The Domestic Cat Genome Has Been Fully Sequenced, and It's Fascinating

The Felis catus genome has been fully sequenced and annotated, which means your pet kitty is about to give up its genetic secrets to science.

There have been rough shotgun sequences of the domestic cat genome before, but a large group of international researchers reported last week that their sequencing and annotation of the genome is absolutely complete.

Write the researchers:

Here we report a preliminary annotation of the whole genome sequence of Cinnamon, a domestic cat living in Columbia (MO, USA), bisulfite sequencing of Boris, a male cat from St. Petersburg (Russia), and light 30× sequencing of Sylvester, a European wildcat progenitor of cat domestication.

Many thanks to Cinnamon, Boris and Sylvester for giving a tiny amount of genetic material to science. May they enjoy cat treats for many years to come.

Now that we have this complete, annotated genome sequence, scientists will be able to analyze cat genetics much more effectively. Cats suffer from many of the same diseases as humans, including versions of leukemia and AIDS, so the cat genome may help us understand the development of these conditions better. Don't worry — that doesn't mean scientists will be experimenting on kitties. It just means that we can compare their genomes to ours to see whether there are similarities that shed light on why we are vulnerable (or not) to the diseases.

Cats also have what biologists call "a highly conserved ancestral mammal genome organization," which means that many stretches of their genome haven't changed much over evolutionary time. Put simply, domestic cats haven't changed much since they first evolved. This could allow us to understand mammal evolution better. It could also answer a question that remains a mystery: why did dog domestication change canines so much, whereas cat domestication didn't change cats much at all?

You can read a preliminary version of the report [PDF].