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Meet The Salty Licorice Cat
May 15, 2024

Cat lovers, take note: there’s a new kitty in town! Or rather, Man’s Second Best Friend has donned a new outfit. The Salty Licorice Cat wears a stunning coat that follows a modern fashion trend. These kitties have ombre, or gradient, colored fur that is dark at the root with white tips. Read on as a local Bellaire, TX vet discusses this adorable feline.

Where Is The Salty Licorice Cat From?

Fluffy hails from Finland, specifically from a village known as Petäjävesi. The village lies in a beautiful area, which is known for lakes, farmlands, and a wood-log church that dates from the 18th century. Or, perhaps we should say it was formerly known for those things. We’ll now have to add the Salty Licorice cat into its lists of local lore, attractions, and interesting residents.

The Salmiak cats are descended from stray and wild kitties in the local area. 

What Does The Salty Licorice Cat Look Like?

These kitties are also called salmiak cats, which is the translation of salty licorice cat. Fluffy looks much like a tuxedo cat, except that the dark parts of her coat are flecked with white. While the darker fur on Salmiak cats is often black, that isn’t Fluffy’s only color scheme. Salty Licorice cats can wear the unusual pattern over blue, brown, and tortoiseshell coats.

 Their tails are often white or partly white. Fluffy’s eyes are usually a pretty green or yellow color. 

Is the Salty Licorice Cat A New Breed?

Fluffy hasn’t yet been dubbed a new breed. The term really describes her coat coloring. This is the case with many other cats, such as tabbies and tuxies, to name a few.

How Long Have Salty Licorice Cats Been Around?

We’re not sure who first spotted the Salty Licorice Cat, or how long they have been around. However, Fluffy first started gathering attention back in 2007, when people noticed that some of Petäjävesi’s kitties were very fashion-forward.

At first, no one was sure if the kitties would be able to reproduce, as all of the strays with that peculiar coloring had been fixed. The question has now been answered, as the cats have been observed giving birth to some very, very cute kittens.

Who Discovered The Salty Licorice Cat?

The credit for the official research goes to a geneticist called Hannes Lohi at the University of Helsinki. He spearheaded the studies, which were performed by geneticists and animal welfare advocates.

What Gene Is Responsible For Salty Licorice Coat Colors? 

Lohi’s team ran tests on five Salty Licorice cats. They found a few interesting things about the color combo. First, none of the cats had the specific gene variations that are typically responsible for white fur. They then went ahead and sequenced the kitties’ full genomes, and found a unique mutation. The mutation affects a specific gene, which is called KIT.

Lohi and his team collected samples from the kitties and found that none exhibited the gene variations that typically give rise to white coloration. These variations are also closely linked to deafness, which is why such a high percentage of white dogs are hearing-impaired. 

To home in on the genetic cause, the researchers sequenced the full genome of two of the cats and discovered a previously unknown mutation that affects a particular gene called KIT, which is also responsible for piebald patterns in horses and other animals. The team then expanded the research, doing further testing on the five Salmiak kitties as well as 178 other furballs, all of whom had standard coats on. All of the Salmiak kitties had two copies of the gene variant, which they called w-sal, for salmiak. A few of the other felines had one copy. Since the gene is recessive, none of those carriers got to wear the Salmiak colors and patterns. 

The research linked the Salty Licorice pattern to a deletion in the KIT gene. Their report was published in May in the Animal Genetics journal.

Why Is Fluffy Called The Salty Licorice Cat?

The kitties were named after a popular Finnish treat. As you can probably guess, it’s made of licorice sprinkled with salmiak salt. The treat, which is also called salmiak liquorice or salmiac liquorice, is very popular in Scandanavia, the Benelux region, and northern Germany.

Is Licorice Safe For Cats? 

We probably wouldn’t recommend licorice as a treat. However, it’s not dangerous for our feline pals. In fact, studies suggest that it has anti-inflammatory properties, and may help kitties with respiratory issues. However, you should never give your pet any herb or medication unless specifically directed to do so by your Bellaire, TX vet.

That aside, some kitties seem to like the taste of licorice. However, it’s probably the texture or scent that appeals to Fluffy. Cats have a gene mutation that stops them from tasting sweets. Of course, some of these little furballs seemed to have missed that memo, as it isn’t unusual for cats to enjoy eating things like cake, cookies, and donuts. The truth is, it’s most likely the fat content Fluffy likes. While it may be cute to share a donut with your pet, it’s best not to give your cat any of these sugary foods. Not only are they high in sugar, many contain xylitol, or birch sugar, which is toxic to cats. 

Ask your Bellaire, TX veterinarian to recommend suitable treats.

What Is Salty Licorice? 

Salty licorice is very popular in Finland. These small black candies first became popular back in the 1800’s. Candymakers Danish Galle and Jessen are credited with their creation and the start of what has certainly become a long-lasting food craze. Curling up with a purring cat and a bowl of candy on a snowy night certainly does sound very cozy! 

What Ingredients Are In Salty Licorice? 

You can find several different recipes online. These are basically slight variations on the same basic recipe. 

A typical version would contain the following ingredients: 

  • 8 tbsp. unsalted butter, plus more
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 12 cup dark corn syrup
  • 12 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • 14 cup blackstrap molasses
  • 18 tsp. kosher salt
  • 34 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1 12 tbsp. anise extract 
  • 1 12 tsp. black food coloring

Mix the butter, sugar, milk, molasses, and salt in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Then, remove from heat and add the remaining ingredients. For a healthier version, you can use heavy cream instead of condensed milk and brown rice syrup instead of dark corn syrup. Pour into a parchment-lined pan and allow to cool. After about 30-45 minutes, remove it and shape it. Don’t forget to sprinkle salt over it! 

If you’re going to make one of these treats, then you may as well go the extra mile and get a mold to make it kitty-shaped. In fact, many candy companies are already doing this!

Are Salty Licorice Cats Expensive?

As of now, it’s hard to say. The kitties are still quite rare. However, while they are adorable, as animal advocates, we do have to raise awareness about the negative aspects of the designer breed craze. There are plenty of sweet, lovable felines in shelters, just waiting for homes! We always encourage people to adopt, rather than shop. Our feline pals make pretty purrfect pets, no matter what sort of colors they have on! 

Make An Appointment At Our Bellaire, TX Pet Clinic

Does your feline pal need an exam, vaccinations, or parasite control? Has it been a while since your kitty has come in? Please feel free to contact us, your local Bellaire, TX pet hospital, for all of your cat’s veterinary care needs. We are here to help!