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Genetic Mutation Behind New Coat Pattern In Finnish Cats Discovered


A team of geneticists and animal welfare specialists from the U.K. and the U.S. has identified the genetic mutation responsible for a newly discovered cat coat color pattern in Finland. Their findings, published in the journal Animal Genetics, involved sequencing the genomes of two cats.

In 2007, observers in Finland noticed that some feral cats had a distinctively colored coat. Unlike the typical tuxedo pattern, these cats had hairs that were black at the base and progressively whiter toward the tip. This pattern, soon known as the “Finnish mutation,” appeared as some of these cats were adopted into homes. The research team aimed to identify the genetic mutation responsible for this change.

The researchers named the new coat pattern “salmiak,” after a popular Finnish licorice. They then called for volunteers to bring in cats with this coat pattern for testing.

Initial tests on the cats showed no known mutations affecting white fur coloration. This led the team to perform whole genome sequencing on two of the cats. They discovered a mutation near the KIT gene, previously associated with several white hair patterns in housecats, and noted a missing span of the sequence downstream.

The team confirmed they had found the desired variant by examining 181 cats, finding it in three with the salmiak coat. These three cats had inherited the mutation from both parents. They also identified three other cats carrying the variant but not displaying the salmiak coat; these cats had inherited the mutation from only one parent.

The research team concludes they have identified the recessive mutation responsible for the development of this unique coat pattern.

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