I Tested My Cat’s DNA and Here Are the Results
From health predispositions to breed history, Wisdom Panel’s genetic testing revealed my cat’s internal world.
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I have to begin by saying that I’m as overbearing a cat mom as they come. If my cat, Chicken, sneezes, in my mind, she may have a cold and needs to be carefully monitored for the day. If she eats too much food, she’s trying to send me a signal that she has a greater health condition. If she eats too little, she’s trying to send me a different signal that she has an upset stomach or a hairball coming on. I take notice of these things and worry about them more than the average pet parent, I would deign to say. So when I learned about Wisdom Panel’s DNA testing technology, I realized two things: We would definitely be taking the test, and the results were going to affect the way I interact with my cat for the rest of both our lives. Not to be dramatic.
Getting started was easy enough. They shipped the box right to my door and enclosed were specific instructions (namely, to wait several hours after a meal to get a sample), a swab, and a return label. The plan, I had a good handle on. My cat, I did not have a handle on at all. Believe it or not, she did not love having a bristly brush rubbed all around her gums and let me know in the form of warning meow. Luckily for the both of us, the 15 seconds that I had been counting down from in my head had just reached zero, so we were both off the hook.
After all this aggravation, I wondered what insights I’d really be gaining into Chicken’s health through the test and what data allowed them to test for such specific traits. Since, as I mentioned earlier, any sign she exhibits that might even suggest distress leaves me feeling unnerved for days, I wanted to know she hadn’t suffered the swab in vain. That’s when I reached out to Veterinarian and Data and Veterinary Genetics Manager, Dr. Annette Louviere, DVM, for answers. “Wisdom Panel™ health results are over 99.99% accurate,” Dr. Louviere says, adding that this is attributed to a “highly accurate microarray platform and quality control guidelines similar to those used by human genetics testing companies.” Well, that clears things up.
When I finally got a little ping in my inbox saying “Chicken’s DNA results have arrived,” the wave of anxiety that I felt immediately made it clear that my own health was a secondary concern, as I never would have rushed to the computer to receive lab results in the way I did for Chicken’s. As I opened the online portal, I was completely shocked to learn that my most pressing concern was not a concern at all: Chicken had tested negative for any genetic health predispositions. I couldn’t contain my excitement as I waved my boyfriend towards the computer while almost involuntarily repeating, “I told you she’s the healthiest cat!”
How could this be possible? Dr. Louviere helped clarify: “The chances of your pet developing a disorder if they carry the associated gene depends on several factors. Examples being if the disease is expressed in a dominant or recessive manner (known as ‘mode of inheritance'), number of copies the pet inherited (dominant disorders need one copy to be expressed while recessive need two copies), and the specific disease risk factors (such as if the health condition is known to the breeds found in the ancestry).”
In the following minutes, in which I partially blacked out from a combination of excitement and nervousness, and quietly murmured “good results,” as if saying that would generate an outcome, I also learned what breed, or breeds, rather, Chicken is. When I adopted her from the ASPCA on the Upper East Side, the technician who was caring for her had told me that Chicken and a gray cat a few months older than her had been found in a dumpster nearby. I’d mused over the idea that the little gray cat in the crate next to her was her sibling, making Wisdom’s relative finder feature extremely appealing to me. I’d also wondered how she’d ended up in a dumpster in upper Manhattan in the first place, and if she’d been born on the streets or if she’d escaped an affluent family’s townhome.
To bring clarity to my daydreams, she looks purebred and the Google search of “Maine Coon” and other “cream” or “buff” colored cats generated uncanny results of similarly adorable and expensive looking cats. That’s why I was I brought back to reality when I learned that the majority of her heritage was regular old “domestic medium hair,” just as it was noted on her chart at the ASPCA. Her DNA test noted: “long coat possible” and “short coat likely.” She met them in the middle. It made me strangely more proud of my little cat to learn of her humble roots.
The final point of curiosity I had surrounding Chicken’s genetic makeup was her tail length. When she was a kitten, she had an unusually short tail, which she subsequently grew into with age. Now, she bares a bushy, dare I say, feathery tail that catches the eye of all who she graces her presence with. Learning all of this from a simple test was an exhilarating experience that cleared up every question I had about Chicken’s background without leaving me questioning further.
When I checked back in with Dr. Louviere, she affirmed my feelings about the experience, “Performing a pet DNA test doesn’t just satisfy curiosity — though that’s often part of the fun! Knowing your pet’s genetic makeup through Wisdom Panel™ tests empowers you to tailor training, nutrition and care to your pet’s unique needs.” Below, you can try Wisdom’s Full Panel DNA test for yourself (and your cat).
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Avery is an editor at The Wildest. She has written for numerous publications, including Refinery29, BuzzFeed, and V Magazine. She lives in Brooklyn, New York with her boyfriend and cat, Chicken, and has high hopes that one of them will let her adopt a dog.