Have you ever wondered what’s “lurking” in your cat’s gut? While the feline intestinal system may not be an exciting or a sexy topic that cat guardians want to brag about, personally I think our cats’ microscopic mysterious inner-world is definitely worth exploring.
In a recent article by veterinarian Dr. Karen Becker, she shared the complexity of the multitude of the inner critters that not only live inside and on our beloved feline companions, but the positive contributions they bring to our kitties’ well-being.
All animals and humans are hosts to a myriad of bacteria in the gut. To uncover the microorganisms and bacteria in a particular environment (otherwise known as a microbiome), upon which all animals and humans depend to remain healthy, and to also learn more about the combined genetic material of the microorganisms in a particular environment; a group of biologists are presently undertaking a study to determine precisely what microbiome resides in cats’ digestive systems.
I was so inspired and fascinated by Dr. Becker’s recent article that I just had to write about it to share some of its information. I was also excited about an opportunity that cat guardians who wish to get involved in the Kittybiome Kickstarter Campaign so they could find out exactly what types of little critters are taking up residence in their feline’s guts.
KICKSTARTER was used by researchers at the University of California Davis to fund this “citizen science” project which has been dubbed “kittybiome. The 229 backers which the researchers enrolled helped them to reach their minimum goal of $23,183 in only 3 days. Since their application for funding to science agencies were denied, the researchers used crowdfunding.
Having had science agencies deny funding for their project wasn’t much of a surprise. Holly Ganz, U.C. Davis research scientist explained that:
“The money for studying companion animals is devoted to pressing things, like cancer.”
This fascinating project is the very first in-depth examination of the feline microbiome. Little is known about the microbiome of pet cats; although it is already widely known that the microbes living in and on all animals and humans play a crucial part in the health of the immune and digestive systems.
The Kittybiome project is the first-ever attempt to access in feline microbiome in detail. This initial study consists of researchers collecting fecal samples from feral, domestic and shelter cats and then will report their conclusions.
The bacteria in the gut of humans differ in varied populations. As a database of cat microbiomes is built by the Kittybiome team, the researchers can then analyze how the different environments and diets affect cats, and also if the microbiome changes as cats age.
The project is targeted to learn more about how diet and the environment affects your cat’s microbiome, how microbiomes vary from cat to cat. Additionally the researchers are interested in learning if these differences play a role in cats’ biology or behavior and also to determine how the microbiome interfaces with felines may affect their health.
Researchers are also interested in using their microbiome data to answer questions such as;
- How do grumpy cats compare to happy cats?
- How do athletic cats compare to couch potato cats?
- Does it matter if you feed your cat a paleo-mouse diet?
- What happens when a cat takes antibiotics?
Because kittybiome is a citizen science project, backers can participate in the study using their own cats. All they need to do is to collect small sample of their kitty’s poop and mail it in. The cost of participating in the study is $99.00. Any cat owner can send in a fresh poop sample from the litter box, along with a short questionnaire about their cat’s diet and health.
After the team uses state-of-the-art DNA sequencing technology to analyze the samples, the owner will receive information online about what they found in their cat’s poop, along with a simple guide to explain what the results mean.
If you are interested in taking part in the study, visit the kittybiome KICKSTARTER website
Watch the fascinating video uploaded to YouTube by Holly Ganz to learn more about the kittybiome project.
I am optimistic about this research and think it will ultimately become a powerful aid in helping veterinarians and kitty guardians learns more about the feline immune system and its effects on digestive problems and chronic medical conditions in cats. What do you think? Tell us in a comment.