Depending on which association you ask, there are currently between 40 and 70 recognized cat breeds.
The first modern cat show took place in 1871. Of the more than 150 feline entrants, only a few were of recognizable cat breeds. These shows would go on to attempt to categorize the vast array of furry phenotypes; it began with simple sectioning between color and coat length. From here, specialty breed groups sprung up, with fanciers drawing even more precise lines between breeds.
Of these, only 16 are considered ‘natural’ or ‘foundational’ breed groups, with all others formed as some sorta hybrid. Therefore, many breeds have only been around for about 100 years or less; Bengals and Ragdolls are some of the most recent to be developed.
Compared to dog breeds, there is much less interest in determining your cat’s heritage, with the funding and research to match. However, there are some diseases that can be passed between cat owners and their feline companions that drive the research on cat genetic diseases. Asthma, certain eye diseases, and polycystic kidney disease develop through similar pathways in both species.
Unfortunately, while physical features and genetic disease predisposition can be reliably determined from genetic testing in some cases, temperament is still a mystery when it comes to cats. The breeding of dogs was driven by the creation of domestic companions and working colleagues, with a personality to match. However, cat breeds have been a primarily aesthetic pursuit; even cloning a feline friend doesn’t guarantee a matching mood.
Modern domestic cat breeding has been shifting the focus to temperament and predictability. The relatively recent craze of ‘wild cats’ - Bengals, Ocicats, Savannah, Egyptian Maus - has forced the issue. Additionally, the natural characteristics of these wild cats must be bred away; otherwise sharing a living space would be impossible, with incessant pacing and territorial marking.
Recently, genetics and at-home DNA testing have allowed breeders to make informed decisions to avoid the inevitable negative outcomes of in-breeding. In addition, these technologies are now available to the general public, allowing you to understand the making and history of your feline friend.
Like children, analyzing the DNA of your domestic companion can help you make educated lifestyle and health decisions on their behalf. Thankfully, many of the privacy- and ethics-related concerns are waived when dealing with your pet; full genetic profiling is only ever in their best interest.
For the proud pet owners of rescued or stray cats, their cat genetic makeup may be a complete mystery. When, or if, a breed is assigned at the receiving SPCA or rescue operation, it’s usually based solely on visuals alone.
DNA testing can provide you with a breakdown of the genetic makeup of your favorite furry friend. As a result, you may be surprised to find that your cat’s DNA is purebred, or your 1:1 mix is a combination of a dozen different cat breeds.
Many of these tests provide you with details on the percentage of wild cat DNA that exists within your domestic companion. This isn’t the ancestral history or origin of your cat; it assesses more recent incursions from nature.
This kind of test is more applicable to larger, spotted, or ambiguous kitties than your average tabby. Although, the results may be surprising if they’re included in the kit you choose.
Like 23andMe, many of the best cat DNA tests provide insight on potentially inherited health risks. For some cat DNA tests, this is included in the base price; for others, it’s an optional add-on.
Some diseases and illnesses are more likely among certain breeds, underlying many of the health-related results these tests provide. However, some take it a step farther by scanning for specific disease-causing variants outside of breed analysis.
These insights may allow you to take proactive measures to prevent the onset of illness; they may also help you prepare for unpreventable outcomes, like blindness or deafness. Regardless, DNA testing could be vital to your cat’s health and is something every responsible pet owner ought to consider.
Like human DNA tests, there is always a margin for error in the estimates they provide, especially for health-related markers. However, the recent nature of cat evolution has made tracking their ancestry much more reliable than that of humans.
The following cat DNA test reviews will cover some of the better cat DNA tests on Amazon, and the market in general.
Each genetic testing kit is quite different, with specific goals, options, and strengths. Therefore, they’re not listed in any particular order, choose the best one for you and your domestic cat.
From a quick swabbing of your cat’s cheek, you can gather some of your pet’s cheek cells to learn a ton of valuable information. This kit will uncover a wealth of data about your cat’s health, including its risk for up to 40 genetic diseases.
The genetic testing kit also explores your cat’s breed, using genetic markers to check for over 20 traits. The traits tested for include coat type, morphology, and blood type, all derived from a single DNA sample!
Basepaws is one of the larger companies that focuses on cat genetics. Their test covers everything from your cat’s health, breed, traits, and the wild cat index.
The test results feature a breed report that is more in-depth than much of the competition’s offerings. The Basepaws report covers the four major breed groups, including the key cat breeds that are found in each group.
With Basepaw’s cat’s health screening, their test results will tell you if your cat has one of 39 genetic mutations. These mutations are responsible for 17 common kitty conditions and diseases.
MyCatDNA uses a quick cheek swab to test for over 40 genetic diseases and 20+ traits. They will also give you genetic diversity information, which includes the overall breed population as well as related breed groups.
Orivet offers a variety of tests that are aimed more at veterinarians and cat breeders than they are at the average pet owners. Their DNA tests cover just about everything, from cat breeds, genetic traits, diseases, to full breed profiles.
These affordable DNA testing kits, offered by CatDNATest.org, will tell you about your cat’s genetic traits and health conditions. Their basic CFA panel will only cost you $45, and identifies your cat’s sex determinant genetic markers, traits, parentage, health, and more.
The test results include information on your furry friend’s coat color, long or short hair, and the likelihood of developing conditions like hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. For an extra $5, you can take advantage of one of their add-on tests. These cover your pet’s blood type, color points (for Burmese and Siamese), albinism, polycystic kidney disease, and more.
Unless you’re a breeder or veterinarian, BasePaws is probably the best bet for the most actionable and useful information. It requires no knowledge of your cat’s history upfront and provides you with a full genome picture of your feline friend. However, while that may not be completely useful at the moment, outside a few instances, this will only become more helpful as research proceeds.
Finally, there are many reasons to give your cat the same attention that a family member would deserve. You can avoid surprises when it comes to illness that may manifest. You can also get confirmation on the components of your kitty’s mix. Tests like these can give you a new appreciation for the heritage of your furry friend.
Yes, there are many different options available for testing your cat’s DNA. Most tests are easy to take at home and simply require a cheek swab from your pet.
The prices vary from test to test, with cheaper testes (like CatDNATest.org) going for as little as $45. More expensive tests can easily cost you over $100.
As long as you use a trusted company, your test results should be pretty accurate. DNA testing is still an evolving science though, so their accuracy is constantly improving.