Feline Genetics – Mapping Cats’ Genome Project

(What is a genome? A genome is an organism’s complete set of DNA, including all of its genes. Each genome contains all of the information needed to build and maintain that organism. In humans, a copy of the entire genome—more than 3 billion DNA base pairs—is contained in all cells that have a nucleus.)

Did you know there are 12 cat racial groups around the world?

Here’s a fascinating article from the San Francisco Chronicle on a project to map the genome of the house cat. The scientists are mapping the DNA of 99 cats from all over the world.

Once they’ve mapped the cat genome, the full database will be posted on the Internet. Researchers will be able to use the information to research cat health links to genetics and cat ancestry. This may someday lead to DNA testing for cats being available to vets to help in maintaining our kitty’s health. It can also help humans, by aiding research for diseases that affect both cats and people.

Someday, we may even have a DNA testing service like 23andme for our kitties!


Scientists set out to map whole genome of cats – 99 of them

Stephanie M. Lee

Cats may not have nine lives, as the myth goes, but they do have 38 chromosomes.

And a team led by a former UC Davis professor is trying to understand those genes by sequencing a lot of cats – 99 cats, to be precise.

Leslie Lyons is fond of cats – she is the proud owner of two – but that’s not why she is pursuing this project. As sequencing technology grows faster, more comprehensive and more precise, scientists in general are mapping the genomes of humans, dogs, cows and other mammals.

But Lyons, who now works at the University of Missouri, says the cat genome remains relatively un-deciphered. A full mapping of those 20,000 genes in various breeds could help pinpoint the genetic cause of distinguishing marks, like fur and eye colors, but also of cat health problems, she says. It could even shed light on diseases that can occur in cats and humans alike.

“When a sick cat comes along, you could genetically sequence it and say, ‘Hey, look, this has a variation we’ve never seen before,’ ” said Lyons, who is collaborating on the project with San Mateo company Maverix Biomics. “It might give us clues very quickly as to what genes to focus on for this cat’s health care.”

Right now, it’s too early to tell whether protective pet owners or veterinarians would be willing to fork over the cash to sequence their cats’ genomes, said David Kirkpatrick, a spokesman for the American Veterinary Medical Association.

But pet owners in the United States do go to great lengths to take care of their animals, spending $26 billion on supplies, over-the-counter medicine and veterinary care in 2012, according to the American Pet Production Association.

In the not-too-distant future, perhaps, a trip to the vet could include a DNA test.

“We want to bring the health care standards of our pets to a comparable standard for humans,” Lyons said.

From 9 cats to 99

The project, called the 99 Lives Cat Whole Genome Sequencing Initiative, grew out of an original plan to sequence just nine cats. But Lyon and her colleagues decided that nine lives were not enough to build a truly complete genetic portrait, so they upped the sample size.

The work requires samples from kitties that are spayed and neutered. The cats’ leftover ovaries, uteruses and testicles contain DNA that can be easily extracted.

So the scientists are seeking cat samples from Greece, India, China, Russia, the Galapagos and Madagascar, to name a few. They want all kinds of breeds: the silky-haired Maine Coon and the American shorthair, the spotted Egyptian Mau and the blue-eyed Siamese. They want both purebreds and housecats that are a little bit of everything.

12 racial groups of cats

Like humans, cats belong to different racial populations, Lyons said. Felines from the United States, Britain and Canada tend to match up genetically with each other – not surprising, because most share a fluffy ancestry that originated in Western Europe.

Their genetic profile differs from that of cats in Egypt, which in turn are distinct from their counterparts in Southeast Asia and the Middle East. All in all, there are about 12 racial groups, Lyons said.

“What (humans) really want to do is figure out all the genetic variations in our genomes,” she said. “It varies with where you live in the world and what ethnic group you are, and that’s true with cats, too.”

Assisting in the sequencing are the University of Missouri, Cornell University, Texas A&M University and UC Davis. Funding also comes from Zoetis, an animal health company; the Winn Feline Foundation, a cat health nonprofit; and Procter and Gamble, which makes cat and dog food.

An Abyssinian named Cinnamon was the first cat to be genetically sequenced in 2007, but the technology then was more primitive and only picked up about 60 percent of her total DNA.

The technology Lyons uses now will pick up virtually all of it, but mapping each genome will take weeks or months and cost about $8,000. Sequencing all 99 whiskered creatures will generate a huge amount of data – 168 terabytes. (A typical desktop computer has 1 terabyte of capacity.)

All that data will be uploaded into a cloud-based website that will allow anyone to view, search and annotate it.

“They can share that information very easily among researchers, rather than having to ship it around to researchers from lab to lab,” said Dave Mandelkern, president and co-founder of Maverix Biomics, which is operating the website.

Implications for humans

The data could have implications for humans who suffer from illnesses such as polycystic kidney disease and spinal muscular atrophy – diseases that also affect cats.

More immediately, the project could help researchers like Niels Pedersen, a UC Davis professor emeritus who helped with the sequencing. Pedersen, for example, is trying to better understand the genetic causes of feline infectious peritonitis, a fatal illness in cats.

“Using the tools we had at the time, we can see that there are some genetic factors that might be important,” he said. “To really define them … we really need to move to the whole genome sequencing.


Intriguing, isn’t it?


Everyone at Cat Faeries, and many friends, have done 23 and Me to learn about our individual genetics.

Here’s something fun to know about our founder, Mrs. Cat Faerie – she has 3% Neanderthal DNA. This is .8% higher than average and puts her in the 94th percentile (if only she did so well in school!) Mr. Cat Faerie has some Neanderthal DNA too, his is 3.1%. And you may have some too. This is why a service like 23 and Me, and all the genome research that’s being done, is so fascinating – and fun! And you might learn about some health predispositions.

What did our ancestor’s sleep patterns have in common with your cat?

You’ll be fascinated to learn that our ancestors did sleep, wake up, and then sleep again. A bit like cats, but not all day long, rather overnight.

Long before the Industrial Revolution and the invention of electricity people went “early to bed and early to rise”. And what exactly does that mean? Did they really go to bed early and sleep for hours on end? No.

Our ancestors did not sleep straight through the night, rather they had two nightly sleeps. They would go to bed early and sleep for a few hours, and then they would wake up. Which we modern humans often do, probably our Circadian Rhythms trying to tell us something. So we toss and turn, and feel guilt or anger for not falling back to sleep, they got up and did things, generally quiet things like meditate, pray or read. A few hours later they’d fall back to sleep again for the duration of the night.

Also before the invention of electricity our ancestors slept in complete darkness other than some light from a full moon. There was no light to disturb their sleep or rest. There was no artificial street light or light from electronics to disturb their sleep or rest.

Our cats have their own Circadian Rhythms which are: Sleep. Wake up. Sleep. They do this throughout the day. What’s similar between us and cats is that we aren’t meant to sleep for hours on end.

Doing what you can to flow with human Circadian Rhythm will keep us youthful and disease free. And probably even as agile as a cat.

The article on this link will explain how our ancestors used to sleep. Do read it, it contains a lot of fascinating details about what people did during those wakeful hours at night.

http://disinfo.com/2013/08/how-our-ancestors-used-to-sleep-twice-a-night-and-highlighting-the-problem-of-present-shock/

Learn about Circadian Rhythm

This is one of hundreds of websites that talk about how Circadian Rhythm affects everything from sleep, weight gain and loss, our moods, our aging process, and overall health:

http://www.sciencedaily.com/articles/c/circadian_rhythm.htm

Mark’s Daily Apple tells us how to get great sleep:

http://www.marksdailyapple.com/how-to-manufacture-the-best-night-of-sleep-in-your-life/#axzz2sIGszEcr

Why the blue light glare is absolutely horrible for us:

http://www.marksdailyapple.com/how-light-affects-our-sleep/#axzz26gx2mK1P

Are squirrels driving your cat crazy?

Are squirrels driving your cat crazy? at CatFaeries.com

In 1997 when we shifted our focus to Feliway and helping cats get back to the litter box we quickly realized that one of the key triggers that caused stress for many indoor cats which can lead to litter box avoidance was the pesky presence of those cute bushy tailed rodents: squirrels. Squirrels running around outside have sent many a cat over the emotional edge.

Most cats find them to be cheap entertainment. But many cats find squirrels to be very annoying or threats to territory and this can lead to retaliation: peeing outside of the litter box, often right under a window. Even if a sensitive cat never sets foot outside (which is good, keep em indoors!) squirrels run along window sills, up and down trees, they get into bird feeders, and other antics all under the watchful eyes of our indoor cats.

We have long suspected that the quick ways squirrels zip around can really annoy and taunt cats. The defiant flicks of squirrel tails agitates many cats. And then there is that chittering sound they make. Traits that might seem cute to us often really irk and threaten even the most mellow feline.

A very easy solution to help steady your cats’ nerves is the feed squirrels (and birds) out of view from windows and at the farthest place on your property.

You can also install one or two Comfort Zone with Feliway diffusers in the rooms where your cats squirrel-watch. This will do two things:

1) The pheromone is calming to your cat, less fighting among your feline family.

2) The pheromone sends the message: “I don’t pee in this room.”

Why parks are full of squirrels!

Until I bumped into this article on the history of squirrels in America I never really thought much about them. I figured squirrels had always been here. And everywhere.

Many city dwellers see squirrels as a chance to get closer to interacting with nature. People debate whether or not they are cute or vermin. No matter what you think of squirrels this article is really fun and informative. You’ll know why America’s parks and just about everywhere else has oodles and oodles of squirrels!

The Fascinating Story of Why U.S. Parks Are Full of Squirrels (at Gizmodo.com)

99 Reasons to not give or receive perfume this season (or use scented cat litter)

During this time of year perfume and fragrance sales soar. We have those manipulative Mad Men on Madison Avenue to thank for planting the seeds that giving and receiving perfume is synonymous with the holidays. And then there are those awful and toxic chemically scented plug-ins and “air fresheners.” In more recent years chemically scented candles have been choking the air out of homes worldwide.

Eco-writer Jill Ettinger is allowing us to re-print her article that gives you 99 reasons to stop using fragrance now. It’s a quick read with bulleted points about the dangers of perfume and other fragrances. Cat Faeries has been talking about the many reasons to not use scented kitty litter since our beginning, just over 20 years ago and every chance we get we talk about how bad fragrance is for cats, people and everything else.



Artificial Fragrances are Poison: 99 Reasons to Stop Wearing Perfume

by Jill Ettinger

We have a body odor problem in this country. But it’s not what you probably think. Yes, some of us stink pretty badly (thanks, Standard American Diet), but that’s not the problem. The issue is our relentless pursuit to cover up our body odor with artificial fragrances and perfumes.

Somewhere down the line we decided that detergents and chemicals smell more pleasant than our armpits. We traded in natural botanicals for hazardous materials. We let celebrities sell us perfumes because we think that’s what they must smell like all the time, and if we use their perfume, we’ll smell like a celebrity too.

While we’re now protected in most every public place from cigarette smoke’s hazardous effects, we have no protection against toxic fragrances. If you asked a flight attendant to reseat you because the person seated next to you reeked like Hannah Montana perfume, they’d smile apologetically. Yet fragrances pose serious health risks on par with cigarette smoke.

Think your Axe Body Spray is doing us all a favor? Think again. Here are 99 reasons to stop wearing artificial fragrances and perfumes.

  1. A single perfumed product can contain thousands of fragrances.
  2. And none of them have to come from a natural botanical source.
  3. So can: laundry detergent
  4. Antiperspirant
  5. Deodorant
  6. Shampoo
  7. Conditioner
  8. Lotion
  9. Soap
  10. Candles
  11. Skin care products
  12. Cleaning products
  13. Makeup
  14. And feminine hygiene products
  15. A self-regulated industry, manufacturers do not need to disclose these ingredients (they’re “trade secrets”).
  16. Fragrances contain phthalates.
  17. Phthalates have been linked to reproductive issues
  18. Early puberty in girls
  19. Organ damage
  20. Birth defects
  21. Immune response issues
  22. Endocrine disruption.
  23. Fragrances can cause headaches
  24. Mood swings
  25. Depression
  26. Anxiety
  27. Hyperactivity
  28. Brain fog
  29. Allergies
  30. Sore throat
  31. Watery eyes
  32. Eczema
  33. Rashes
  34. Coughing
  35. Asthma
  36. Erratic blood pressure
  37. Nausea
  38. Vomiting
  39. Abdominal pain
  40. And cancer.
  41. According to Dr. Mercola, synthetic musk, which is widely used in fragrances, can contain several harmful chemicals including:
  42. Xylene
  43. Ketone
  44. HHCB
  45. HHCB-lactone (the oxidation product of HHCB)
  46. AHTN
  47. Tonalide
  48. And galaxolide.
  49. Fragrances contain benzene.
  50. The American Cancer Society considers it a cancer risk.
  51. According to safe cosmetics, “one in every 50 people may suffer immune system damage from fragrance.”
  52. And “once sensitized to an ingredient, a person can remain so for a lifetime, enduring allergic reactions with every subsequent exposure.”
  53. Many fragrance ingredients are considered neurotoxins (damaging to the brain).
  54. Where there’s artificial fragrance, there are also parabens.
  55. Parabens can interfere with hormonal functions.
  56. They’re linked to cancer.
  57. And they may actually make your skin look older, faster.
  58. Dioxane is a common ingredient in detergents.
  59. Tests done on the popular Tide brand of detergent, showed that it contained 55 parts per million of dioxane.
  60. Levels as low as 5 to 10 parts per million have been shown to pose health risks.
  61. Dioxane even appears in some products labeled as “organic” or “natural.”
  62. Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) or sodium laureth sulfate (SLES), short for sodium lauryl ether sulfate, are common in fragranced products.
  63. More than 16,000 studies show that SLS in any form causes eye and skin irritation.
  64. And organ toxicity
  65. And neurotoxicity
  66. And developmental toxicity
  67. And reproductive issues
  68. And endocrine disruption
  69. And mutations
  70. …And cancer.
  71. NPE (nonylphenol ethoxylate) found in fragranced products has been linked to kidney damage.
  72. And liver damage
  73. And growth issues
  74. And metabolic issues
  75. And underdeveloped testicles
  76. And low sperm count.
  77. Fragrance-containing products are often tested on rabbits.
  78. And mice
  79. And rats
  80. And monkeys
  81. And cats.
  82. Our love for fragrances has an impact on the environment as well.
  83. Synthetic musk is accumulating in wild animals in toxic levels.
  84. Water filtration systems can’t remove some of the more toxic fragrance ingredients from our water supply.
  85. Some fragrances come from animals, taken in harmful ways.
  86. Amebergris comes from sperm whales.
  87. African Stone or Hyraceum comes from the hyrax (a very small, cute cousin to the elephant).
  88. Deer musk and civet cats are also exploited for their fragrance.
  89. Castoreum comes from the anal gland of a beaver.
  90. Fragrances don’t actually relieve your body odor problems anyway.
  91. They just mask it.
  92. Temporarily.
  93. Sometimes they just co-mingle with your body odor, making for very strange smells.
  94. Fragranced products cost you more money,
  95. While putting your health at risk.
  96. Fragranced products are often used to attract people, but the toxins can have the opposite effect…
  97. Repelling love interests.
  98. Making them feel sick. Literally.
  99. Even if they truly want to feel otherwise.

 Keep in touch with Jill on Twitter @jillettinger

Resources

http://safecosmetics.org/article.php?id=222

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2010/07/22/the-reckless-selfinterest-of-the-fragrance-industry.aspx

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/01/12/paraben-chemical-linked-to-breast-cancer_n_1202144.html

http://functionaldiagnosticnutrition.com/laundry-detergents-pose-serious-health-risks/

http://davidsuzuki.org/issues/health/science/toxics/fragrance-and-parfum/