Cats Are So Not Appreciated. Think Again. - The New York Times
Jul 28, 2021 2 mins, 5 secs
Researchers who work on the genomes of domestic and wild cats say their DNA holds clues to human as well as feline health.

That has not been the case with research money and attention to the genetics of disease in cats and dogs, partly because the number of dog breeds offers variety in terms of genetic ailments and perhaps because of a general bias in favor of dogs.

Lyons was visiting Texas, and with two of her colleagues she talked about why the genomes of cats are important to medical knowledge.

I report on animal science, and over the years, I admitted to the members of Team Feline, I seem to have written more about dogs than cats.

The dog-cat rivalry in genomic science is mostly a good-natured rivalry, but just to assess what I was getting myself into I first asked about the scientists’ nonscientific approach to cats and dogs.

William Murphy: I do have cats and dogs as pets, but I prefer cats.

Lyons: Throughout my career, I’ve been trying to get people to recognize that our everyday pets have the same diseases as us and can really provide important information if we can understand what makes them tick a little bit better, how their genomes are constructed.

You have high quality genomes of several species of cats beyond the domestic cat.

Lyons: We already have the lions and tigers, the Asian leopard cat, Geoffroy’s cat, a half-dozen species with really, really good genomes that are even better than the dog genomes at this point in time.

We can maybe even knock it out of the cat to produce cats that are more hypoallergenic or at least understand what elicits the immune response better.

So are there signals or clues in the genome of the cat that allows us to zero in better on why cats get certain types of cancers and understand the differences among dogs, cats and humans.

What about wild species.

Murphy: High quality genomes for wild cats can aid in their species survival plans and their recovery in the wild.

We have a study of transitional cell carcinoma in fishing cats, inherited blindness in black-footed cats, polycystic kidney disease in Pallas’s cats?

I worked on some mummy cats and we showed that the mitochondrial DNA types that we found in the mummified cats are present more commonly in Egyptian cats today than they are anywhere else?

So the cats of the pharaohs are the cats of present day Egyptians.


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