The Basepaws cat DNA test called Catkit got our tech antennae buzzing with interest. What is this, a cat breed identification test? What can a cat’s genes tell us? This is exciting news so let’s explore some more.
Like you I had questions:
- What breed is my cat most like?
- Which wild cat is my rescue cat most similar to?
I decided to find out what is involved in the kit and dig deeper into the mysteries of genetics.
- There is a coupon code for readers at the end of this post!
Don’t worry, I will keep this simple, I promise, and there are interesting updates at the end of the blog post too!
DashKitten.com received a complimentary Basepaws Catkit DNA Testing Set for review. We only share news and products we feel are relevant to our readers. The opinions here are our own and we are responsible for the content of this post.
Dash Kitten also has a special offer for readers, at the end of this post. Our affiliate link gets you a great reduction.
The Basepaws DNA CatKit Report
The most impressive thing I discovered is that the Catkit isn’t simply a quick turnaround DNA test with a few cute insights. It is much more and the potential impact on cat health worldwide will be considerable.
The goal of Basepaws? Exploration, discovery, and help for cats worldwide.
What is DNA?
First. For those who don’t know much about DNA, here’s a super fast and easy science lesson!
The following definitions will give you a basic understanding of what genetics is. These words will appear in any online discussion or written report on genetics. You don’t have to know the fine print or any complex details. The terms apply to all genetic testing kits. Cats, as well as the popular human genetic tests you see, may see advertised.
1. Genome This is the complete set of genes or genetic material present in a cell or organism. You are made up of cells so, if you are a cat, you are a lot of cat DNA!
2. DNA (de-oxy-ribo-nucleic acid) “This is a long molecule that contains each of our cat’s (and humans) unique genetic code. Like a recipe, it holds the instructions for making all the proteins in our bodies” – YG
DNA is your own cat codebook
The cat DNA test Catkit uses the order, known as the sequence, of the DNA to read your cat’s personal genetic makeup. Cats carry their history, coat colour, eye colour and millions of other variables in their genes. It is all wrapped up in Adenine: Thymine, Cytosine and Guanine (if you really want to know).
How do I Use the Cat DNA Test?
The cat DNA test instructions are clear and detailed. Please read them carefully before you start. This way you know exactly what you need to do and the correct sequence of steps.
iSWAB sample collection device
Plastic “biohazard” bag with an absorbent pad
“Exempt Animal Specimen” label
Outer box to mail sample
2 adhesive strips on a folded card
After you have followed the procedure to get the fur and oral sample (I told you to read the instructions!) you send off your cat DNA test in the envelope provided. The waiting time depends on how many kits are being processed at any time.
Shipping is free within the USA and costs should be very modest for the rest of the world as the box and contents are lightweight. During pandemic times, please allow a little more time for shipping, delivery, and processing.
Your Catkit Arrives at Basepaws. Now What?
The tech staff at Basepaws record the information in your cat DNA test. You receive a printed report, and your DNA profile is kept on the database. When new developments and discoveries occur in feline genetics – you will be updated.
Your DNA is compared with the other cat results stored on the computer databases. 99% of the sequences will be similar to every other cat. It is the differences that make your cat unique that will stand out.
• PRO TIP Early adopters of the DNA test kit get in on the ground floor and receive permanent free updates.
So that you get an idea of the scale of DNA reading and interpretation, the first human genome took years and millions of dollars to sequence.
Basepaws knows we don’t have a million dollars so they sequence a selection of 27,000,000,000 nucleotides. For tech folks, these nucleotides form the basic structural unit of the nucleic acids in DNA. A report is then generated and sent to you.
Thanks to the Morris Animal Foundation and a recent article on transcriptomics, we have also been able to add an interesting link that gives you insights into the finer details of how genes are read. When genes are read these readouts are called ‘transcripts’, hence the art of ‘transcriptomics’.
“Researchers study the transcriptomes of cells as a way to gain insight into how genes function and what their expression means for a cell’s ability to do its job under normal conditions.”
The Catkit Results Are In What Do They Say?
Once a DNA test is processed at the Basepaws Los Angeles facility they generate a genetic and health report about your own cat’s DNA and you receive further updates and newsletters as information about feline genetics becomes available.
We have just received Phoebe’s report so I updated this post to let you know what her fascinating results were.
There will be plenty of information for you to review in your own Cat DNA Report but, rest assured, it is non-technical and very pet parent friendly.
- You receive health and wellness assessments
- There will be care tips from genetically similar cats which are vital as many cats never get taken to the vet (and they need an annual visit)
- You can have a report sent to your vet if you wish
- You join the database and share the discoveries made and how these relate to your cat’s health
The Report has a light hearted side too. After all cats love to have fun!
- Wild cat ancestry index. How close are we to our wild ancestors? Tiger genes anyone?
- Predicted weight
- Cat Traits
- Catnip response – are you an addict?
The ancestry information will provide a few ‘heads up’ indicators.
Information for those hoping to trace a maternal or paternal line
Family tree with a percentage of breeds
The core of the DNA Report is its health information. It will show simple disease markers including:
Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD)
Complex Disease Markers
Things to remember
That an indication of the presence of an unusual gene does not mean cats have or will get a specific condition. It means they may be more prone to it. As the Basepaws genetic research base grows and more discoveries are made, our cat knowledge increases.
Basepaws will inform cats and their pet parents of changes and developments relevant to their cat family. They are also working to include breeds not included in their current breed index.
NOTE: Basepaws have a separate research section for cats with specific conditions. Kits are free for cats who meet very specific criteria. At the moment, IBS, Asthma, or other genetic diseases are under examination. Please check at the link if you believe you may qualify.
To maintain clinical accuracy, veterinary records are part of the submission requirements for applicants. This project is available thanks to grants from committed cat enthusiasts and small companies.
Who are Basepaws?
Let us introduce you to Basepaws. They are a cat DNA testing company aiming to make a real difference.
Not only do they want to help humans understand cats better, but they also dream bigger. Much bigger. They intend to collate millions of cat DNA samples worldwide and invest in the science that will help make cat lives better.
This is not a fancy corporate ‘mission statement’. Without going into lots of ‘ifs….‘ and ‘what happens….‘ scenarios relating to science: as its genetic database grows, Basepaws can help discover what triggers certain conditions. They aim to help uncover why some cats are resistant to illness while others are not. How things like FIP can be made a thing of the past. Or at least how we can fight back from a position of much greater strength
Basepaws are cat people on a mission, and you can meet a lot of the staff here. Everyone is a cat lover and many have their own cats at home. They don’t just process kitty DNA and send it back to you with ‘what is there right now’. Basepaws cares about cats and wants to use science to make an impact on feline futures.
Cat Genetics Made Simpler
Plenty of people will see the words ‘DNA’, and ‘science‘ and get ready to run but let’s make one thing clear. This is not scary science. We have discovered that this simple home DNA test could transform the lives of cats worldwide. The impact could be far beyond the first personal cat DNA kit report you receive from Basepaws.
We know that for many people cat genetics used to mean cat coat patterns, or cat ancestry. A breeder will select a cat with a beautiful coat to help produce more kittens of a similar type. BUT, and it is a big but, there is so much more to cat genetics than coat colour.
Here’s something you might not know about most cat and dog DNA tests
They only screen for a limited number of different traits and/or diseases. We confess this struck us as being slightly scary. What if you get bad news – right? Basepaws does not ‘cherry pick’ your DNA for the best/worst news.
The one thing we found both amazing and reassuring was that Basepaws sequences every single thing and if something that is discovered from their extensive research that relates to your report – they will let you know.
Cats were not bred, like dogs, for the purpose of targeting specific genes like size, or coat type. They walked in and made themselves useful without any breeding help from humans. This means the genetic code is extremely diverse as you can see in the chromosome painting below.
One day there will be a name, a definition and a function for each piece of the genetic puzzle. Every single gene is recorded by Basepaws, even the ones science doesn’t have a name or function for yet! They are ready for science reveals more of its secrets.
Chromosome Painting with Cat DNA
In February 2019 Basepaws announced it was adding something called Chromosome painting to its genetic reports. We have received one as part of our recent report on Phoebe.
Not only does it look beautiful, but it is also a way of representing the genetic code in visual form. This makes relating Phoebe’s DNA to the Basepaws pedigree breed database a bit easier to do and allows Basepaws to tell me the cats she is most similar to.
What do the Chromosome colours mean?
Thee colours need to be interpreted but you don’t need deep science to do this.
- Western – are all the breeds from the Americas and Europe.
- Eastern – are the cats from Asia
- Hybrid – are the crosses from wild cats
Polycats– are the oldest breed descending from unique genes found within them over time.
The length and mix of the colours shown in the chromosome painting – like the section I am including of Phoebe’s – tells science a lot about the genetic history of a cat.
Thanks to Basepaws I know that cats usually inherit half their genes from their mother and a half from their father. In order that the genes do not create ‘cookie cutter’ cats the genes undergo a process called recombination.
Recombination means that the genes are shuffled like a pack of cards making the genetic outcome more random. This increases genetic diversity which means healthier cats.
The coloured bars show Phoebe matches certain genetic breed traits, although they do not indicate any pedigree ancestry.
Basepaws’ research onto the genomic regions (see Resources) that define pedigree cats is ongoing, and the more pedigree cat data collected, the larger and more accurate the entire database will be.
A Comparison of Two Catkit Reports
We are fortunate to be able to compare two Basepaw’s Catkits which, I hope, will give you some idea of how varied cat genetics and the reports can be. One cat is based in NewZealand (Phoebe) and one in Great Britain (Erin).
Phoebe’s report shows the following genetic composition:
- 22.42% Western
- 25.68% Eastern
- 13.79% Hybrid
- 38.11% Polycat
Phoebe’s Basepaws CatKit Results
Phoebe’s report shows her as being similar to the Abyssinian, with Ragdoll and Norwegian Forest Cats making up her trio of most similar cat breeds. She is most similar, genetically, to the Leopard in the wild cat families.
We are lucky enough to have a fellow cat blogging colleague who has also done the Basepaws CatKit test Erin the Cat Princess. She is sharing her results with us for the valuable insights they bring.
Erin’s report shows the following genetic composition:
- 23.82% Western
- 26.02% Eastern
- 16.69% Hybrid
- 33.48% Polycat
Erin’s Basepaws CatKit Results
Erin is most similar to the British Shorthair, with Russian Blue and Abyssinian Cats making up her three most similar cat breeds. She is most similar, genetically, to the Cougar, a contrast to Phoebe’s closest wild relative.
Basepaws on Sharktank April 2019
USA visitors will be able to see Basepaws live here. For readers, I am proud to say that Basepaws scored big from the sharks in the tank.
Anna Skaya founder of Basepaws says “We’ve all seen the success of DNA tests for humans and dogs, but cat science is newer, and cats have always been somewhat of a mystery”.
The company hope to make cat genetics and cat science approachable and easy to understand for everyone who buys a kit. See our coupon offer below.
Robert Herjavec and Kevin O’Leary, investors on the reality show, agreed to a joint investment with each contributing $125,000 in exchange for a 5% ownership share each.Pet Product News
2020 Developments at Basepaws
In May Basepaws announced two new research initiatives.
Basepaws is starting a year-long diabetes research project and they are recruiting cats across the globe. They are giving away free kits to qualifying cats. Check out if your can qualifies under the new initiative.
Basepaws’ new Health Mark Testings helped identify a deadly genetic marker for Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy and now NYC feline superstar Catsdradamus and Basepaws want everyone to
Basepaws Coupon for Catkit
The cost of the Catkit (includes collection materials, reports, and report updates) is $75 plus free USA shipping or a modest flat rate for international orders. You can pay via credit car or Paypal.
Special CatKit offer to DashKitten readers: You will receive $25 off your Catkit ($95) with you use the coupon code ‘dashkitten‘
IMPORTANT: Basepaws doesn’t just use the cat test to give you a breakdown of your cats’ sequenced DNA, discuss a bit of cat ancestry, and then walk away. They will keep you informed as more is discovered about cat genetics. This is a key part of the process and one you should value.
CWA Award for BasePaws Report
This post was awarded a Cat Writers Association Certificate of Excellence proclaiming it’s quality and integrity.
RESOURCES on Cat DNA and Genetics
Genomic regions is a complex issue which you can read more about here. I include the most basic definition I can find from the Genomic Regions Enrichment Annotations Tool at Stanford University.
“GREAT calculates statistics by associating genomic regions with nearby genes and applying the gene annotations to the regions.”
The Cat Fancy Association has a long list of tips and explanations about feline genetics as it refers to cat and kitten coats. This is worth a look if you are primarily interested in how kittens get their colouring. Note: Basepaws and the CatKit goes into much greater depth than the cat coat conundrum!
Genetics is a complex subject but Berkley.edu has a page as part of one of its courses. This covers the more technical side of cat genetics and coat colour. It is an interesting read for those with a little science background.
The Winn Foundation has a short technical piece from 2010 that gives an idea of the complexity of genetics relating specifically to FIP. It also gives an idea of the impact positive genetic research could have on cat health. Your cat DNA test can do good.
Marjorie is a motorbike riding blogger and award winning cat photographer who believes that everyone can shoot and edit wonderful pictures they love regardless of the camera they use.
She is a Professional member of the Cat Writers Association, Kuykendall Image Award winner and published photographer at the Guardian newspaper.