Texas Cat with Rare Genes Causing Controversy in the Show World

The cat's name is Dawntreader Texas Calboy

When you hear "Best in Show," dogs usually come to mind, but cats can also show competitively, and there's a controversy over a cat in North Texas that is so rare, he's being barred from certain competitions. 

Roughly 30 miles outside of Dallas, at a home in Waxahachie, cats aren't just pets, they are a way of life. 

"We have about 12 adults, and then we have three kittens that are running around right now,"  said Mistelle Stevenson who has been breeding and showing cats professionally for seven years.   

"I have been passionate about cats my entire life, as long as I can remember, I've always been carrying a cat around," said Stevenson. 

There is one cat who really stands out. 

"His name is Dawntreader Texas Calboy," said Stevenson, as she pets the cat's long fur coat. "It's a play on words, 'CAL' for calico, and 'BOY' for being a boy."

Put the emphasis on the "boy" because a cat with his colors should have been born a girl. 

"It wasn't until we took him for his second week of shots at our vet, that I realized he was a boy, and I was shocked," Stevenson said. 

Calico cats have white, black and orange colors – and are predominantly female. 

"It's technically almost genetically impossible to get that type of combination," said Dr. Brittney Barton, at HEAL Veterinary Hospital in Dallas.

What makes Calboy even more unusual is most male calico cats cannot reproduce, but Calboy can.

He has fathered several of the kittens in Stevenson's cattery.

"It's difficult with the statistics that are listed out there on how many percentages of this or how many percentages of that, because unfortunately we don't gene test everybody and we don't gene test all the cats, but certainly a calico male is a very rare incident," said Dr. Barton. "Especially a fertile calico male." 

The textbook term for cats like Calboy is a "Chimera." These cats are born with two sets of DNA and have the ability to reproduce. 

"You have one embryo, and another embryo, with two different separate fertilization incidents, those are non-identical twins," explained Dr. Barton. "Where a chimera comes in is when non-identical twins merge." 

Because chimera cats are so rare, Stevenson had Calboy's DNA tested at the Veterinary Genetics Laboratory at the University of California, which confirmed his chimerism.  

Calboy made some judges do a double take at a January show in Houston hosted by the Cat Fancier's Association.

"They [Judges] were holding him up and talking about how well he met the standard and how beautiful he was, and then they would say 'well, if he was a girl,' because his color was allowed as a girl, 'if he was a girl we would final him, I might even make him best in show,'" said Stevenson. 

The Cat Fancier's Association told NBC 5 their policy has never allowed male cats with his colors to compete in the championship class, calling it a genetic defect that's detrimental to the breed. 

"They [CFA] had added him onto their board meeting in February as an emergency addendum, specifically for addressing him being shown in the ring," said Stevenson. "They adjusted their rules, to be all encompassing for all boys dressed in girls colors, not to be shown." 

According to The Cat Fancier's Association, the change was made to an existing rule to clarify for judges that cats with a genetic anomaly such as Calboy's are never eligible to earn a championship. 

"They didn't just make it impossible for him," explained Stevenson. "They closed the door for all of the males with his colors and all of the breeds." 

Calboy can still compete in the household pet or agility categories at Cat Fancier Association shows, but because he is a male with coat colors usually associated with females, he is not accepted in their best of breed category.

"In a perfect world, I would just like for them to just look at him as the cat, and does he meet our standard or doesn't he meet it, and this is the coat color, and it happened naturally on him, it's not his fault he was born a boy and not a girl," Stevenson said.

There is one other organization that Stevenson competes in, The International Cat Association, which wholeheartedly accepted Calboy for his uniqueness.

Stevenson entered Calboy into one of their competitions in Denver after the Houston show debacle, and Calboy earned the triple grand championship from their judges. 

Stevenson hopes the Cat Fancier's Association will change their policies to be more accepting in the future. 

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