UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine Veterinary Genetics Laboratory
CAT ANCESTRY
Cat Ancestry - Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

About Cat Ancestry

Why would anyone want to do a Cat Ancestry test?

How does Cat Ancestry work?

How accurate is Cat Ancestry?

Why doesn't my cat look like the breeds detected?

How is the Cat Ancestry test different from the dog ancestry and breed identification tests?

Can you determine the sex of the cat tested?

Can Cat Ancestry be used for a pedigreed cat?

Does Cat Ancestry provide proof of parentage?

About my order

What do I need to do and what will I get back?

How will I know when the sample arrives at the lab?

How long does it take to get results?

About Cat Ancestry Brush Sample Collection

Can I perform Cat Ancestry testing on kittens?

How do I air dry the brush without contaminating it?

How will I know if I have enough DNA on my brushes?

Are both brushes needed for the test?

My cat died but was very special and I would like to know its ancestry! Can other samples be submitted for testing?

Questions about specific cat breeds

Are you collecting samples of pedigreed cats to add more breeds to your test?

Can you determine breed contribution for cats that are not of U.S. origin?

Can you distinguish lines within a breed?

Does Cat Ancestry test for contributions from wild felids such as Bobcats, Servals, Jungle Cats or Asian Leopard Cats?

What about Bengals? Can percentage of Asian Leopard Cat blood be determined?

Where did you get the cats for your test development and scientific studies?

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Where did you get the cats for your test development and scientific studies?

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FAQ Answers . About Cat Ancestry

Why would anyone want to do a Cat Ancestry test?

Many owners think their unregistered cat is from a fancy breed, such as a Maine Coon, or perhaps part Abyssinian. Some cats are indeed of a specific, fancy breed. Breed cats can be abandoned or slip out of the house and mate with the local alley or house cats if given the opportunity. Thus, many cats can look like a Maine Coon by chance, or be the product of an accidental mating of a breed cat with a random bred cat. The Cat Ancestry test can determine breed heritage to a limited extent. If your cat had a pedigreed breed cat as a parent or grand-parent, it is highly possible to detect this genetic influence from the specific breed cat. The probability that your cat has had one or more of 29 major fancy breeds as parents or grand-parents will be presented on your report.

Cat Ancestry is a novelty test to investigate your cat's ancestry and heritage. If your cat truly is a direct relative of a breed, Cat Ancestry will detect that relationship with high probability. If a breed relationship is present, certain disease risks could apply to your cat and you may want to consider additional testing for these diseases. Cat Ancestry will determine the genetics of your cat's coat colors and fur length and which variants it secretly carries as recessive genes.

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How does Cat Ancestry work?

The DNA from your cat is isolated from the buccal swabs that you provided. Your cat's DNA is then tested for ~170 DNA markers that have different DNA variants. The combination of the different variants produces a unique genetic profile for your cat. This genetic profile is then compared to a database of profiles from cats from around the world. Although your cat's profile is likely unique, it will share many DNA variants that are common to its population of origin. The population that has the most similar profile with your cat will be reported as its race of origin.

Once the race of origin is determined, the cat's genetic profile will then be compared to the profiles of breed cats that have developed from the same race. The major breeds were developed from only 4 cat races, specifically, the Arabian Sea (Sokoke), the Eastern Mediterranean (Turkish Angora and Turkish Van), South Asia (Ocicat, Birman, Burmese, Havana Brown, Korat, Russian Blue, Siamese, Singapura, and Australia Mist) and Western Europe (Abyssinian, American Shorthair, Bengal, British Shorthair, Chartreux, Cornish Rex, Egyptian Mau, Exotic Shorthair, Japanese Bobtail, Maine Coon, Manx, Norwegian Forest Cat, Persian, Ragdoll, Scottish Fold, Siberian, Sphynx).

DNA markers that affect what a cat looks like, its fur length and coat color, are examined to tell the cat's hidden genetic mysteries and to refine the breed ancestry, if a particular breed was a significant contributor to the cat's genetic make-up.

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How accurate is Cat Ancestry?

We currently estimate that the match probability to a race or breed is over 90% accurate. The accuracy of a genetic test can be affected by two major factors, the quality of the DNA sample and the quality of the database used for comparison.

Buccal swabs using cytological brushes provide excellent quality DNA from a cat that can be efficiently collected by the owner. The brushes also provide a sufficient amount of DNA for the ~170 tests that need to be performed. Blood samples provide a larger amount of DNA but a veterinarian is required to collect the sample. Q-tips or cotton swabs are also a good source but DNA quantity can be lower, and if the cotton swab stays wet for too long, bacteria can grow and destroy the DNA. A poor DNA sample collection can produce a poor or inaccurate DNA profile. Results will not be provided for poor quality samples, and the owner will be asked to resubmit the cat's sample.

The second major factor affecting the accuracy of the test is the database used for comparison. Since the match is based on statistical analysis, a cat's racial and breed assignment is reported as a probability, not an exact, perfect match. If a breed or unknown cat race is not in the database, the profile will be matched to the next best race or breed that is present, giving an inaccurate result.

Some cats are difficult to match because they have odd breed development histories. Australian Mists have been produced from breeding with Burmese, a cat with a South Asian racial origin, and random bred cats from Australia, which have Western European racial origins. Burmillas are crosses of Persians (Western European racial origins) and Burmese (South Asian racial origins). These crossbred cats may be hard to assign to a specific population and the most significant race or breed contribution may be difficult to detect.

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Why doesn't my cat look like the breeds detected?

Physical appearance is largely controlled by a small number of genes. These genes can have both recessive and dominant variants and the variants that are present determine the visible effect on physical traits seen. As a result, the presence of various breed contributors does not guarantee that the cat will look like all detected breeds - a wonder of genetic inheritance can be seen as much in people as in cats.

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How is the Cat Ancestry test different from the dog ancestry and breed identification tests?

Cats are not small dogs. This is true for veterinary medicine, how they act as our companions, and also with their genetic histories. Most cats are random bred cats and are not a mix of different breeds. Cats have very large feral populations all over the world, invading rural and urban environments. Most cats will be matched to one or more of 8 racial populations of origin and this may be the only possible genetic component that can be detected. Most cats in the USA will have Western European racial origins. The racial origin comparison is currently not available for dogs and is unique to Cat Ancestry.

There are about 50 - 60 cat breeds throughout the world but less than 30 are major breeds from which other less common and newer breeds are derived. Cat Ancestry examines representatives of all the major cat breeds known and several breeds that are less common or are derived breeds (part of a breed family). Because there are fewer breeds of cats than dogs, and since many cat breeds can be defined by DNA markers controlling appearance, Cat Ancestry uses less DNA markers than the current dog ancestry and breed identification tests.

Cat Ancestry does not attempt to report low genetic contributions due to poor accuracy and potentially misleading results. Cat breeds are not as rigorously defined as many dog breeds and have more recent ancestry with their racial populations.

The same type of DNA markers, single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) are used for the cat test as for the dog tests, however the cat SNPs are unique and specific to the cat and will not cross-react with the dog. The Cat Ancestry will not work on the dog, the dog test will not work for the cat.

The same type of technology is used for Cat Ancestry as the dog tests, known as MALDI-TOF (Matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometry).

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Can you determine the sex of the cat tested?

Yes, the Cat Ancestry test uses DNA variants in the gene called zinc-finger XY (ZFXY) to determine gender.

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Can Cat Ancestry be used for a pedigreed cat?

Yes! A breed cat will first have its racial origin determined and then matched to the breed database. USA breed cats should match strongly with Cat Ancestry. Non-USA breed cats may have lower match probabilities due to differences in the breeding strategies for different registries around the world.

As the testing becomes more established, if necessary, comparisons of cats of the same breed, but different registries, may be possible. Please consider supporting the improvement of the test by providing additional information on your cat and or by asking breeders to provide 30.50 cats, unrelated to grand-parents level, from the breed.

For more information, please contact us.

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Does Cat Ancestry provide proof of parentage?

Cat Ancestry is not the most efficient DNA test for determining parentage. Parentage tests are available for the cat here.

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FAQ Answers - About my order

What do I need to do and what will I get back?

1. Request a Cat Ancestry test from the MyVGL website.

2. Once the bar-coded test package arrives, collect the buccal swab sample from your cat with the enclosed cytological brushes and return the brushes and form by regular mail.

3. Within 10-15 business days from arrival of sample at the lab, you will receive an e-mailed Cat Ancestry Report with your cat's results. A hard copy will be mailed only if requested online at the time that you order the test.

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How will I know when the sample arrives at the lab?

If you ordered the kit online, you'll receive an automatic email when the sample arrives at the lab.

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How long does it take to get results?

Once the sample has been received at the lab it generally takes 10 - 15 business days for the sample to be tested, results generated and report available on your MyVGL account for downloading. You will receive the report by email to the address that you provided when ordering the test.

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FAQ Answers - About Cat Ancestry Brush Sample Collection

Can I perform Cat Ancestry testing on kittens?

Yes. Your cat's DNA never changes! Although no DNA contamination from the milk of the queen has been observed, collect the buccal swabs from kittens approximately 10 minutes after nursing.

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How do I air dry the brush without contaminating it?

Waving the brushes in the air for 2-3 minutes is sufficient for drying. Reinsert the dried brushes into the protective sleeves provided so that the bristle brush is completely covered. Samples will not become contaminated if they don't come into contact with other cats, people or dirty surfaces. Your cat's brush samples should be shipped immediately without refrigeration (ice or cold packs not needed).

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How will I know if I have enough DNA on my brushes?

Cheek cells will not necessarily be visible on the brushes. However, if you press the brush firmly on the cat's cheek and rub it around for about 15 seconds then there should be enough material transferred to the brush. The swabbing should not make the cat's mouth bleed, but blood on the brush will not affect the DNA. If blood appears on the brush, you may need to consider a dental appointment for your cat!

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Are both brushes needed for the test?

Both brushes are needed in case there is not enough DNA material on one brush to test. If only one brush is submitted, we will attempt to test it, but this increases the chance of us requesting a new sample.

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My cat died but was very special and I would like to know its ancestry! Can other samples be submitted for testing?

If fresh blood or tissues are available, these can be submitted. However, if blood or tissue were not stored properly, they may be degraded and not testable. Please contact us for information on acceptable tissues.

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FAQ Answers - Questions about specific cat breeds

Are you collecting samples of pedigreed cats to add more breeds to your test?

Yes. If you have a pedigreed cat that is not from one of the 29 major breeds that are in the database and would like to donate a sample to help add your breed to the database, please contact us. Generally, 30 - 50 unrelated cats (which do not share parents or grand-parents) are used to develop a breed database.

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Can you determine breed contribution for cats that are not of U.S. origin?

Cats from outside the USA can be tested for race but may be difficult to match to a breed. Some breeds in different parts of the world are very similar and may match with normal levels of probability. Other breeds have different breeding strategies in different parts of the world. These can result in lower match probabilities. The current Cat Ancestry breed database was developed mainly from cats from the CFA and TICA in the USA.

As the testing becomes more established and if necessary, comparisons of cats of the same breed from different countries may be possible. Please consider supporting the improvement of the test by providing additional information on your cat and/or by getting breeders to provide 30 - 50 cats from the breed.

For more information, please contact us.

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Can you distinguish lines within a breed?

Cat Ancestry does not distinguish different lines of cats at this time.

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Does Cat Ancestry test for contributions from wild felids such as Bobcats, Servals, Jungle Cats or Asian Leopard Cats?

Cat Ancestry was developed using genetic markers specific for the domestic cat only. These tests are not intended to compare to other felids, such as bobcats, lynx or wildcat. The accuracy of Cat Ancestry for hybrid breeds such as Savannahs and Chaussies is unknown since sufficient samples of these hybrid cats and the Serval and Jungle Cat ancestors have not been available. Bengals are included in the Cat Ancestry dataset. Please consider supporting the improvement of the test by providing additional information on your cat and or by getting breeders to provide 30 - 50 cats from the breed.

For more information, please contact us.

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What about Bengals? Can percentage of Asian Leopard Cat blood be determined?

Although Cat Ancestry contains Bengals in its database, the genetic markers were developed from the domestic cat only. Bengals will match to the Bengal breed or potentially to the domestic breed most recently used, such as Abyssinian or Egyptian Mau. Sufficient DNA samples have not been available from Leopard Cats to develop markers that would assist with percentage of Leopard Cat contribution.

Please consider supporting the improvement of the test by providing samples from Servals, Jungle Cats or Leopard Cats that have used in breed development.

For more information, please contact us.

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FAQ Answers - About the Science

Where did you get the cats for your test development and scientific studies?

The Cat Ancestry test was developed from research performed by the Feline Genetics Research Laboratory of Dr. Leslie Lyons in the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. Dr. Lyons collected a majority of samples while attending cat shows hosted by the Cat Fanciers' Association (CFA) and The International Cat Association (TICA) and other shows around the world. Because of the different breed histories for cats in different parts of the world in different cat registries, this first initial database was developed mainly from cats from the CFA and TICA in the USA. A breed from a different country may not match strongly in the current database if the breed development history is very different. As the testing becomes more established and if necessary, comparisons of cats of the same breed, but different registries, may be possible.

Dr. Lyons and the research team collected many of the random bred samples, including the cats from Egypt, as can be seen on the National Geographic Explorer episode "The Science of Cats". Many collaborators from around the world also provided important samples for the database.

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Veterinary Genetics Laboratory, Tel 530-752-2211, Email VGL