At-home DNA tests are all the rage right now. Whether you’re looking to discover your ancestry or assess your genetic health risks, acquiring such data is as easy as 1-2-3. We could debate the prudence of having this personal information at our (and others’) fingertips, but in all likelihood the practice will only gain in popularity. So what’s next? Well, that would be test kits for our very own pets! Let’s take a look at why a cat DNA test may be your next big splurge.
Why purchase a cat DNA test?
It’s pretty simple: By knowing your cat’s breed and genetic risks, you can better prepare for his overall health and what to expect as he ages. For instance, if you learn that your cat is at risk for a breed-specific disease, you might decide to invest in pet insurance early on in your cat’s life, or create a separate savings account in case of emergency. You can also keep an eye out for symptoms associated with those disorders and traits identified as potential future issues.
What does a cat DNA test reveal?
Depending on which kit you purchase, a cat DNA test may reveal breed, ancestry, health risks, and other genetic traits.
A cat DNA test can benefit both breeders and cat owners. While some tests provide more involved information than others, any test should be able to identify a purebred cat. However, domestic cats are a bit trickier: The cat DNA test Basepaws points out that, unlike dogs, most cats do not have purebred ancestors.
Optimal Selection™ provides a feline genetic breeding analysis specific to purebred cats. The at-home swab test helps breeders develop “proactive, sustainable breeding programs” by testing for multiple diseases and traits. For example, a sample from a Ragdoll will detect whether the cat is at risk for hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a heart disorder known to this particular breed. The test relays genetic diversity information for the tested cat, the overall breed population, and the related breed group.
For pet parents simply interested in learning more about their cat, including his potential breed matches—even if he appears to be a plain ol’ domestic shorthair—a cat DNA test like Basepaws can offer a variety of insights.
Basepaws compares your cat’s DNA sequence to sequences from other Basepaws cats and the scientific community. Therefore, the test can tell you which breeds your cat most closely matches, but not the precise percentage of his breed makeup.
So, if your cat has more DNA in common with a certain breed, it indicates that your cat probably shares recent ancestors with cats of that breed (compared to an average cat). The site provides the example that “if your cat is a purebred Bengal, then there is a good chance that it will also be highly related to the Egyptian Mau. This is because Egyptian Maus were originally bred with the Asian leopard cat to create the Bengal breed.”
Another plus from using a cat DNA test is learning about any possible health and wellness risks that may be present in your cat’s DNA. The Cat DNA Health Screen & Life Plan from Orivet screens your cat’s DNA sample for over 40 genetic diseases and traits. The test results include easy-to-understand information about your cat’s risk for particular diseases, and details about his inherited traits.
How much does a cat DNA test cost?
Costs vary from company to company, but generally run between $95 and $125. The length of time it takes to receive results also varies; Orivet appears to be the quickest, at within 3 weeks of receiving the samples. Basepaws currently takes the longest, at up to 4 months.
How do you collect DNA from your cat for testing?
The at-home kits we’ve referred to throughout this article require you to collect hair from your feline and/or a mouth swab as a secondary sample. Swabbing the inside of your cat’s cheek (or along his gums) can be an ordeal, so we suggest trying it first while your cat is already napping or sleepy.
Feature image: © Chris Yarzab / Flickr / CC-BY-SA-2.0