Pet Testing Reviews for Basepaws

£75.52 Converted from $95.00

At a Glance

Editor's Rating:
4.5 out of 5 stars
Customer Service:
5 out of 5 stars
Clarity of Results:
4 out of 5 stars
References Cited:
2 out of 5 stars
Value for Money:
4.5 out of 5 stars

Summary

The Basepaws cat DNA test gave me some interesting information about my moggy. Though it was unlikely she had any purebred heritage, it was interesting to see which breeds she most resembled. The Wildcat Index was a fun addition, and I wasn’t too surprised that my bird-hunting kitty was more genetically similar to snow leopards and tigers than most cats!

As an early adopter, I’d receive further updates about my cat as they became available. I was glad that my cat’s DNA had contributed to their database and studies, meaning that it would not only improve the accuracy and features of Basepaws’ reports, but would help contribute to research that would benefit both felines and humans alike!

Full Review

Basepaws was founded in July 2016 by the company’s CEO, Anna Skaya, a UCLA graduate, entrepreneur and feline enthusiast. The California-based company has developed the first consumer genetic test for cats, and plans to continue expanding their database to grow their knowledge of feline genetics, and the impact of DNA on health and behaviour. Their aim is to eventually use this biodata to assist disease and drug research for both animals and humans.

Product Expectations

The Basepaws website was bright, light and informative. I read that the feline DNA test would tell me about my cat’s ancestry, as well as her health and habits. The homepage included videos showing how to collect my cat’s DNA, and there was a list of the steps involved in using and returning the DNA test kit.

I saw that a single purchase would allow me to receive further updates as the database expanded. I understood that since feline genetics is a relatively unexplored area, and the Basepaws CatKit is the first commercial genetic test for cats, it has taken time for the company to build up their still-growing database.

I read that the Alpha Report had been released in March 2018, and included a Mixed Breed Index and Wildcat Index. I had a look through the blogs on the Alpha Report and “Finding Your Cat’s True Breed”, where I discovered that unlike purebred dogs, pedigree cats do not have a long purebred ancestry, since most cat breeds are less than one hundred years old. This meant that even if I owned a pedigree cat, they may share DNA with other breeds too.

The Wildcat Index interested me, and I was keen to know how much DNA my bird-hunting moggy had in common with wildcats, as well as the breeds she might share ancestry with. My cat’s siblings were a bit of a motley crew, and so their ancestry could have been anyone’s guess!

When I visited the CatKit product page, I found that certain Ancestry and Health features would be available in mid-2018. These included maternal/paternal tracing, breed determination, and inbreeding for Ancestry, while the Health information would include genetic health risks, genetic diseases, and carrier status.

Some Traits features and Wellness features would follow later, in 2019. These would include personality prediction, catnip-addiction and physical traits, and diet recommendations and wellness assessments.

Other features still to come were the abilities to match my cat with genetically similar cats, send a report to a vet, and access my cat’s raw DNA sequence.

On the “How it Works” page, I learned that they would extract DNA from my cat’s fur (or cells collected on a cheek swab for hairless cats). They would then compare my cat’s DNA against the cats in their database.

I learned that the CatKit test sequences a selection of 27 million nucleotides (the basic units that make up DNA) from each cat’s DNA, including the parts they still know nothing about. This meant there would be no need to have my cat retested as new genes and traits are discovered, since her DNA would already be on record, and I could learn more about her as their knowledge expanded.

In the FAQs section, I learned that it would take two to six months to receive a report after they had received my cat’s sample, though they hoped in time to shorten this to four weeks (a similar waiting time to human ancestry tests). I also read that the DNA collection wouldn’t hurt my cat (though I suspected it would a bit) and that the kit would include a return envelope (prepaid for orders within the US).

Ordering Experience

To purchase the CatKit, I could pay with Visa, Mastercard, American Express or PayPal. Shipping was free within the US, or $15 for international orders. International customers would need to cover the cost of returning the kit. I could also select whether my cat was hairless (in which case, I would be sent a cheek swab).

I had a look through the Privacy Policy, and found that the company did not use vulnerability or malware scanning, or comply with PCI standards. There was information about the cookies they used, and I learned that my personally identifiable information would not be sold or shared with third parties (other than the affiliates that assist with their services). Other information may be shared for marketing purposes. The website used Google AdSense for advertising purposes.

After placing my order, I was sent an email telling me most CatKits would be delivered between two to three weeks, and that I must create an account and activate my CatKit online before my cat’s results could be processed.

My CatKit arrived in good time, in a slim but sturdy package, and resembled the kit pictured on the website. There were two strips of tape that I would use to collect my cat’s fur. These had tabs on them with the activation code for my kit, which I remembered to enter before sealing the envelope!

My kitty is pretty docile, but I had someone else hold her while I collected the fur samples. I had to place the adhesive tape on her back, and then carefully peel it back, which she wasn’t too happy about. Once I’d taken the samples, I created my online account and registered my kit using the code on the tape. I could create a little profile for my cat, including her name, age and gender. I could also upload a photo. I then sealed the fur samples in the return envelope, and posted them back.

After waiting a couple of weeks, I logged into my Basepaws account, where I found that my sample had been received and was awaiting processing.

The Results

About four months after the lab received my cat’s sample, I received an email saying my results were ready. (This was timely enough – the website said it could be up to six!) There was a link to my online account, where I could view my cat’s results for “Breed” and “Wildcat Index” (shown below).

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My cat’s results dashboard.

My cat’s results dashboard.

According to the email, more updates would be coming later in the year with more breeds added to their index. “Health” and “Features” results would be available in 2019.

Results Section: Breed Index

The Breed Index began with my cat’s top three genetic matches. My cat’s first result was Egyptian Mau (shown below).

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My cat’s first DNA match: the Egyptian Mau.

My cat’s first DNA match: the Egyptian Mau.

I could see why this cat breed had been put in my cat’s top three. My cat’s coat is halfway between tabby and tortoiseshell, and her tail especially shares a similar pattern to the cat pictured above. Though my cat has a warmer colouring than the Egyptian Mau, she also shared the cat’s lean, lithe build.

As you can see in the diagram, my cat’s relatedness or similarity to the Egyptian Mau was shown on a scale of “Less Likely” to “More Likely”, with “Domestic” falling in the middle. For this breed, my cat scored a little to the right of “Domestic”, and so although she was a little more similar to the Mau than most domestic cats, it was unlikely that she had any close relation to this breed, despite the similarities.

For each breed, I could read more information about their origins, related breeds, genetic predispositions, and personality.

The next breed was Abyssinian (shown below).

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My cat’s second DNA match: Abyssinian.

My cat’s second DNA match: Abyssinian.

For this second result, the blue bar was much wider than the first had been, which made it hard to tell at a glance whether my cat was more or less similar to this breed. I followed a link to learn more about the science, where I found that the width of the marker bar reflected the “range” of the index for each breed. I took this to mean that the wider the bar was, the more information they had on each breed. Since the marker for Abyssinian was slightly to the right, I gathered my cat was a little more related to (or more similar to) this breed than most other cats.

Unlike the Egyptian Mau, I didn’t immediately see much similarity between my cat and the Abyssinian pictured above. In the information, I read that their coats came in a few different varieties, and so I decided to google the breed to see if I could find any more similar-looking Abyssinians.

This wasn’t actually a bad idea, since I found that many Abyssinians shared my cat’s lion-like yellow-green eyes, and sombre glare (my cat’s a sweetie really, but she does often look like she’s contemplating murder!). The warm undertones of their coats were not unlike the warmer tones of my own cat’s coat, and I was beginning to get an idea of how this test worked.

After all, there are millions of cats in the world, and my moggy probably has hardly any relation to most purebred cats. But the genetic variants giving the Egyptian Mau her tortoiseshell coat or the Abyssinian her glaring, lamp-like eyes are likely the same genetic variants that have given these features to my cat. Even if my cat has almost no relation to these breeds, she is still genetically similar to them.

The third breed was the American Shorthair (shown below).

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My cat’s third DNA match: the American Shorthair.

My cat’s third DNA match: the American Shorthair.

The similarities between my cat and the American Shorthair were obvious immediately. My cat’s not-quite-tabby, not-quite-tortoiseshell coat bore a lot of resemblance to this breed, though most American Shorthairs tend to have round faces, and my cat has a sharper, more triangular face. In this instance, her relatedness/similarity to this breed was only slight.

There was a total of twenty-seven breeds in the index, though only ten had enough similarity to my cat to make it into her results. For most of these breeds there was very little genetic similarity, except for a couple of tabbyish breeds: the Tennessee Rex and LaPerm, which looked a lot like my cat except with shaggier “permed”-looking hair.

Results Section: Wildcat Index

In the information for the Wildcat Index, I read that my cat’s DNA had been compared to that of several wildcats. All housecats (except for some hybrid breeds) are descended from Near-Eastern wildcats, and so the Wildcat Index looks only for similarities between my cat and the different wildcat species. I took this to mean that although domestic cats and wildcats share common ancestors, my cat isn’t descended from a tiger or a lynx. It’s not like a breed or ethnicity test – I guess the best human comparison would be if I took a DNA test to see if I’m more genetically similar to a chimpanzee or an orangutan!

The results had been given as percentages. Less than 50% meant that my cat was less similar to the selected wildcat than most other cats, while more than 50% meant she was more similar.

My cat’s first wildcat result was snow leopard (shown below).

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My cat’s first wildcat result: Snow Leopard.

My cat’s first wildcat result: Snow Leopard.

To my surprise, I saw that my cat was more related to snow leopards than a whopping 100% of cats! I assumed this number had been rounded up, as it seemed unlikely – though maybe not impossible – that my cat was the first one in the database to have a significant enough similarity to a snow leopard to get this result!

Her next result was tiger, and I found my cat was more genetically similar to this big cat than 99% of other cats. I mean, we had called her Tigger, so the resemblance was hardly surprising!

Her third result was Eurasian lynx, which had similar dark-tipped ears and predominantly dark tail. Her other wildcat results included the clouded leopard, the scimitar-toothed cat (a now extinct sabre-toothed cat), ocelot, rusty-spotted cat, and the fishing cat.

These last two were small cats that looked very similar to domestic cats, but clicking on “Learn More” I read that the rusty-spotted cat is native to India and Sri-Lanka, and is considered a “near threatened” species. The fishing cat is native to South and Southeast Asia, and though it kind of resembled a sad-looking Maine Coon, I read that it has webbed feet and excellent swimming skills.

Summary

The Basepaws cat DNA test gave me some interesting information about my moggy. Though it was unlikely she had any purebred heritage, it was interesting to see which breeds she most resembled. The Wildcat Index was a fun addition, and I wasn’t too surprised that my bird-hunting kitty was more genetically similar to snow leopards and tigers than most cats!

As an early adopter, I’d receive further updates about my cat as they became available. I was glad that my cat’s DNA had contributed to their database and studies, meaning that it would not only improve the accuracy and features of Basepaws’ reports, but would help contribute to research that would benefit both felines and humans alike!

Please note we were invited to take this test free of charge.

See a description of this DNA test from Basepaws >