What's the Best Cat DNA Test Kit?
If you have ever wondered about your cat’s ancestry, you are not alone. A cat DNA test kit (like Wisdom Panel and Basepaws) may even answer the questions you have surrounding your furry friend’s personality and predisposed health concerns.
Wisdom Panel vs. Basepaws
While both Wisdom Panel and Basepaws offer DNA testing services for pets, they differ in their focus and offerings for cats. Wisdom Panel specializes in DNA testing for dogs, while Basepaws focuses specifically on cats. Basepaws offers a breed identification test for cats, which can identify up to 45 different breeds and provide information about a cat's ancestry going back several generations. In addition, Basepaws provides a health screening test for cats that can identify genetic markers associated with certain health conditions, such as kidney disease and hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.
What is a Cat DNA Test?
Cats have 38 chromosomes (19 pairs) with around 20,000 genes. In comparison, humans have 46 (23 pairs), while dogs have a total of 78 chromosomes (39 pairs). Most cats share 99% commonality in their DNA. While that makes differentiating and sequencing a bit harder, the 1% can still account for quite a large variation.
Depending on the brand and type of test you buy, you can test for:
- Hereditary diseases.
- Physical and personality traits.
Regardless of brand, a cat DNA test kit requires you to swab your furry friend’s cheek and then ship it back to the company – usually, in the same box it came in, so be sure to save it.
The swab is then analyzed by specialized labs and your cat’s DNA is remodeled and compared against the company’s database. Accordingly, the older the company is, the wider its database, so the more accurate the results will be.
Primarily created to help professional breeders make informed decisions and avoid any negative outcomes from in-breeding, these tests are now available for pet owners at home to get to know their feline friends.
Analyzing the genetic makeup of your pet can help you make educated lifestyle, health and wellness decisions on their behalf. It can also help you understand your cat better and help it live a longer, healthier life.
Additionally, analyzing your cat’s DNA allows you to join the growing community of cat lovers who are contributing to the understanding of cat genetics.
Top 5 Cat DNA Test Brands
1. Wisdom Panel
Being one of the oldest pet DNA testing companies out there, Wisdom Panel has more than 20 years of testing experience with more than 3 million dogs and cats logged into their database.
They offer two tests: Optimal Selection for professional breeders (launched in 2016) and Wisdom Panel Complete for Cats for general public use (launched in 2021).
Wisdom Panel’s home kit offers an overview of breed, health, traits and ancestry. It tests for over 70 breeds and populations, as well as 45 genetic diseases and 25 genetic traits.
This test is hands down the most comprehensive on the market. The company references the world’s largest cat breed database for accuracy and traces your cat’s ancestry back to its great grandparents and provides you with a family tree. They even offer a vet consultation free of charge.
The only negative part of this brand’s kit is that the test requires two swabs from your cat’s cheeks and takes more time than average to collect.
Founded by Anna Skaya in 2018, Basepaws received its funding from Shark Tank and has since taken over the market. With three different tests under their belt, Basepaws’ wide variety of options explains why.
They offer an Oral Health Test, Breed + Health DNA Test and a Whole Genome Test.
The dental health test screens your pet for most major dental conditions seen in cats. It provides risk scores for periodontal disease, tooth resorption and bad breath.
The DNA test is by far their most sold and offers cat owners the chance to learn about their pet’s breed, health, traits and habits.
Basepaws divides breeds into four main categories:
- Western (from Europe/America).
- Eastern (from Asia).
- Persian (Persian and related cats).
- Exotic (hybrids and Egyptian Mau).
Though their database is still small, their test results are constantly updated, as they receive new information and they go a step further and provide a wildcat index showing what kind of wildcat your little one is most closely genetically related to.
They also offer vital information to help you with your cat’s health in the Basepaws health report section. This shows results for several genetic mutations, which correspond to 17 prevalent genetic diseases in cats.
Finally, the genome sequencing test provides all of the above, as well as full access to the raw data and your pet’s full DNA genome. Unless you are a pet geneticist, this might be more information than you need.
Unlike the previous tests, the Orivet Cat DNA Health Screen and Life Plan test is completely health focused. It does not provide any information about your cat’s breed, as it is designed for purebred cats, domestic shorthairs and domestic longhairs.
This test screens your pet for genetic diseases and physical traits and provides you with a risk analysis based on your cat’s genetics, breed, age, weight, gender and more. It also identifies your cat’s blood type, which is useful if your cat ever needs a transfusion.
Orivet mainly works with veterinarians and professional breeders and includes personalized life plans for tested pets.
A slightly different kind of test, 5Strands’ Pet Health Test requires hair samples and tests for nutritional and environmental intolerances and allergies. It provides an array of health information, testing for 460 health items.
Test results are grouped under food intolerances, environmental intolerances, nutrition and metal and minerals.
Finally, it is key to keep in mind that most of these tests are based on small, underpowered studies. Neither their accuracy nor their ability to predict health outcomes have been validated. Most vets do not know enough about the limitations of the studies or about genetics in general to be able to advise worried owners.
Unlike dogs, who have been domesticated for almost 40,000 years, cats domesticated themselves only 8,000 years ago. While dogs have been bred selectively for specific tasks and traits for over 14,000 years, the active development of distinctive cat breeds did not start until about 150 years ago. That’s why, the Cat Fanciers Association only recognizes 45 official cat breeds today.
This means that while cats may look wildly different, their genetics and ancestry are not varied enough to put into neat pure-bred boxes. However, while a cat DNA test will not provide accurate details about your fur baby’s breed, you will still get a lot of information about where your cat’s ancestors come from, key personality traits and any potential genetic health issues.
Always remember: no one knows your pet like their vet.