Caturday felid trifecta: BBC features rescue of Icicle the cat from the Yarmouth River; two male calicos in the same litter; opera cat steals the show

August 27, 2022 • 9:15 am

We have our usual three features today, beginning with the rescue of Icicle, an unfortunate British moggie who fell in a river. This story comes from the Great Yarmouth Mercury (click on screenshot to read):

This will be on the BBC!

A dramatic rescue mission that saw a cat saved from drowning in Great Yarmouth will be featured in a BBC Two documentary.

The animal rescue which happened on Tuesday, February 22, will appear in the latest series of Saving Lives at Sea.

Great Yarmouth and Gorleston Lifeboat crew sprung into action after reports of a cat that had become stranded on a ledge after it fell into the River Bure.

Credit: Oliv3r Drone Photography

From the Eastern Daily Press (also by photographer above):

The animal which was “clinging for dear life”, was eventually plucked from the water after the rescue attempts from lifeboat volunteers.

It sparked a “media frenzy” as dramatic photos emerged of the cat – named Icicle – and the rescue in action.

Icicle was eventually reunited with a very relieved owner who was “stunned” to hear of his ordeal.

Icicle rescued! First and third photo from the Eastern Daily Press, second from the Mercury:

 

Credit: Oliv3r Drone Photography
Credit: Oliv3r Drone Photography

The animal which was “clinging for dear life”, was eventually plucked from the water after the rescue attempts from lifeboat volunteers.

It sparked a “media frenzy” as dramatic photos emerged of the cat – named Icicle – and the rescue in action.

Icicle was eventually reunited with a very relieved owner who was “stunned” to hear of his ordeal.

Icicle was microchipped, and appeared to be in good shape. Here he is, looking a lot like my late cat Teddy:

Credit: Sonya Duncan

The rescue will be aired in episode one, of series seven, tonight (August 25) at 8pm.

Great Yarmouth and Gorleston RNLI lifeboat crew were also given the Heroes to Animals Award from PETA for their efforts.

I want one of those awards. After all, I banged the hell out of myself and got three cases of swimmer’s itch from rescuing ducklings!

***************

A story from LoveMeow.  If you’re a cat lover or a geneticist, or both, you’ll know that calico and tortoiseshell cats are almost invariably female. The variegated black-and-orange pattern is caused by differential activation and inactivation of color genes in different parts of the body. But why only females?

The phenomenon is the result of inactivation of X-chromosomes in females, a process called “lyonization” after English geneticist Mary Lyon. Because males have one X chromosome (they’re XY) and females two (XX), there is a mechanism that ensures that for genes residing on the X, the amount of gene product is equalized in both sexes, even though females have twice as many Xs as males. Evolution has thus acted to equalize the amount of product between the sexes, a process called dosage compensation. It’s done in different ways in different groups of animals, but in mammals it results from the inactivation, in females, of one X chromosome in each cell. That inactivation is random, so patches of cells have one X inactivated, while other patches have the other X inactivated. That produces calicos and torties; as QPS explains:

Each cell of a biological male cat receives instructions from two chromosomes, one X and one Y. For female felines, the process works a little differently because cells cannot receive instructions from two different X chromosomes. During embryonic development, one of the X chromosomes in each cell becomes inactive by coiling up into a tight structure known as a Barr body. Because the chromosome is curled up, its genes cannot be expressed. Only the genes on the uncoiled X chromosome are expressed, which means that all physical traits (such as fur color and eye color) are produced by the genetic information of the active X chromosomes.

This random and irreversible process is known as Lyonization. It ensures that only one active X chromosome exists in the cell of a female embryo. Lyonization occurs during the embryonic development of every female mammal, including female cats, and it’s impossible to predict which of the two X chromosomes will be inactivated.

In cats, the X chromosome carries a gene that determines fur color, and there are two different versions (or alleles) of this gene in calico cats. One allele produces orange fur, and the other produces black fur. A cat must receive both of these alleles, one from each parent, in order to have fur with orange and black patches. Then, during lyonization, if the X chromosome carrying a black fur allele is inactivated, the cell will produce orange fur. If the X chromosome carrying an orange fur allele is inactivated, the cell will produce black fur. Because lyonization occurs at random, the pattern produced on each calico cat is distinct.

Males, with only one X, are either black or orange if they carry one of the color alleles. But rarely, a male can be XXY (this is called Klinefelter Syndrome in humans), and such males can have the calico or tortoiseshell pattern. They are very rare, as the headline below indicates (click to read):

A litter of five calico babies came to the Cat House on the Kings in Parlier, California early September. Soon they discovered something quite unique about this litter. Two out of the five kittens are male calicos.

Meet the calico clan:

Courtesy: The Cat House On The Kings.com (all photos get this credit)

“We took in a litter of 5 calico kittens and two were boys,” Harvie Schreiber of the Cat House on the Kings told Love Meow.

Having a male calico is one out of 3,000 chance. Now they found two in the same litter, the odds of that is simply astounding.

Here’s a male calico.  Because of the sex-chromosome imbalance (XXY), these males are sterile, though some humans with Klinefelter’s (they’re males since they have the apparatus for making sperm) can be fertile:

And one of his sisters:

The two boys were adopted together, and here’s a video of the whole litter:

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From I Heart Cats and also Newsweek, we have a cat that likes to sing opera. Quotes are from the first source, and I’ve embedded Tik Tok videos.

Ten years ago, Maura moved from Mexico to the U.S. to train in classical singing. But as she told Newsweek, it’s been a while since she had a chance to perform.

But thanks to her cat Maximino, a TikTok post has put her back in the spotlight, with the video of their impromptu duet garnering more than five million views and almost a million and a half likes.

The short clip, posted to @maura.music on TikTok, opened with Maura beautifully singing an opera piece. As she readied for the next chorus, Maximino jumped onto her desk, hogging up the space. Maura tried to scoot the pushy floof out of the way, but the furry boy had other ideas.

And before Maura could release another note, Maximino took up the tune, singing in tempo with the bouncy rhythm. Watching the clever cat perform, Maura laughed at Maximino’s stellar debut, creating an extra layer of adorability to this cute cat video!

This is great!:

@maura.music

What a legend. #OperaCat #OperaSinger #catsoftiktok #bestsinger #talent #musictok

♬ original sound – maura music

When he concluded his solo, Maximino simply hopped down and walked away with a catittude that smacked of “concert over, cherish the experience, no encores from this kitty!” Well, at least not at that moment.

Further postings from Maura have revealed Maximino as a regular singer who doesn’t mind meowing out a tune in duet with his massively talented human.

@maura.music

Meowmarilli Mia Bella🤌🏼 #OperaCat #catsoftiktok #OperaSinger #fyp #catcomedy

♬ original sound – maura music

Here’s Massimo. You can find more videos of the pair, alone or together, on Tik Tok.  Maura also has an Instagram account.

h/t: Steve, Ginger K.

15 thoughts on “Caturday felid trifecta: BBC features rescue of Icicle the cat from the Yarmouth River; two male calicos in the same litter; opera cat steals the show

  1. Do we know with certainty whether all felines truly identify with the gender to which they are assigned at birth, and, if not, is this not a field in which more research is desperately needed?

  2. I don’t know if it is the correct programme because it is episode 1 of 10, but “Saving Lives at Sea” is at 6pm this evening not at 8pm.

    1. This is a repeat: the first showing was on Thursday at 8pm.

      For those who can access the BBC iPlayer, the programme is here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m001bgd6/saving-lives-at-sea-series-7-1-race-against-time The bit about Icicle starts around 47 minutes in. What the press reports don’t mention is that poor Icicle took fright as the lifeboat approached, and actually jumped into the river. (Swam quite well, as it happened). Also that after he was rescued, a well-wisher brought him a nice piece of salmon, which went down very well!

      1. AIUI, most cats (species, and individuals) can swim perfectly well – but choose not to. Unless it’s less horrible than the alternatives.
        The thing I’d be concerned about – which is going to demand the chain mail armour and the diving helmet – is what is in the water. There is currently a national (for England) scare about raw sewage discharges into rivers and the sea, but the problem is far from new. So after this unwelcome swim, Icicle was in fairly urgent need of a thorough wash in known-clean. Chain mail time.
        ISTR seeing those pictures a while ago.

  3. Maximino, the opera cat, looks as if he is chattering at something interesting on a computer screen–maybe birds?
    The article about the litter of kittens points out how rare it is to have two males who are calico. But wouldn’t it also be extremely rare to have all five kittens be calicos? There must be something special about the genetics in this case because I’ve never seen such brilliantly colored males. Admittedly, my experience with calico males is limited, but the three or four I’ve seen were mostly white, with just a small splotch each of orange and black, mostly on the forehead.

  4. Apropos the rescue of Icicle the cat, you’ll notice that the rescuers’ boat and helmets carry the letters RNLI. That’s the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, a charity which operates lifeboats around the coats of Britain, staffed entirely by volunteers and funded wholly by donations from the public. These brave and selfless individuals go out to sea, often in appalling weather, to rescue anyone in distress. They have been doing this for almost two centuries, during which time they have saved 140,000 lives. You can donate via their web site rnli.org

  5. Sooo o o!
    Is it so that the Lyon’s mechanism still occurs but weakly in males. How does this work? Are there any more investigations.?

  6. On the subject of saving animals, I had something happen yesterday, and I don’t know if I did the right thing.
    Driving through the mountains, I saw the doe first, freshly hit by a car, and dead. About 1/4 mile later, the fawn was wandering in the road, and a couple of cars were stopped. As I approached, the very small doe stepped off the road and into the woods.
    My first impulse was to stop, pick the doe up, and bring it back to the ranch.
    The arguments against this, at least in my own head, was that I was driving a pickup, and had a dog in the passenger seat. I did not have a lariat or even a dog leash, so there was no easy way to secure the animal for the ride back to the ranch.
    The ranch is crawling with deer and elk, many with fauns, and they love the apple trees near the house. But I have no idea whether they would adopt a faun.
    The outcomes I pictured were either the faun works loose of whatever I rig up to secure it and jumps out on the road, or I get it home, but it wastes away there.
    Best case, I get it home safely, and feed it apples until someone comes from a wildlife shelter.
    Or perhaps the doe that was killed was not the mom, and mom was in the trees.

    So I just kept going. Every time I passed a pull-off, I thought about turning around, but did not do so. My normal thing is to rescue critters whenever possible, but normally it is something like a snapping turtle, that I can release into a pond. Problem solved.

    Anyway, not a cat story, but something that is bugging me.

    1. You said there were already a couple of cars stopped. Adding another person to the rescue mix would have added time, which was not on deer’s side. And it is possible to make things worse. (Getting hit by an impatient car attempting a road rescue is a very real concern.) So, you did the right thing. Determinism says so.

      1. I guess this is one of those situations that will go into the category of just having to wonder what other outcomes might have been.
        The cars were stopped because the faun was initially standing in the road. I don’t know that any of them were going to attempt to do anything. My experience is that most people lack any useful skills for such a situation. I had switched vehicles recently, so I did not have all of my usual junk with me, which normally includes a lariat and often snake tongs.
        If I had that stuff, I probably would have gone for it. As it was, I gamed it out in my head, and got as far as picking it up and carrying it to the truck, but then what?
        Even that comes with the assumption that one can carry a faun as one would a calf, although they might be sort of bitey.
        Of course the best option in such a situation would be to pull over, call a game warden, then stay and flag traffic until they arrive. Except no cell service in that valley.
        Knowing that such things are not always under our control is often scant comfort, as Dr. Coyne has frequently expressed in his adventures with the ducks.

  7. The patchiness of lyonized cells/hair colorssuggests that X inactivation occurs very late in development, yes? I’d have thought that dosage compensation in females occurred early, i.e., during embryogenesis, in which case the females, too, would be of a single, uniform color. It would be interesting to know when Barr bodies become evident.

  8. two male calicos in the same litter;

    What are the odds that there were two distinct male calico (and XXY) embryos in the uterus at once, versus one male calico/XXY embryo, which then fissioned into two distinct embryos by the “identical twin” mechanism, both of which developed fully?
    How common are identical twins in cat litters? Given the variability of coat patterns, you’d need at least genetic fingerprinting (if not full-genome sequencing), to be sure you’d got a pair of identical twins, as opposed to two fraternal twins. I doubt anyone outside the breed-a-new-brand business would have spent the cash.

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