There are over 58 million companion cats in the US, and less than 3% come from breeders. In fact, the majority of cats in the world are not pedigreed nor have a pedigreed ancestor, meaning much about our cats’ ancestry and genetics remains a mystery. Have you ever wondered where your cat gets their coat color, what breeds they are closest to, what are their personality traits, or what possible health problems may be in their genes? You actually can! There are several companies working to better understand feline genetics, such as UC Davis’s Veterinary Genetic Laboratory, Wisdom, CatDNAtest.org, and Basepaws.
“If your cat is genetically closer to a certain breed, there is a chance they inherited similar genetic predispositions in terms of health, care, and behavior. If we detect any genetic mutations in your cat, we can report to you how likely they are to develop a certain disease.”
– Anna Skaya, CEO, Basepaws
How does cat DNA testing work?
Most modern domestic cat breeds are less than 100 years old and were developed from random-bred cats all around the world. Unlike dog breeds, which have a long history of development and were bred for purposes such as herding and hunting, cat breeds were created mainly for aesthetic purposes.
Even with expanding research and technology, there has been much less interest in determining a cat’s heritage compared to the interest in dogs. However, feline genetic testing has opened doors for understanding genetic health conditions and gained popularity among conscientious cat owners and breeders in recent years.
How is it done?
Feline DNA can be extracted and tested using a saliva sample, which can be collected quite simply using a cheek swab. Once your cat’s sample is in the hands of scientists, the real magic can begin! Your cat’s results come back to you in a comprehensive report, analyzing their specific breed makeup and genetic health markers.
What can I learn from this?
What Breed is My Cat?
About 93% of the world’s cats are mixed-breed “moggies.” Using a reference database of pedigreed cat DNA and Next-Generation Sequencing, it’s possible to find parts of your cat’s genome that are similar to a known cat breed.
More specifically, the genetic analysis allows you to see how your cat’s genome compares to breeds with distinctive geographical and breeding histories worldwide, as well as more specific breeds within each group. Breed is also an important risk factor for many health-related predispositions, so understanding your cat’s breed profile is a proactive step towards better preventative care.
What Are My Cat’s Health Predispositions?
Just like in humans, feline genetic disorders are conditions that are present at birth or develop later in life and are caused by one or more genetic mutations. Genetic tests that provide a health markers analysis are essential for maintaining your cat’s overall wellness. Your cat’s analysis provides you with specific information on whether or not they inherited one or more copies of specific gene mutations. These results should be shared with your veterinarian in order to diagnose these diseases, create preventative plans, or discuss treatment options, if necessary.
Do I still need this if I take my cat to the vet regularly?
Feline genetic testing companies are bringing the best in technology, genetic testing and health data together to improve health for cats from the comfort of your home. One of the top reasons why cat parents and veterinarians choose genetic testing is to learn about genetic predispositions that might manifest in their cats over their lifetime. Knowing which breed- and health-related predispositions are present in your cat allows you and your cats’ veterinarian to monitor their quality of life, make important changes to their lifestyle and get an early diagnosis for chronic diseases like kidney disease and even dental disease.
Is DNA testing right for my cat?
The short answer is yes! Every cat and cat parent can benefit from DNA testing. Whether you’re curious about your cat’s unique makeup of breeds or concerned about potential genetic conditions, genetic testing is the closest tool we have to a crystal ball. Your cat is never too young or too old for genetic testing and the information you learn can be life changing. Not to mention, your cat’s (much like humans’) DNA will not change, so you only need to test their DNA once!
How do I get started?
With several companies offering DNA testing for your cat, you have different options to choose from. Basepaws’ Breed + Health DNA test can be done at home, and is available on their official website or on Amazon. Shipping is free within the US, and you can expect your cat’s DNA results to be ready within 4-6 weeks, digitally. Upon purchasing a CatKit, you will also gain access to a private cat community to discuss your results with other customers and a free one-on-one call with the Basepaws veterinarian.
With a majority of the world operating on a virtual level and accessing telehealth at record rates, it’s time to invest in the most modern, quality cat care options available. Genetic testing not only provides a lifetime of learning about your feline friend but has led to early diagnosis of diseases and added years to the lives of cats worldwide. Give yourself (and your cat) peace of mind!