Although genetic diseases in cats are relatively rare, understanding the feline genome can improve health for domestic and wild cats. Researchers at the University of Missouri Lyons Feline Genetics Laboratory have sequenced the genome (entire genetic code) of over 50 cats as part of the 99 Lives Cat Genome Sequencing Initiative. The aim of the project is to sequence the genome of 99 cats, and both wild and domestic cats may participate. Cat parents and caretakers may have their animals sequenced for a fee through the project.
The study of the genome can help us understand common diseases such as obesity and diabetes mellitus as well as rare genetic disorders. Genomics is increasingly used to improve the health of humans and dogs, but feline medicine has lagged behind. The Lyons Laboratory seeks to even the score for cats. Through the 99 lives project, they have identified rare genetic diseases in an African black-footed cat and a domestic silver tabby. The project may have a very practical and important application in the preservation of wild cat species, where dwindling populations can lead to severe inbreeding.