DNA reveals a great deal, whether a sample belongs to a human or an animal. Many cat owners choose to use DNA testing on their pets to learn more about their pet’s heritage and health. It’s been available since 2008 and provides insight into caring for your pet and understanding the potential risks he or she faces. Just as you would for yourself, lifestyle and dietary changes can help you reduce this risk once you know what you’re dealing with.
Why should you get your cat’s DNA tested?
One of the most obvious reasons to have your cat’s DNA tested is to determine its breed. If you purchased a purebred from a breeder, you already know this. A DNA test confirms your breeder was honest and reputable about breed information. A DNA test is helpful for other reasons, but as long as you trust your breeder you aren’t going to learn much in this respect.
But only about 10 percent of cats are purebred. The vast majority of mixed breed and many were originally strays. Most people have no idea of their breed of cat and categories like American or Domestic Shorthair were developed as a catch-all for domesticated house cats. If your cat fits into this category, as most do, you’ll learn a lot from a cat DNA test.
Chances are, somewhere in your cat’s lineage is one or more pure breeds. Knowing this can provide information about your cat’s appearance, personality, and health needs. But keep in mind, the mix of breeds over time affects these things. Your cat might have a “little bit” of a particular breed, but that doesn’t mean he or she carries all of the traits of that cat. And even if a gene is there, it could be counterbalanced by another gene. All in all, don’t panic if you learn your cat is part of a breed with a particular issue.
As mentioned above, an important issue revealed by cat DNA testing is your cat’s potential health challenges. DNA testing provides specific details about the health risks your cat faces. This doesn’t mean your cat is guaranteed to suffer a health issue if there is a genetic link, but it does mean you can make informed choices about your cat’s health.
For example, if your cat is at risk for kidney issues, you’ll know to monitor your cat’s kidney health and anticipate potential problems. You can make dietary adjustments and use supplements that support kidney health. The same is true for respiratory infections, heart health, skin health, vision health, and more.
Your decisions about diet and genetic health can be focused on reducing your cat’s risk for their most significant risks. And you’ll know what to watch for, whether it’s heart disease like hypertrophic cardiomyopathy or skin health, or other issues, so you can be proactive if symptoms arise.
Most people don’t intentionally breed mixed-breed cats, but if you intend to do so, it helps to have information about its genetic background. In many cases, this is more for your peace of mind than it is for mating your cat for financial gain. Many people with domestic mixed breeds allow their cats to mate so they can continue the line of their family’s cats. Knowing the breeds you’re dealing with helps you make smart decisions about breeding regardless of your plans.
Do you know your cat is likely related to one of the big predatory cats you’d find in the wild? It’s true! It might be hard to believe that your 10- to 15-pound housecat has that in his genetics, but somewhere in their heritage is likely a tiger or panther or mountain lion. This is one of the most entertaining reasons people use DNA testing on their cat. It’s a fun fact you’ll learn about your pet. You might even understand your cat’s behavior once you’ve connected it to its big cat relative.
Different breeds of cats have different personality traits. Knowing what’s in your cat’s lineage can reveal information about why he or she does certain things. Is your pet vocal? Is he or she a mouser? Do they like to snuggle or do they prefer independence? All of these things and more could have a genetic link.
In general, a cat’s dietary needs are similar regardless of breed.
However, there are subtle differences, and knowing your cat’s genetics can help you tweak his or her diet to ensure all dietary needs are met. This not only makes your cat happier and healthier now, but it also increases the odds of long-term health. In addition to preventing issues down the road, you can improve your cat’s current skin, hair, and coat health, energy levels, and more.
Is your cat constantly trying to sneak outside? Do they get wild and tear through your house? Or are they a lazy lump most days on the bed or in a window?
Your cat’s activities could have a genetic link. Knowing what to expect and planning your cat’s access to certain activities comes from DNA knowledge. If you know your cat has a genetic reason for wanting to escape and spend time outside, you can plan supervised activities outside. If your cat tends to be lazier, you can make an effort to encourage play so your cat stays fit and healthy.
Cats have a reputation for being independent animals that don’t play well with others. This stereotype isn’t always deserved, though. Some cats are very social and love being surrounded by people and other animals. But some breeds do fare better in solitude and are great companions if only one person is around them.
Assessing your cat’s DNA helps you determine if it’s a good idea to bring another pet into the home or if there’s a high likelihood your cat won’t get along with new family members. You can determine if another adult cat or kittens would be a better fit. There are no guarantees things will turn out as you expect based on genetic information, but it gives you a heads-up on things and helps you anticipate and plan for potential problems.
Have you ever wondered why your cat looks the way it does? Does your cat have two different colored eyes or an interesting striped pattern? Do you have two cats with two entirely different body types? Have you ever wondered about your cat’s hair or why some cats have similar coats?
All of this is linked to your cat’s genetics.
Knowing what breeds are in your cat’s lineage reveals a lot about his or her appearance. It’s especially fun to test your cat’s DNA if they have one or more unusual physical traits that don’t fit with your cat’s overall appearance.
Your cat’s overall genetics reveals a great deal about who they are and how they’ll be their entire life. Genetic testing doesn’t give you a definite answer about what the future holds, but you’ll get a broad view of your cat. A lot owners enjoy having this “big picture” look into their pet. Whether that means knowing about your cat’s ancestry, understanding its personality better, or anticipating certain health risks, DNA testing is a foundation on which to care for your cat and build a rewarding, long-term relationship with your pet.
“Cat Ancestry | Veterinary Genetics Laboratory.” Vgl.ucdavis.edu, vgl.ucdavis.edu/test/cat-ancestry.
“Cat DNA Testing Laboratories.” Felinegenetics.missouri.edu, felinegenetics.missouri.edu/cat-dna-testing-laboratories.
“Cats Domesticated Themselves, Ancient DNA Shows.” Science, 19 June 2017, www.nationalgeographic.com/science/article/domesticated-cats-dna-genetics-pets-science.