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Identifying Genes that Cause Feline Breed Characteristics

Pedigree breeding and the creation of specific breeds of any type of animal have some inevitable genetic risks, such as increasing the chance of inherited diseases and compromising genetic diversity. This is evident in a few types of cat breeds. Manx, which are bred to not have a tail, can experience lameness, incontinence and fecal impaction, and the Scottish Fold cat breed has a mutation that may cause mild to severe bone dystrophy. These two breeds are not among the most popular of cat breeds, but some other breeds, such as Persians and other short-faced cats, that are bred to have specific traits, are among the most popular cat breeds. The short face is a highly desired trait as it gives the cats big round faces and big eyes, but it also likely causes significantly more health problems than the ear fold and tailless mutations combined. The secondary health effects of the extreme shortening of the facial bones leads to constant tearing, nasal discharge, eye problems and chewing problems. Researchers will study the major genes that cause short face characteristics in domestic cat breeds using SNP chips, a new genetic tool that could help better determine the genes involved. SNP chips are a type of DNA chip that contain single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), genetic footprints found in DNA, to identify the locations of disease causing mutations. The data from this research could help researchers develop genetic tests to monitor mutations linked to health conditions in certain breeds so that breeders can produce healthier cats.


Dr. Leslie A. Lyons, University of California–Davis