Allison Plean: Jungle fever


Allison Plean

Allison Plean's column appears Fridays in the 4 Points arts and entertainment section in the Steamboat Today. Contact her at 871-4204 or e-mail

I fell asleep once in a clouded leopard cage with the leopard asleep in my lap. I woke up to find him sitting in front of me for one second before his eyes dilated and he swiped my face.

I got six stitches in the emergency room.

Wild animals should never be domesticated.

When someone told me this weekend there was a pet-quality species of cat called the "bengal cat" - that was a hybrid of a tiger and a domestic cat - I immediately jumped on the information super highway.

I found out that a bengal cat is actually the result of a domestic tabby bred with an Asian leopard cat, and can vary in how pure the lineage is. Plus, one professional breeder paid $4,200 for his second-generation bengal cat. That's a lot of money for a pet.

I was astounded at the amount of documented crossbreeding of species going on around the world. According to Defiant Breeders, there are about 333 bengal cat registered breeders and "cat factories" worldwide. The word "factory" should never be associated with creating living things, especially those not designed by nature.

It's bad enough that we cloned sheep.

I doubt this genetic experimentation is benefiting us in any way other than producing an expensive market for designer pets.

Many issues arise in crossbreeding, including physical size differences, different gestation periods and there are sometimes unequal numbers of chromosomes between unrelated species.

This isn't new. The hybridization of domestic and wild cats was present at the first cat show in July of 1871.

I knew I couldn't have a lion, so I got the next best thing - a lion hunter. When I got my Rhodesian ridgeback puppy, I knew he would grow up to be a large slobbery dog that is very intelligent, yet hard to train.

One of the allures of purebred dogs is that you know what to expect. Size, color and temperament are consistent and predictable qualities because there is a long, proven track record with the breed. You also know to expect inherent health problems.

Mutts rose in popularity in the last couple decades because they tend to be healthier, sometimes are smarter and are abundant and inexpensive to obtain.

But now people want "designer mutts." Some of them have really cute names like schnoodle, beabull, chiweenie, dorkie, papi-poo, and taco terrier.

You've probably heard of the goldendoodle (golden retriever/poodle mix), the cockapoo (cocker spaniel/poodle mix) and the labradoodle (labrador retriever/poodle mix.)

I counted 330 designer dogs on - all containing links to breeders of each hybrid.

The downside of crossbreeds is that you never know what you're going to get. You could get all the good traits or all the bad traits from both breeds, and any combination in between. You have no way of telling how big a crossbred dog will be or what it will look like.

Labradoodles are being bred as assistance dogs that don't shed for people with allergies. That sounds like a good reason, but the crossbreed's traits only become more predictable by breeding multi-generational crosses and venturing further down the generational chain.

I imagine this can result in the dangerous practice of inbreeding.

The United States ran into this problem when breeding white tigers in captivity.

The natural rate of a tiger being born white is about once in every 10,000 births because it requires a double recessive gene.

People continue to breed them at astounding rates because they are economically valuable. According to Dan Laughlin, DVM, PhD, white tigers in the U.S. began with a breeding loan. Every white tiger since the original litter that was born in 1964 has been severely inbred between brothers and sisters, fathers and daughters, mothers and sons, etc :

Inbreeding causes profound birth defects such as immune deficiency, scoliosis of the spine, cleft palates, mental impairments and crossed eyes.

These conditions are a result of irresponsible breeding and have no conservation benefit because the white tiger is not an actual species.

Experimenting with genetics just seems wrong and self-indulgent. It's one thing to use expensive materials to fabricate a designer purse, but where do we get off gene-splicing Mother Nature into designer pets?

We should be spending the time and resources to find a cure for cancer.


flipside 10 years, 3 months ago

Good job Pilot with this hire!!!

You're really getting your money's worth. I mean why not pay a reporter to spend time counting 330 dog breeds on a website and collect other inane information as part of her effort to compile a rambling, barely intelligible column that is apparently against genetic engineering of animals - all for an Arts and Entertainment section. Yeah!!

Again, Great Job. You've got a winner there ....


Bobbie_Dooley 10 years, 3 months ago

This columnist needs a full time fact checker. Some outcross cats have been kept as pets for centuries. Bengals have been around since the 1980s. People who purchase these animals usually know exactly what they getting. No ethical breeder of any animal species commits genetic atrocities. There are, however, unethical breeders of all species, which is a shame. They should be burned on top of a wood pile.

And...WTF is wrong with some hard earned self-indulgence? Self indulgence comes in many forms. Sometimes it is disguised as altruism.

This columnist is very naive and probably should never have been entrusted to care for clouded leopards. She likely has scars that prove it.

The tat of the week and the Alison columns need to end. Pleasethanx.


Bobbie_Dooley 10 years, 3 months ago



So, Alison, when you say that "we should be spending time and resources finding a cure for cancer" give the Bengals the credit they are due. The Bengal foundation cats have done a hella lot more to make progress toward curing cancer than your column ever will.

What you refer to as "gene-splicing mother nature" has resulted in the aquisition of significant findings in cancer research.


Bobbie_Dooley 10 years, 3 months ago

"Wild animals should never be domesticated." --Allison

Should the felis catus have been domesticated? Hmmmm. Take that one up with Cleopatra, hmmmmmk?

Should wolves have never been domesticated and selectively bred to huskies, labs, poodles or , Ridgebacks?

Should selective breeding of dogs have stopped at the Rhodesian Ridgeback? Yeah. Thasss right. The world had enough breeds with that one. There was no need to go a few steps further and make a labradoodle, ahhhiite?

Allison, do you mean to say that no additional species of animals should be domesticated, i.e. domestication of any additional species should have stopped in 1982 or some other arbitrarily chosen date?

I am laughing my ass off at your comment about cloning. What does cloning have to do with your topic?

Do you hate science?

Have you never heard of the Cat Genome Project at NCI? Are you against mapping the human genome?

Are you vegetarian? Should cows have never been domesticated so that homegirl can enjoy a happy meal?

There is so much that is wrong with this article. I just have to keep telling myself that this newpaper is free. One gets what one pays for, whether that is a free "news"paper or a $5,000.00 pet. I do not need to read this paper. I should not read this paper. I should not even use this paper to place beneath the litter box of the Bengals.


Matthew Stoddard 10 years, 3 months ago

Hey Flipside- Your new sheriff makes $76,000yr for not being able to make arrests. What's your point?

Guys- Allison is an entertainment section writer. If you don't find 4 Points entertaining, don't read it. Freedom of the Press also allows for Freedom to not Read the Press, or Freedom to ask to have Allison's Job if You can Do it Better. Me? I finally started reading it again after Autumn left. Long Live Allison Plean!!!


flipside 10 years, 3 months ago

Hey kielbasa (can I call you sausage?), what's your point? I'm so tired of these self-important "reporters" using a bullypulpit for their own half-formed rants. It's an A&E section. Why the heck is she writing about genetic engineering?? And why the heck is she counting 330 dog breeds on a website? Worthless prattle. And sorry to tell you Sausage, but she won't last forever. Although you can take heart - she'll be replaced by a clone; another in a long line of late-20s, early-30s single white women who just can't seem to find that Mr. Right but LOVE to tell us how worldly/educated/experienced/sophisticated they are.


Matthew Stoddard 10 years, 3 months ago

Flipside- Because it's an op-ed piece. Opinion-editorial. Since the Pilot doesn't have a Pet section, where should an op-ed piece like this go...Business section?

And no, Allison may not last forever, but they at least found someone who actually enjoys what she writes about instead of flitting in with a cocktail napkin to write on.

As for another clone in their late 20's, early 30's who can't find Mr old were you when you found Mr Right? If you are who some have outted you to be, didn't you just find a new Mr Right in the last few years at an age beyond 30? And haven't you and he been tauting/defending his worldly/educated/experienced/sophisticated view on how he'll run his job better? Sounds like the pot has a case of kettle envy.

It sounds like 4 Points isn't you kind of read. Good thing it's not aimed at you as a target audience otherwise they might be doing something wrong. There are still some people who think pets shouldn't be experimented on. If you disagree, please bring your dog or cat down to my house and we'll enjoy a rousing science lesson ourselves!


Bobbie_Dooley 10 years, 3 months ago

There is a big difference between the testing of mascara on rabbits by a cosmetics firm (bad) and mapping genomes at the NCI.

It is not correct characterize Bengal Cats as being "experimented on" (sic) by the National Cancer Institute.

It is ridiculous for a person to state that resources should be diverted toward Cancer research as opposed to breeding or buying Bengals considering that the foundation Bengals have been important players in Cancer research. Cancer research and breeding Bengals are not mutually exclusive.

Should I buy a 5K bracelet or should I be content to wear a piece of twine around my wrist? May I have a 5K pet or must I be content with one off of the street? May I buy a Bimmer or must I be content to drive a broken down Subaru?

Well, since I do not live in communist Lenigrad, I can buy whatever the hell I want, including designer pets. If I should feel guilty about it, my guilt will subside when I drop off the next check I write to one of many animal shelters.

Sausage. What have you done for animals or Cancer research lately?


Matthew Stoddard 10 years, 3 months ago

What have I done for animals? I don't put a bullet in the heads of dogs who run loose, crapping on my lawn instead of on their owner's lawn. Sounds pretty humanitarian to me.

For Cancer Research, I haven't had a cigarette in 4 weeks, meaning 1 less person they should have to worry about giving cancer to people by way of second-hand smoke.

Your turn, Dookie- what have YOU done besides buying a possibly gaudy 5K bracelet? Can't see how that helps out humans or cats, in the long run...or short run, even.

Either way, this is about an OPINION-EDITORIAL. It's Allison's opinion. Don't like it? Take her job and do better. If not, don't criticize her article by likening her to a clone in her late 20's, early 30's who can't find Mr. Right. That has no bearing on her article, whatsoever.


Bobbie_Dooley 10 years, 3 months ago

Sorry Snausage but I will continue to praise or criticize any article in this paper as I see fit. That is the purpose of this forum--for readers to submit comments. I will keep submitting comments whenever the mood strikes until the editor bans all of my static IP addresses. Hmmm. Strike that--I would still post if I was in the mood, but from a non-static IP. Ahhh so I digress...

A ridiculous assertion is that I should take over the job of anyone whose work I might critique. That is not how it works for those of us who are used to being in the executive chair. When one of my employees blows chimp, you can be g.d. sure that I am going to let her know it and I will keep letting her know it until she either gets the job done right or I fire her arse and replace her.

Furthermore, if I wish to spend 5K on a bracelet and another 5K on a cat, I will do that too. One of the points of the article is to suggest that one should not be so self-indulgent as to spend 5K on a cat. I disagree. I analogize this to the question of should I wear a piece of twine around my wrist or something from Tiffany? I get to choose. Yay for capitalism and all that!

I know quite a few people who have more than one 5K Bengal cat which Bengals were either participants in or offspring of the participants in the Genome project at NCI. These women bought their 5K Bengals AFTER that expensive pet contributed to cancer research. Most of these people also provided generous donations to the NCI project in addition to paying thousands of dollars to adopt the "designer" cats.

I just do not understand how anyone with any knowledge of the subject upon which this article is written could possibly defend it. I suspect that the only reason why some of you are defending the article is because you detest my posts. I don't care if you hate me or my posts. In fact, I am glad that you do. But at least be honest about the fact that Allison's article once again blows chimp.


Matthew Stoddard 10 years, 3 months ago

Dookie- If being the armchair quarterback is your style, have at it. I've always learned in life that if I think I can do a better job, I should apply for that job...considering neither of us is in the Pilot's executive chairs. In Autumn's case, I didn't have to apply for the job since she was on the way out on of her own accord.

The rest of us will laugh at the pettiness and praise those we think are doing a good job. If you don't think she's doing a good job, that's your opinion...just like Allison has her opinions that she writes about, as is her job. If the Pilot is unhappy with her, I'm sure they'll tell her. Me? I think she's doing just fine.


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