The DNA in humans or cats comes in long, coiled strands called chromosomes. A cat has 19 pairs compared to 23 pairs in humans. DNA tests for humans have become popular in the past decade, providing genetic and ancestry information.
Genetic testing for cats and dogs has also become widely available in recent years. As early as 1970, you could buy a DNA test for a cat. But as you can imagine under different conditions and at a different price. Higher throughput technologies have made genetic testing cheaper, simpler, and faster. At present, cat genetic testing is affordable to the average cat owner and small animal practice clinicians.
These tests have also adapted in forensics as animal evidence for criminal investigations.
A cat DNA test can provide information not only about the cat’s breed. But as well about make-up, traits, and possible diseases they may obtain throughout their life.
If you are curious about your cat’s DNA, then continue reading. In this post, I will be reviewing the best DNA tests on the market. As well, you will know how does the test works. What the DNA test can tell you, and how accurate it can be.
Best cat DNA test in 2020
#1. Basepaws Cat DNA Test Kit
- Complete Breakdown of breed
- Easy to use kit
- Results in 6-9 week
#2. Orivet Health Screen & Life Plan Cat DNA Test Kit
- Get personalized Life Plan
- Access to online report
- Find out cat’s blood group
- NOT A breed identification test
How does a cat DNA test work?
The process is straightforward and fast. All you need to do is collecting saliva samples from your cat. For that, you might be using cheek swabs that come along with the testing kit. Next, you have to send the DNA sample to the organization from where you bought the kit. And only after the organization addresses the sample to their laboratory for testing.
DNA is a series of genes stacked on top of each other. And because they are spelled out, they create a unique genetic code. The letters present in the genetic code is read and recorded by Sequencing Machines.
The cat’s DNA is tested for about 170 DNA markers that have different DNA variants. The combination of the various options produces a unique genetic profile for the feline.
A laboratory will compare the genetic profile with other profiles stored in a database. The testing company creates a database by testing various other identified cats. The pattern in this profile might be unique but will share many DNA variants. These variants are common to the population of cats the feline belongs to. The one with the most similarities will be the determined race of origin.
Based on the race of origin, the laboratory will be comparing the genetic profile with the profiles of other breeds of cats from the same race. The most famous house cat breeds are:
Siamese, Persian, Ragdoll, Bengal, Birman, Sphynx, Maine Coon, Oriental Shorthair, Exotic Shorthair, British Shorthair, Devon Rex, Burmese, and Abyssinian.
Some parts of the DNA contain genes that are associated with specific diseases and physical attributes.
The parts of the DNA that affect the appearance of the cat are studied as well. These markers define the cat’s fur length and coat color. The presence of the cat also helps in refining the type of breed it belongs too.
Afterall the results are gathered into a report. The record is easy to read and understand so that any average person can interpret it without difficulties. Once you receive the statement, you can check the breed, ancestry, and health of your cat.
Are cat DNA tests accurate?
The accuracy of the tests conducted for race or breed identification is estimated to be around 90 percent. The significant factors that define the efficiency are the quality of the DNA sample. And the database used for pattern comparison.
Excellent quality and quantity of DNA samples are essential. The reason is that based on one sample, will be made around 170 tests.
The most popular technique to acquire the DNA is by collecting the saliva of the cat by using Buccal Swabs (Buccal Smears). These swabs are non-invasive and provide excellent quality DNA collection. They are also easy to use such that the owner can collect the DNA themselves.
Blood samples give a more substantial amount of DNA, but it is invasive. It means you will need to go to the vet, and your cat will feel discomfort. You can also collect saliva samples with Q-tips or cotton swabs. However, the quality and quantity suffer greatly.
A poor DNA sample collection can produce a weak or inaccurate DNA profile. In such cases, the testing company may not provide the results. They will ask the owner to resubmit the DNA samples of the cat.
The other major factor the defines the accuracy of the DNA test is the profiles database used for comparison. The database uses statistical analysis for testing the breed and ancestry. Hence the result is much more of a possibility than a perfect match.
If the clinic wants to test an unknown breed without the database, which is having all the races, it will be of no use. The database will match it to the breed with the most similarities. As you can imagine, the results will be inaccurate and unreliable. A quality database must have enough profiles. As well, there should be a unique algorithm to provide acceptable results.
Some cats are difficult to match because of the way they were crossbred. Australian Mists come from breeding with Burmese. The Burmilla breeds are crosses of Persians and Burmese. Such crossbred cats are tough to identify, and ancestry recognition also becomes complicated.
What does a cat DNA test tell you?
Depending on which kit purchased, a cat DNA test may reveal several data. It will be a breed, ancestry, health risks, and other genetic traits.
This test identifies the overall breed, genetic diversity, and other similar breed groups of the cat.
There are many DNA tests available for cats and can be useful for both adopters and breeders. Most tests can identify a purebred cat. However, domestic and crossbred cats are a bit trickier since they do not have purebred ancestors.
So, if the cat has more DNA in common with a specific breed, it indicates that it probably shares recent ancestors with cats of that breed (compared to an average cat).
For example, if one cat is a Birman, then there is a good chance that it will also be highly related to the Thai cat. Such a result is achieved because the Birmans of today are crossbred of the original Birman, Siamese, and Persian. And, the Siamese is a mutated version of the Thai cat.
An ancestry test provides potential breed matches, genetic identification. For example, it is a coat, fur, fur types, and fur length.
It also determines the geographic location of the feline’s ancestors. There are eight geographic locations:
- Western Europe,
- East Mediterranea,
- The Arabian Sea,
- South Asia,
- East Asia.
A cat DNA test also lays out possible health and wellness risks that the cat may be vulnerable to in the future.
Cats, just like humans, are susceptible to diseases, but many illnesses are considered hereditary. Currently, almost 250 infections in cats can be genetic.
Since purebred cats are part of a smaller gene pool, they are more susceptible to contracting them. For example, Persian cats carry the risk of contracting polycystic kidney disorder. It is one of the most common hereditary diseases.
A lot of other breeds are facing health issues such as diabetes. Also, eye and heart diseases are prevalent illnesses.
The at-home swab test helps breeders and owners become aware of their pet’s health risks. By testing for disease traits found in the DNA owners can reveal a lot of useful information. For example, a DNA test on a sample taken from a Ragdoll cat will inform the owner whether the cat could contract a heart disorder that is typical to the breed.
How much does cat DNA test cost?
The cost of DNA for cats varies depending on a few factors. First of all, it is the company brand, and secondly, it is a type of test. The average cost ranges from $95 to $200. The length of time it takes to receive results also varies, ranging from 3 weeks to 4 months.
Some of the recognized companies are:
• Basepaws offers various types of services. Their most popular service is the selective sequencing which costs $99 per cat.
• Optimal Selection test kits cost $99 per package.
• HomeDNA tests for cats cost $125 per plan.
Can you find the breed of your cat?
Yes, the breed of a cat is identifiable without the help of a DNA test, but it can be tricky.
If the cat was bought or adopted, then it came with official papers certifying its ancestry and breed. If not, then the process of finding the exact race may become a guessing game. There are a few steps that will help to identify the cat’s breed.
The Coat Length
Any given cat can belong to one of two categories. It is a shorthair or longhair, based on the length of fur on them.
Determining the fur length can provide the owner the first piece of the puzzle to identifying the cat’s likely breed.
Although some cats are hairless, which narrows down the race significantly. Hairless cat breeds are The Sphynx, The Peterbald, The Donskoy, The Minskin, and The Elf Cat.
The Fur Patterns
There is a total of 6 color coat patterns:
- Solid/Self Color,
Solid cats are most natural to identify in terms of the fur pattern. Bi-color cats have two colors, usually, patches of another color like black or tabby on a white coat. These include the Turkish Van, American Shorthair, British Shorthair, Turkish Angora, and Bombay.
Tabby cats are the most popular around the world and come in a variety of colors. The most common breeds that have a tabby coat are Manx and the American Shorthair.
Tortoiseshell coats are a mixture of two colors. Red and black, and can range from the colors being well incorporated to patches. Breeds with this fur pattern include the Japanese bobtail, Birman, Burmilla, and the Oriental Longhair.
ColorPoint coat patterns have the fur pattern be darker on the face, paws, and tail. The other parts are usually white, gray, or cream-colored. Cat breeds that have this fur pattern include The Munchkin, The Himalayan, The Siamese, The Birman, and the Ragdoll.
Cats have one of three basic shapes: circle/round, square, or triangle. The form of the faces can narrow down the breed extensively. Cats with circular faces include:
- British cats (all fur lengths),
- American Shorthair,
- Exotic Shorthair,
- Scottish Fold,
and if they have large eyes, they mostly are Persian or Himalayan.
Cats breeds with a square look include the Maine coon, the Siberian, and the Norwegian forest. The ones with a triangular face include Siamese, Abyssinian, and Burmese cats.
One more way to identify the cat’s breed is by using Google Lens. It is not entirely accurate but can be helpful as a starting point.
You can use those steps to try to identify your cats breed. However, the result can be speculative. If you want to be sure about your cat breed, better is to go for a DNA test. The analysis based on the cat’s DNA can isolate the markers. And, of course, can determine to which breed the cat is most likely related.
Genetic testing is an essential diagnostic tool for a veterinarian. As well for breeder and owner.
However, keep in mind that genetic tests are not 100% foolproof. The accuracy of the test depends on a few essential factors. It is a procedure, reputation, and customer service of the laboratory. So before buying a DNA test, I suggest doing little research about the company.
Genetic testing can be used to prevent diseases and potentially eradicating the concern of the population.