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Why your cat should be screened regularly for gene mutations

Researchers in the US and Finland examined the DNA sequence of 11,000 domestic cats.

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By Gwyn Wright via SWNS

Cats should be regularly screened for gene mutations that cause disease if they are to stay healthy, according to new research.

Macro closeup photo of beautiful grey cat posing
Researchers in the US and Finland examined the DNA sequence of 11,000 domestic cats. (Greens and Blues/Shutterstock)

The largest ever study of domestic cats’ DNA has identified markers of disease which are more common in pedigree breeds than previously thought.

For the study, researchers in the US and Finland examined the DNA sequence of 11,000 domestic cats, including 90 pedigree breeds and breed types, and 617 non-pedigree moggies.

The felines were tested for 87 gene mutations associated with disease, blood type or physical appearance.

More genetic diversity was found in moggies than in the pedigree cat population, and three mutations linked to disease were found solely in non-pedigree cats.

They also identified 13 disease-associated genetic mutations in 47 breeds for which the disease had not previously been documented.

Cute white persian cat in the arms of a female veterinarian with gloves. Close up of a professional vet holding a healthy fluffy cat pet at the animal clinic
The lead author said: "These tools can also help to make well-balanced breeding plans that maintain genetic diversity.
(Beach Creatives/Shutterstock)

The results suggest that the prevalence of some markers has declined since they were first identified.

For example, a marker associated with kidney disease which had been found to affect two-fifths of Persian cats was not identified in any Persian cats in the study but was found in Marine Coons and Scottish Straights.

Markers for certain coat colors and patterns, such as colorpoints in Siamese cats, were also responsible for the same trait in other breeds.

The rarest color variant was the amber coat color found in Norwegian Forest Cats, which was also detected in just one cat.

Lead study author Dr. Heidi Anderson from the company Wisdom Panel, which makes animal DNA tests said: “Genetic screening for known disease variants and the information on all breeds’ genetic diversity can inform breeders’ decisions.

“In turn, these tools can also help to make well-balanced breeding plans that maintain genetic diversity and avoid breeding affected kittens.

“This study demonstrates the clinical utility and importance of comprehensive genetic screening of feline variants in supporting domestic cat breeding programs, veterinary care and health research.”

Her research was supported by a team from the University of Helsinki.

The findings were published in the journal PLoS Genetics.

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