotic cat was not unheard of.

  • People had pet leopards

  • and pet cheetahs

  • and here's Salvador Dali and his pet ocelot named Babou.

  • But exotic cats weren't just for celebrities, this family in Denver had a pet leopard.

  • They named him Pasha.

  • Growing up, Anthony found books about owning a pet ocelot, and he was fascinated.

  • Fortunately the library was a little outdated so there were still books from The Fifties"

  • "and Sixties in my public school that said things about having a pet ocelot, and made"

  • "it seem normal...and I thought that could be me too!”

  • But in the 1970s, authorities began restricting ownership and seizing exotic pets.

  • So, instead of owning an ocelot, Anthony's dream became

  • breeding a pet cat that looked just like one.

  • He began after seeing a magazine at a grocery store,

  • "At the checkout: like, alien spotted and woman creates domestic cat that looks like"

  • "leopard and so, I remembered it, and followed up and found her, and called her.”

  • The woman on the phone was Jean Mill, the first American Bengal breeder.

  • At one point I remember saying to her,"

  • " 'no, I can't afford these cats, but I really want one, this is my dream.' "

  • " ' I really wanna do it.' "

  • "I described to her in specific detail what I wanted and she said,"

  • " 'That cat doesn't exist. I want that too.' '”

  • Jean told Anthony about asian leopard cats: a wild species native to Asia that was bred

  • with a domestic cat in order to create a first generation hybrid, called an "F1",

  • which is 50% wild, 50% domestic.

  • Jean owned an F1, which she received from Dr. Willard Centerwall,

  • a scientist at Loma Linda University.

  • Dr. Centerwall was breeding hybrid cats in order to study their leukemia heredity factors,

  • which could help in understanding and combatting leukemia in human beings.

  • But he only needed their genetic samples and once he bred the cats they needed homes,

  • so that's how Jean Mill received an F1 kitten in 1980.

  • By breeding her F1 with a domestic cat, Jean created second generation hybrids.

  • But the males were sterile, so Jean could only continue breeding through the female offspring.

  • And when they are four generations away from the asian leopard cat, fertility is much"

  • "more regular and, in terms of being able to be shown and be considered a 'domestic cat',"

  • "they have to be four generations away from the asian leopard cat"

  • *banging sound*

  • "Sorry, that's my cats running through the room!”

  • By reaching the fourth generation, Jean had developed a new breed: the Bengal,

  • which was officially recognized by The International Cat Association in 1986.

  • After his phone call with Jean, Anthony decided to start breeding on his own,

  • so he bought an F1 bengal and began attending cat shows.

  • This cat is awesome.”

  • For the future of the Bengals, I'd like to see them"

  • "move more in a direction toward looking wild."

  • "Being instantly identified as 'oooooh.' "

  • "But I want them to be as sweet, turn them over on their side, or pull on their tail,"

  • "or kiss them, if you have to.”

  • *applause*”

  • Over the years, Anthony's goal hasn't changed.

  • He's continued to pursue it by carefully selecting cats for his breeding program.

  • When I make that decision to breed them,"

  • "I have an idea of what I think the kittens will look like"

  • "and when they are born I try to pick the one"

  • "that looks the most like what I wanted it to look like."

  • It's like any good chef will probably tell you."

  • "it's not adding a bunch of different stuff into a soup."

  • "It's what you choose to add and how much and when you add it.”

  • Choosing breeding partners to develop certain traits is called "selective breeding".

  • All cats are beautiful, but I'm not trying to make all cats."

  • I'm trying to make a very specific cat.”

  • A specific cat with qualities like rosettes, the naturally occurring marks on leopards

  • that he describes as a pattern,

  • “…with that same spot that's maybe black or brown, and in the center of that spot is

  • a color somewhere between, say yellow or orange-”

  • You get the picture, Anthony knows what he wants his cats to look like.

  • But selective breeding can put animals at risk if breeders pair close relatives.

  • So to prevent inbreeding, owners like Vicki Jeffers come to cat shows.

  • Where they can exchange cats in order to develop new traits,

  • like the shaggy coat we saw on this longhair Bengal.

  • If I bred her to Jefferson I might get the beautiful tail and the nice ears"

  • "and the kittens might get this wonderful pattern."

  • So what you do is you look for traits in cats that yours don't have"

  • "and you look at the pedigrees to be sure that you are not inbreeding too much.”

  • To avoid inbreeding, breeders need a large gene pool,

  • which means breeding large numbers of cats.

  • People are convinced that there are too many cats in the world"

  • "and there are an awful lot of cats in rescue."

  • "And they say, 'well, here you are breeding superfluous cats"

  • " 'when there are cats that are wanting for a home.' "

  • "And, I mean, they have a point."

  • "They have an important point."

  • "But if you look at these cats, they justify the breeding"

  • "because they are just wonderful, wonderful, animals.”

  • Animals like Anthony's cat Ovation.

  • Her name's Ovation, she's the greatest cat in the world.”

  • And while the development of bengals has taken decades, other breeds are just getting started.

  • This is a Savannah,

  • which were developed by breeding domestic cats

  • with a serval: a wild carnivore native to African savannahs.

  • Unlike the Bengals,

  • we found just a few cats at this booth.

  • and that's because the Savannah is a newer breed.

  • The first F1 Savannah was born in 1986.

  • So there are fewer late generation Savannahs compared to Bengals.

  • A cat like this can cost over a thousand dollars.

  • But earlier generations of Savannahs are even more expensive

  • An F1 Savannah can cost upwards of $20,000 and owning one isn't only expensive.

  • It can be illegal, depending on local laws.

  • In New York State, it's legal to own a hybrid as long as it's sixth generation or later.

  • But any generation of Savannah is illegal in New York City.

  • So even though these cats had a special exemption, the cats we saw at this show--

  • they're technically illegal.

  • And that's a major reason why breeders come to the show.

  • By showing their cats, breeders hope to demonstrate that hybrid species

  • are just as safe as any other cat.

  • But what if you aren't into leopards, what if you what you really want is a tiny tiger?

  • This is Tony, one of Toygers we met.

  • That's Toyger fortoyandtiger”.

  • This newer breed was created by Judy Sudden.

  • And before you make any assumptions, NO, she did not breed a tiger with a house cat.

  • As feline geneticist Steven O'Brien explained to me, that...wouldn't work.

  • As the time has elapsed, the further apart a species might be to another species,"

  • "the less likely they will produce fertile offspring at all."

  • "The reason is evolution is a gradual process.”

  • If you look at the cat family tree, you can see that domestic cats

  • and asian leopard cats

  • separated from a common ancestor about 6 million years ago,

  • which is about half the time that has passed since they

  • separated from great cats, like lions and tigers.

  • It's not exactly half, but it's on that order."

  • "So there has been twice as much time for gene differences that inhibit compatibility."

  • "Which means that you are twice as likely to have generated reproductive isolation,"

  • "which just means it's just not gonna work, Charlie."

  • "It's just not gonna work."

  • It's not gonna work means you can't breed with tigers.

  • So Judy Sugden created Toygers by selectively breeding domestic cats.

  • “…and so then you breed that kitten to another kitten…”

  • As a result, there's nothing wild about these guys.

  • We just wanna go until…"

  • "To make it reminiscent of a big cat."

  • "And so, on a tiger, the chin is big and kind of sticks out."

  • Well, they are beautiful."

  • Well, thank you very much

  • And while breeding a tiny tiger might seem ambitious,

  • Judy had help along the way.

  • “I started breeding in the mid Eighties."

  • "My mother developed the bengal and that was to look like a little leopard."

  • "So I said, as we were watching that thing progress,"

  • "Well maybe we need a little tiger!”

  • Judy's mother is Jean Mill.

  • The first American Bengal breeder and Anthony Hutcherson's mentor.

  • It turns out, the world cat breeders is pretty small.

  • Like Anthony, Judy has spent her entire life

  • developing a new breed to resemble its wild counterpart.

  • "His name is Tony."

  • And also like Anthony, she's still pursuing that goal.

  • "What's your name again?"

  • -"Max"

  • "Max. Anthony. I'm Anthony."

  • Because although you might think these cats

  • already look like tiny tigers

  • and little leopards,

  • they see something we don't.

  • Something to improve.

  • Something that will keep pushing them closer to that goal:

  • the cat that they always dreamed of.

  • My motivation hasn't changed."

  • "And...I went back to the public libraries and used bookstores and I bought those books."

  • "Because they inspired me then and,"

  • "in moments when I think my fellow breeders have no idea what they are doing"

  • "or I question how many litter boxes I can clean in a day,"

  • "I still flip through those books and think,"

  • "Well, I'm almost there."

This story is about small cats...

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野生の血を引くデザイナーズキャットとの出会い (Meet the designer cats with wild blood)

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    Evangeline に公開 2021 年 01 月 14 日
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