New Genetic Traits in the Basepaws Breed + Health Cat DNA Report

Basepaws offers the most advanced and comprehensive cat DNA test on the market. With the addition of new genetic health and trait markers, pet parents receive even more information about what makes their cat so unique—both inside and out. In this post, we discuss the new genetic trait marker results section of the upgraded Basepaws digital report.   

The Basepaws Breed + Health Cat DNA test now screens for 25 genetic traits that are represented by 50 genetic markers. The new traits section of the digital report presents a summary of some of the genes and mutations that are responsible for a cat's unique physical appearance. It also includes results for a non-aesthetic trait that is important to a cat’s health: the likelihood of resistance to the Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV).

Genetic Trait Types

The traits section of the Basepaws digital report provides results for 24 of the 25 genetic traits* we screen for, and they fall into five categories: 

  1. Coat length: Includes the long-haired coat trait, which can be a typical feature of Maine Coon, Persian, Ragdoll, and Somali cats, as well as of some mixed-breed cats. The long-haired coat phenotype (observable expression of a specific trait) is associated with various mutations in the fibroblast growth factor 5 (FGF5) gene.

  2. Coat color and pattern: Includes a range of traits responsible for colors and patterns that may be expressed in a cat’s coat. An example includes black coat color (melanism). For this trait, the gene agouti/ASIP has been implicated in pigmentation, including melanism, in mice and other animals. If a cat carries two copies of a particular two-base pair deletion in the ASIP gene, their coat is likely to be a solid black color. Basepaws’ list of genetic conditions and traits provides a full list of the coat color and pattern traits screened for in our Cat DNA test.

  3. Coat texture: Includes Lykoi coat, Sphynx coat, hypotrichosis (deficient growth of hair associated with short life expectancy), curly coat (LPAR6-related), and curly coat (KRT71-related) traits. Learn more about curly coat genetics and curly cat breeds and visit our blog on cat coat genetics for more information about the main genes responsible for the amazing variety of feline coat colors, patterns, lengths, and textures! 

  4. Body morphology: Includes traits of polydactyly, folded ears (which co-occur with the disease osteochondrodysplasia), short tail, and short kinked tail. The Japanese Bobtail offers a great example of a breed that displays a short kinked tail. While any cat may be born with polydactyly, the trait seems to be most common among Maine Coons.

  5. Susceptibility to viral infection: Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) is a lentivirus affecting from 2.5% to 4.4% cats worldwide that causes a disease similar to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) in humans. A variant of the APOBEC3Z3 gene was demonstrated to suppress the infectivity of FIV, thus potentially making cats that carry this variant more likely to be resistant to infection.

*Note: The trait related to feline blood type and blood transfusion risk is covered in a separate section of the Basepaws report.

Trait Marker Status 

The trait markers section of the Basepaws digital report provides the following three trait marker status designations:

Carrier: The cat has one copy of a marker associated with a specific physical trait; however, it is unlikely to be physically displaying the trait. This could be because the trait has an autosomal recessive pattern of inheritance (needs two copies to display physically) or because the physical presentation of the trait is associated with a specific combination of markers, of which your cat only has one.

Likely to have: The cat is positive for a marker (or markers) linked to a specific trait and is likely to exhibit this trait. This could be a result of the cat having one copy of a trait marker with an autosomal dominant pattern of inheritance, or the cat having two copies of a marker with an autosomal recessive pattern of inheritance. Alternatively, your cat could have the specific allelic series (combination of markers) that are likely to result in a specific trait.

Not likely to have: Based on the cat's genotype (collection of genes), it is unlikely that it is exhibiting this particular trait.

For more information about dominant and recessive types of inheritance, visit Basepaws’ Feline Genetics 101 blog. 

For many of the traits listed in the Basepaws digital report, there are multiple known genetic variants associated with each trait. Basepaws created a five-star scientific evidence grading system for each marker to better communicate how some research findings are more robust and conclusive than others. This system assesses the strength of evidence linking each marker to each trait, based on the amount and quality of scientific literature available.

In rare cases, a cat’s results may indicate that they are positive for a marker, but they don’t exhibit the physical trait associated with the marker. This can be due to complex genetic or epigenetic interactions that may not be well understood. These interactions relate to how behaviors and environment can cause changes that affect the way a cat's genes work (regulating whether genes are turned on or off). However, epigenetic interactions do not change a cat's DNA sequence.

The opposite is also possible, where a cat does exhibit a physical trait, but has tested negative for all known markers associated with that trait. When this occurs, it means that the cat’s specific physical presentation may have different underlying genetics to what is currently known in the scientific literature. If this is the case for your cat, it simply adds one more reason to the many that make your cat so special!

At Basepaws, we know that all cats are truly special. However, the uniqueness of your cat has the potential to advance feline genetics research and can help all cats experience more health and happiness in life. We have a variety of ongoing research programs that explore the genetic factors that contribute to feline longevity, chronic kidney disease, and feline IBD/GI lymphoma–to name but a few. 

Please visit the Basepaws Research page to learn more about these and other feline health studies and how you can get involved in our work as a citizen scientist!

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