Yesterday, Cornell University’s School of Veterinary Medicine announced that it has produced the world’s first proven live-born cat-dog hybrid in a joint venture with UC Davis and Massey University (New Zealand).
The project’s lead scientist, Dr Kwiecie Zywnoci, proudly released photos of the male animal, named “Kotpies” — the Polish word for “catdog.”
“This milestone is the result of fifteen years of extraordinary work by the project’s geneticists,” said Zywnoci. “Our breakthrough came in the Fall of 2006 when we identified a multiplex single-base primer extension reaction in the cytochrome b gene in both cats and dogs. This extension provided the point in the DNA at which a dog’s DNA could be recombined with the cat’s through chromatin transfer. Once the DNA is modified, embryos are produced and implanted in the uterus of a receptor cat.”
For many years cat-dog hybrids have been rumored to occur naturally, but have never been proven. As early as 1937, a cat-dog hybrid was reported in North Carolina:
In Wilmington, N. C. last August, Mrs. Annie Mae Gannon’s cat littered in her boarding house. First came one normal, one tailless and one bobtailed kitten. Twelve hours later Mrs. Gannon’s cat bore what looked like a splotched, botched Boston bull pup. Colored black, yellow and white, it had long, sharply pointed ears, short whiskers, stub tail, short doggish hair. Unlike cat or dog it was born with eyes open. And it could crawl at once. As it grew up it made noises like a cat, sniffed and gnawed bones like a dog. It rested with its paws stretched forward dog fashion, refused to frolic with its litter mates.
A neighborhood mongrel dog was blamed for the freak. Dog and mother cat had fought all through her gestation. Mrs. Gannon’s neighbors argued that those fights had marked the kittens. Henry Sternberger, who photographed the catdog and named it Nonesuch, thought that cat and dog might have mated. In any case, decided he, this was a freak in which the American Genetic Association should be interested.
Mrs Gannon’s cat-dog was never proved to be a cat-dog hybrid, as she refused to hand the animal over to scientists for fear it might be harmed. Editor Robert C. Cook of the Association’s Journal of Heredity dismissed it as simply a gene mutation.
Kotpies, on the other hand, has undergone extensive DNA analysis and has been certified by UC Davis’ Lester A. Lyon, PhD as a cat-dog hybrid. Kotpies’ body is pure cat, but his canine pedigree is evident in the eyes and snout. “We really have no control over how the physical traits will manifest themselves,” said Zywnoci. “Kotpies is the offspring of a Siamese cat and a Pug dog. At this time we cannot alter the genes to produce a hybrid with custom characteristics — a Pug’s curly tail, for example — but we hope to achieve that degree of specificity in the future.”
For the record, Kotpies barks. And purrs.