You’ve heard of 23andMe, and have a few friends who’ve done it. You probably even know some folks who’ve tested their dog’s DNA. But did you know that your cat can get in the genetics game, too? Here’s everything to know about feline DNA testing.
How does it work? For both, you swab your cat’s cheek with a kit provided by the company (Basepaws also requires plucking a few hairs) and then you send back with the sample. Within a few weeks, your cat’s results are ready to view online. Basepaws includes a Breed Index (how closely linked your cat is to a particular breed) and a Wild Cat Index (which type of wild cat your pet is most genetically similar to). Though this is the only report currently available, Basepaws is set to release Health, Wellness and Trait reports in 2019. HomeDNA similarly provides health tips targeted for your cat’s specific genetic makeup, screening for over 40 genetic diseases and traits. You can even send the report directly to your vet—super helpful because there’s no way you’re going to remember Jax’s got a cystinuria SCL3A1 genetic mutation off the top of your head (it’s a urinary issue).
Why is it worth doing? Learning about your cat’s specific breed and genetic history can uncover the likelihood he will develop certain diseases and chronic illnesses, or even traits that might affect his health down the line. The more you know, the better prepared you are to take preventative measures now to make life better for him later. For instance, if Jax’s DNA reveals he’s high risk for diabetes and could have a mild allergy to certain grains, you can adjust his diet accordingly to increase his life expectancy.
Also, sending in your cat’s DNA does huge favors for researchers specializing in feline behavior and healthcare. Cat genetics isn’t exactly at the top of science’s to-do list. In fact, genetic testing is typically limited to mice and dogs, so these companies working to better understand cats are making huge progress in an otherwise under-researched area.
Psst: Basepaws also has a program for cats who have already been diagnosed with certain diseases like asthma or hyperthyroidism (to name just two of the many diseases cats can develop in their old age). You could qualify for a free DNA kit if you choose to have your cat’s unique DNA included in research that could help other cats with similar issues.
At the end of the day, it’s as fun as it is helpful to know where your kitty came from—especially if he was adopted from a shelter that had little or no information on his parents.