The Bulgarian Green Cat — Some Fun With Genetics

A few weeks ago, tourists and residents of Varna, a Bulgarian seaside resort town, spotted an unusual creature: a bright green, almost emerald-furred stray cat. Since the first photos of this freaky-colored feline appeared on the internet, the cat became sort of an internet sensation. Many theories immediately arose:

Some thought the images were simply “Photoshopped” photos of a regular cat. Not a bad guess considering how bizarre the cat’s fur looks. However, as more and more people started noticing the cat wandering the streets of Varna, the Photoshop hypothesis quickly disappeared.

Others had a more sinister theory: some of the local residents had believed that hooligans kidnapped (catnapped?) the cat, and spray-painted the poor feline as a prank. However, in addition to being cruel and traumatizing to the animal, spray paint is also toxic, and would eventually kill the kitty, as cats lick themselves constantly.

The third theory, the one that got our interest was Chernobyl-related. Could nuclear fallout from the 1988 meltdown in Pripiyat, Ukraine have caused strange genetic mutations in creatures living in nearby Bulgaria? No. Quite simply, Bulgaria is a little too far from the ill-fated plant to experience severe nuclear fallout. Additionally, there is no way a cat living today would have experienced the disaster 27 years ago.

Let’s assume for a second, just for the sake of exploring a scientific thought, that the Varna cat’s fur is a result of a random leap in evolution of a genetic mutation. It does not have to be radiation-related. After all, most creatures on Earth including us evolved thanks to random genetic mutations that presented a better adaptation to the environment, and therefore were bred into normalcy.

The bright green fur, in this kitty’s case, would actually be a genetic advantage. The cat would be easier to see at night for motorists, therefore, this cat’s likelihood of survivability as a stray cat would somewhat increase over other cats. Additionally, the unique coloring would make this cat memorable, as it clearly already has. Therefore, this cat would be much less likely to be tormented by hooligans, and much more likely to be fed, or perhaps even sheltered by Varna’s residents and tourists. A healthier, well-fed cat would be more likely to be chosen as a mate, carrying the green fur genes to the next generation, providing a genetic advantage to them over the “normal-colored” cats. Eventually, perhaps in hundreds of years, this genetic mutation will breed out the disadvantageous-colored fur: all stray cats in Varna will be green.

Unfortunately, the real reason for this cat’s green fur is not nearly as romantic, or scientific. It was recently discovered that the cat sleeps in a construction yard, in a pile of discarded non-toxic paint cans. Although this cat seems to be ok, RSPCA warns that painting animals can be dangerous or fatal, so unless your next cat is a natural bright green, keep it the way it is.


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