I first heard of dog DNA tests when two of them were sold at a benefit auction for my local SPCA. At the time I wondered, "Isn’t there a cat DNA test? And if there isn’t, why isn’t there one?"
Now, two years later, the Feline Genetics Laboratory at the University of California, Davis, has developed a test that will reveal your cat’s ancestral heritage.
The test begins with determining the geographic origin of your cat’s ancestors from one of eight regions: Western Europe, Egypt, East Mediterranean, Iran/Iraq, Arabian Sea, India, South Asia, and East Asia. After a cat’s ancestral origin is determined, her DNA will be compared with that of the 29 most popular breeds in the Cat Fanciers’ Association and The International Cat Association registries.
The lab says the lineage profile is more than 90 percent accurate, but it does caution that "a true random-bred cat will not match to specific breeds and low match probabilities will not be reported. If your cat is a true direct cross with a breed, having a true breed parent or grandparent, this test can detect this breed genetic contribution in your cat."
What that means is that if the genetic test were done on a multiracial human, it could determine whether, say, that individual has East Asian ancestors, but it might not be able to tell whether those ancestors are Korean, Vietnamese, Thai, Chinese, Laotian, Cambodian, or Japanese.
The cat genetic test is done through a cheek swab, a standard method of collecting DNA. It costs around $120, and you’ll get your results within a couple of weeks.
The lab is also collecting donations of DNA from breeds not currently in its database. In order to develop a breed in the database, samples from 30 to 50 unrelated cats — that is, they don’t share parents or grandparents — are needed.
So, if you want to pay to find out whether your Maine Coon look-alike does in fact have Maine Coon ancestry, now’s your chance.