Categories: Veterinarians

Can a vet determine cat breed?

You might think that the answer to the question depends on where you live but although the response will vary the outcome will probably be the same. If you walked into a vet clinic in the UK and asked the vet to find out if your cat was a pedigree cat she’d probably be politely unhelpful. She could not tell from the appearance of the cat because that can never be a 100% guaranteed way of deciding if a cat is purebred or not and vets are not necessarily cat breed experts. She may have a stab at it nonetheless.

Maine Coon at vet. Photo: regansvets.co.uk

She may suggest a DNA test if there are no pedigree documents showing the cat’s lineage (parents and grandparents). And as far as I know in the UK there is no service available to the public which assesses cat breed status on a DNA test (also see below). However, the killer fact is that as far as I am aware DNA testing will not tell you if your cat is purebred and what breed she or he belongs to.

USA

In the USA things are slightly different. UC Davis Veterinary Medicine have a laboratory which offers feline DNA tests that verify parentage and which can help assess inherited diseases.

However, the test which assesses parentage and which is described as a ‘genetic marker report’ WILL NOT DETERMINE A CAT’S BREED. The caps are intentional as UC Davis use them. It seems that they want to emphasis the point as cat owners think the test will tell them if their cat is purebred.

There is a tendency for people to want to believe that their cat is a pedigree cat. The normal answer is that if you don’t know that your cat is a purebred cat with a pedigree then your cat is not a purebred cat. This is because you’ll know through a certificate. However sometimes purebred cats are abandoned at shelters without papers and they are genuine pedigree cats of distinction. There are, therefore, occasions when a person has a purebred cat but can’t prove it or be certain about it.

UC Davis’s feline DNA testing is really for the purpose of assessing health issues inherited by cats. For example they do a Burmese Head Defect test for $40. And a Burmilla Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD) report for $90. Or a general PKD test for $40.

Their ‘Cat Ancestry’ test traces lineage of your cat but it is NOT a cat breed test. In other words they can tell the origins of your cat e.g. whether the origin is from Turkey or the Mediterranean but not a specific cat breed. The problem as I see it is that cat breeders have restarted some cat breeds. So e.g. the Turkish Van and Angora and the Persian have no connection with the original cats in Turkey or Iran (if that is where Persia cats come from). Therefore DNA testing of lineage does not help.

So what is my response to the question in the title? No, is probably the answer. That sounds very negative but subject to someone knowing better, I think it’s the correct one.

Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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