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Veterinary Forum March 2008 (Vol 25, No 3)

Domestic cat traveled same ancestral road as humans

    The domestic cat can trace its ancestors to the Middle East, the area known to humans as the cradle of civilization, according to researchers from the University of California, Davis.

    Leslie Lyons, PhD, principal investigator in this study, added: "More than 200 genetic disorders have been identified in modern cats, and many are found in pure breeds. We hope that cat breeders will use this genetic information to develop efficient breed-management plans and avoid introducing genetically linked health problems into their breeds."

    In this study, published in the journal Genomics, UC Davis researchers focused on tracing the movement of the modern cat through the ancient world and to the Americas, measuring changes in genetic diversity as cats dispersed throughout the world.

    The researchers collected cheek cells from more than 11,000 cats and looked at their genetic markers. The cats represented 17 populations of randomly bred cats from Europe, the Mediterranean, Asia, Africa and the Americas, and 22 recognized breeds.

    The researchers found that the cats were genetically clustered in four groups that corresponded with the regions of Europe, the Mediterranean basin, East Africa and Asia.

    Study findings indicated that genetic diversity remained surprisingly broad among cats from various parts of the world. However, the data indicated some loss of diversity associated with the long-term development of cat breeds that provided the genetic basis from which modern pure breeds were developed.

    The researchers noted that cat breeders should proceed cautiously as they develop their breeds, making sure to maintain a broad genetic base that can minimize introduction of genetically based health problems.

    Funding for this study was provided by the National Institutes of Health, Winn Feline Foundation and George and Phyllis Miller Feline Health Fund, as well as the Center for Companion Animal Health and the Koret Center of Veterinary Genetics at UC Davis.

    NEXT: Editor's Note: Cats are cool . . . no really they are


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