Dry Creek Hill

Feral Cat Fridays: There’s No Doubt She’s Motley

It was surprisingly easy to identify most of the cats in our colony, but if there was one cat we were guaranteed to recognize, it was Motley. Motley was a member of Harley’s second litter and was the sister of Tux and Fuzzy Tux.

Motley and Tux check for more dinner while Harley says “Thanks.”

As you can see from the photos, Motley inherited and magnified the calico/tortoiseshell genes that were less prominent in her mother. Harley had distinctive and attractive touches of orange in her black, gray, and white coat, but Motley was full-on tortoiseshell. Her colors combined with her retiring nature gave her a perpetually serious, inquisitive and slightly startled expression.

Motley on a rare visit to the house deck.

Like the other members of Harley’s family, Motley usually kept her distance from us except at dinner time when we were putting food on the Harley Platform or near the shed where the family hung out. Even then, we had to avert our eyes as we put food in front of her or she would startle and shy away.

Feeling at home in the Verbena.

The white saucer you see in front of Motley and Tux in the first photo is evidence of a canned food dinner rather than the usual dry food. We wanted to be sure the kittens were eating well on their own so we could trap and neuter Harley and prevent any more litters from her. Canned food was a good test for the kittens. Second, it was easier to draw many of the cats into traps if they were baited with canned food rather than dry. Introducing the kittens and Harley to canned food enhanced our TNR rate and sped up our population control efforts. If you look carefully at Motley’s left ear in the second and third photos you can see that the ear is slightly tipped, a sign that she has been trapped and spayed.

3 thoughts on “Feral Cat Fridays: There’s No Doubt She’s Motley

  1. shoreacres

    The photo of Motley in the verbena’s a winner. I’ll spare you all the Motley Crüe (or motley crew) jokes that are lurking out there.

    You’re right about her expression; she does have that perpetually startled expression. It’s interesting that she had that one white foot to go with the white streak on her face. Are geneticists able to explain that kind of seemingly random distribution of color, or is it just one of those things that happens?

    1. Charles Prokop Post author

      I always wondered how much of Motley’s expression was personality and how much was an effect of her coloration. If anyone ever wore their emotions on their sleeve (or fur), it was Motley. As best I can understand it, the color distribution is random and dependent on timing of X chromosome inactivation during female cat development. This article does a decent job of explaining it.

  2. shoreacres

    That was an interesting article. It took a couple of reads to begin to grasp it all, but the line that was especially interesting was the one that mentioned calico cats as tortoiseshells with white patches. I’d always assume calicos had a white coat with colored patches ‘superimposed.’ Not so much!

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