Science Newsletter Vol.11: March 2021
In This Issue
Help us welcome TICA's new Science Newsletter Editor Anthony Hutcherson | Study Adds New Wildcat to Domestic Cat Story | Cats Found to Help Kids with Autism | Two New Genes Identified in Feline HCM (and People Too!) | Cats, SARS COV2, and COVID-19: What You Need to Know | Five Most Common Cat Medical Insurance Claims | Ocelots Near TICA EO! Spotlight on Cat Lover, TICA Member, and Wild Cat Conservationist Sharon Wilcox | FDA Approves Three New Drugs for Cats | EveryCat Health Foundation (A WINN Feline Foundation Legacy) March 2021 Update | PIJAC Seeks Your Help in Asking the Colorado Senate Agriculture & Nature Resources NOT to Advance HB21-1102 | Austin Becomes First City in Texas to Ban Declawing Cats | California Assemblyman Introduces Bill to End Breeding Statewide | TICA Joins Forces with PetFolio to Offer Members and Clients 50% Off Emergency Notification Service | Don’t Miss Out on Trupanion’s Special Giveaway Offer
Dear TICA Friends!
Emerging information on bacteria, viruses, medications, treatments, and vaccines affecting your cat, your breed, all cats; new genetic variants for color, pattern, coat type, anatomical mutation, disease; insights into feline nutrition, cat-human bonds and feline behavior – that’s what this newsletter is all about.
Hi, I’m Anthony Hutcherson, TICA’s new Science Newsletter Editor. I’m also a member of TICA’s Genetics Committee, BG Breed Committee member (2001-2024, chair 2009-2024), and a TICA member since 1995. I’ve been involved in “cat science” since Bengal breed founder Jean Mill encouraged me to take AP biology in high school to more fully understand breeding. A month later, I met renowned feline geneticist Leslie Lyons, PhD, when she was a postdoctoral fellow at NIH trying to map the feline genome using Asian Leopard Cat x domestic cat crosses. That was almost 30 years ago, and I’ve been involved in “cat science” ever since.
The TICA Science newsletter was born from a 2017 member survey. When asked what members “want to know more about”, health and nutrition ranked first, along with genetics (4th), and reproduction (5th) issues.
TICA President Vicki Jo Harrison has directed the March, June, September, and December Science E-newsletters to present original content, interviews about the application of science to how we practice the art of cat breeding, appreciating cats and loving cats.
Vicki Jo Harrison, Roeann Fulkerson, Christina Duffney-Carey, and Beth Spencer are fully committed to engaging feline enthusiasts in the science that can benefit cats. Lorraine Shelton, TICA’s first Science Newsletter editor, Fate Mays, Vickie Fisher, Kay DeVilbiss, Bobbie Tullo, Solvieg Pfluger, PhD, Heather Lorimer PhD, and Adriana Kajon, PhD are commended for their efforts bringing us all to this point.
Feel free to email me at Newsletter@tica.org with any comments, suggested topics or interviews, or anything you would like to read more about related to the science of cats.
I hope you enjoy the March issue.
Study Adds New Wildcat to Domestic Cat Story
By Anthony Hutcherson
Within China’s Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, called the rooftop of the world because it is the highest plateau on the planet, dwells the Chinese Mountain Cat or Chinese Steppe Cat (Felis sylvestris bieti). This unique wild cat shares its species designation with the North African Wildcat (Felis sylvestris lybica), South African Wildcat (Felis sylvestris cafra), European Wildcat (Felis sylvestris sylvestris), and Indian Desert Cat or Indian Wildcat (Felis sylvestris ornata).
Shu-Jin Luo PhD, an intrepid geneticist, conducted observations, collected cheek swabs, blood samples, and fecal samples for genetic analysis from cats in zoos, in the field, and in the homes of families in the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau area for research. Dr. Luo’s research has provided the world’s first genetic evidence of historical and contemporary breeding, called introgression events, between domestic cats (Felis catus) and Felis s. bieti. The results provide genetic evidence that a substantial percentage of the genomes of some Chinese domestic cats are as much as ten percent Felis s. bieti!
Tiger genomes have been a focus of Dr. Luo's research before her work with the much smaller Chinese Mountain Cat. The journal Nature Communications featured her work in the article "The Tiger genome and comparative analysis with the Snow Leopard and Lion". The Tiger (Pantera tigris) was also the focus of the article she co-authored with Yue-Chen Liu and Xiao Xu in the 2019 Annual Review of Animal Biosciences, "Tigers of the World: Genomics and Conservation". Dr. Luo has also published research in Pangolins, Asiatic Black Bears and domestic cats. Of special interest to some pedigree cat enthusiasts may be the Scientific Reports 2016 article she co-authored, "Whole Genome Sequencing Identifies a Missense Mutation in HES7 Responsible for Short Tails in Asian Domestic Cats". For anyone who has genetically screened their cat with commercial products and found their cat has or does not have a copy of the "Japanese Bobtail" mutation, you can thank Dr. Luo and her colleagues for their work.
Learn more about Dr. Luo’s research. Watch the video below where she discusses the fascinating population dynamics and new genetic insights in a variety of felines being studied by the professor and her students. You can also read an advanced copy of the research Dr. Luo and her collaborators will publish in the journal Science Advances.
Cats Found to Help Kids with Autism
By Anthony Hutcherson and Christina Carey
A new study to be published in the upcoming May 1, 2021 issue of the Journal of Pediatric Nursing suggests that children with autism showed increased empathy and experienced fewer behavior problems after welcoming a pet cat into their home.
The study was the first randomized controlled trial of adoption of a temperament screened cat by families of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Eleven families of children with autism ages 6-14 were studied. Surveys were conducted every six weeks to assess the children’s social skills and anxiety as well as how well the parents and their kids bonded with their new pets.
Not only did the children with autism see improvements in their social skills, but both kids and their parents forged strong bonds with the cats they adopted. Kids were found to display less separation anxiety, externalizing, bullying, and hyperactivity or inattention.
“This study concluded what we've known all along,” said Lorna Friemoth of NuDawnz Cattery “cats enrich everyone's lives and have a profound impact on children, especially those who may communicate and express themselves in non-traditional means. I became an instant mom when my fiancé received emergency custody of his two children. Linus was nine months old at the time and was very delayed for his age. It was amazing to me how quickly he went from being unable to roll over to crawling, and eventually walking to get closer to our cats.”
Two ways kids can get involved with cats – TICA’s Juniors Exhibitor program and Therapy Cats program. “TICA is still the only feline association that acknowledges these special cats and owners,” noted Laurie Patton, Allbreed Judge, and chair of TICA’s Junior Exhibitor program and originator of TICA’s Therapy Cat Title program. Both programs are ways for kids to have fun with their cats while improving their self-esteem, and confidence.
Read more details about the study on the impact cats have on kids with autism and preliminary results.
Two New Genes Identified in Feline HCM (and People Too!)
By Anthony Hutcherson and Heather Lorimer, PhD
Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) is a heart condition that causes overgrowth of the heart muscle along with loss of internal space in the heart to hold blood to pump. This is often a hereditary disease and affects cats as well as people and other animals. The heart and the muscle fibers that make up its structure develop in response to a number of protein encoding genes. Some mutations in some breeds of cats have been known for a number of years and genetic tests have been developed for them, but other cases occur that are not associated with the genes that there are tests for. The one with currently available tests are two different mutations in cardiac myosin binding protein C gene (MYBPC3).
Both of the genetic variants in this section are human-cat orthologues, meaning the variants exist and behave the same in both cats and people. Humans and cats have the highest incidence of HCM of all mammal species. In the Dec. 2019 issue of the journal Bioscience “Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy: An Overview of Genetics and Management” Polakit Teekakirikul, MD PhD of Harvard Medical School and The Chinese University of Hong Kong noted, “Pioneering studies …led to the important discovery of the first mutation in the MYH7(1990). Since their seminal work, over 1500 different disease-causing variants have been reported.” As of March 2021 there are no commercially available tests for either of the below variants in cats.
TNNT Gene (published, Nov. 2020)
A new genetic variant has been identified and published in the November 2020 issue of Frontiers of Physiology. The newly found mutation is in a heart specific muscle regulation protein called cardiac troponin which is encoded by the TNNT gene. This version of HCM seems to inherit recessively. The new variant was identified from a single male Maine Coon cat, his mother and father all of whom have no copies of the known genetic variants responsible for HCM. Through whole genome sequencing and analysis of the cat and his parents this new variant was identified as an autosomal recessive. The affected kitten was produced from a daughter to father breeding, with both parents being heterozygous, having one copy of normal TNNT gene and one copy of the mutation variant TNNT2 gene. The research and identification were done by a human cardiologist as this mutation is one of the more than 1,000 genetic variants responsible for HCM in people. Read the full study.
MYH7 Gene (published, Nov. 2019)
Another gene, MYH7, which encodes the beta-myosin heavy chain, the major mechanical force producing protein in type II myosin, which is found in both cardiac and skeletal muscle, was found in a domestic shorthair cat diagnosed with HCM in 2019. Whole genome sequencing identified the cat had two copies of a genetic variant of the MYH7, identified as a causative variant for HCM in people. Read the full study.
Cats, SARS COV2, and COVID-19: What You Need to Know
An Interview with Center for Excellence in Emerging and
Zoonotic Animal Disease Representatives
By Anthony Hutcherson
Published peer reviewed articles in the journals Science, the New England Journal of Medicine and Proceedings of the National Academy of Science have detailed the ability of domestic and wild cats to be infected with SARS COV2 by people as well as transmit the virus to other cats within hours of contact.
A soon to be published study about experiments conducted at the Center for Excellence in Emerging and Zoonotic Animal Disease (CEEZAD) at Kansas State University and partially funded by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security determined that cats can be re-infected with SARS COV2 but upon re-infection are unable to transmit it to other cats.
Earlier this month I asked CEEZAD Director Dr. Juergen A. Richt and Public Relations Representative Billl Felber what cat enthusiasts, especially those with multiple cats, should know about the infection in felines. Here is what you need to know:
Should cat owners be concerned about their cats coming into contact with people who don't live in their household as a means of transmission of SARS COV2 infection?
Over the past year, CEEZAD scientists have devoted a substantial portion of their research effort to exploring the question of transmissibility of the SARS CoV-2 virus between various species of animals, including felines. Although the evidence is clear that transmission between humans and some feline species, including domestic cats and notably some zoo species, can take place, we have not found any evidence yet that the virus can be transmitted from domestic cats or other companion pets to humans. There is the potential that this can happen, but it has not yet been demonstrated.
Having said that, the research remains incomplete and ongoing. For that reason, a few standard precautions are in order. Specifically, it remains wise for people who have been diagnosed with Covid-19 to isolate themselves, to the extent possible, not only from other humans but also from their pets, and to exercise standard cautions – including wearing masks – when required to be in close proximity with them.
Your research shows cats can be reinfected with SARS COV2 as well as develop an immunity preventing transmission. Is the feline immune response similar to that in people that have been infected?
We don’t know the immune response of natural Covid-19 infection in detail yet or how well it protects against reinfection. However, our data in cats are very similar to what is reported in non-human primate COVID-19 experiments.
The study of cats and SARS COV2 is part of the research at the Center for Excellence in Emerging and Zoonotic Animal Disease (CEEZAD). What should cat enthusiasts know about SARS COV2 in their own catteries and homes?
Let us first keep in mind that the SARS CoV-2 virus is spread largely through person-to-person contact, generally from respiratory droplets produced by such human activities as sneezing and coughing. There is no evidence that cats are a danger/threat to humans.
The most recent estimates put the number of domestic cats in the United States today at close to 100 million, and the feral cat population at 60 to 100 million. Given that substantial population - with the inevitable exposure to human Covid-19 cases - the fact that we are not concurrently in the midst of an epidemic of feline SARS cases should be considered reassuring to those owning cats or operating professional catteries.
Read more about SARS-CoV-2 susceptibility, transmission, and reinfection in cats in the pre-print of the CEEZAD’s research.
Five Most Common Cat Medical Insurance Claims
By Christina Carey
Trupanion, provides medical insurance for more than 500,000 cats and dogs and has paid over $1 billion in claims since 2000. To understand the trends behind the most common medical claims for cats, including how much they cost to treat, Trupanion let us dig into their claims data. Here’s what we learned.
To start, we examined three different data points*:
- Commonly claimed conditions: The most common signs, symptoms, and conditions that resulted in a claim.
- Annual cost: How much a pet owner was likely to pay over the course of a calendar year for that sign, symptom, or condition before they meet their deductible. It includes veterinary care itself, as well as associated costs like prescription refills. Because costs vary by factors like location, we’re sharing a range from the 40th – 60th percentile.
- Claim frequency: How likely a cat is to have a claim for a condition. To get claim frequency, we compared the number of cats who had a claim for that condition to the total number of cats with a claim.
Top 5 Most Common Trupanion Policy Claims for Cats
1 - Vomiting and diarrhea
Annual cost: $300 to $500
4 - Mass
2 - Urinary tract infectious disease
5 - Weight decreased
3 - Kidney disease
“Interestingly, the top drivers of high costs don’t usually correlate with the most frequently claimed conditions,” said Trupanion Senior Director of Breeder Support, Chloe Gill. “For example, we see a lot of UTI claims for cats, but they have a low treatment cost, so they aren’t a high driver of veterinary cost. That’s why it’s so important to look at both annual cost and claim frequency to understand the bigger picture of the most common claims.”
Breeders want their kittens to go to responsible owners, but unexpected medical costs can overwhelm pet owners and even cause them to return their kitten. Help kittens get a happy and healthy start in their new homes—at no cost to you. Send your litters home with a special Go Home Day Offer. The offer allows buyers to try out Trupanion with no waiting periods, so the coverage goes into effect immediately. It’s good for you, your litters, and your buyers—we call that a win-win-win.
Learn more about the Trupanion Breeder Support Program.
*Commonly claimed conditions is based on data we received from 2013 to 2020. Annual cost and claim frequency is based on data from 2019 to 2020.
Terms and conditions do apply. We love informed decisions. See our policy for full coverage details.
Trupanion is a registered trademark owned by Trupanion, Inc. Underwritten in Canada by Omega General Insurance Company and in the United States by American Pet Insurance Company, 6100-4th Ave S, Seattle, WA 98108. Please visit AmericanPetInsurance.com to review all available pet health insurance.
Ocelots Near TICA EO!
Spotlight on Cat Lover, TICA Member,
and Wild Cat Conservationist Sharon Wilcox
By Anthony Hutcherson
The only US population of Ocelots (Leopardus pardalis), arguably the most beautiful cat in the world, inhabit an area minutes from TICA’s Executive Office in Harlingen, TX.
“TICA members can help make sure those Ocelots continue to survive,” says Sharon Wilcox, PhD of Defenders of Wildlife. “The Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge is less than 30 miles from TICA's headquarters.” Dr. Wilcox is an expert in the historical and cultural interactions of people and animals and is also a member of TICA and the Austin Cat Fanciers and is the proud owner of two TICA Supreme Grand Master Household Pets. Dr. Wilcox’s passion for cats has played a role in her professional pursuits as well as the fun of showing cats as an exhibitor.
“The Ocelot has an amazing coat of soft fur with large horizontally smeared rosettes. These cats are so beautiful, but they are not pets. Throughout the world there are unique smaller cat species that need people to protect them and the wild places where they’ve evolved to live,” continues Sharon.
Sharon has organized conservation outreach at TICA shows and, in pre-pandemic times, often delivered public presentations about wildlife conservation throughout Texas. Sharon provides an excellent example, especially for junior exhibitors, to the multitude of career paths an interest in cats can lead.
Watch my conversation with Dr. Wilcox about her work on behalf of the Ocelot, her career, and contributions to cat shows.
FDA Approves Three New Drugs for Cats
On February 1, 2021 the United States Food & Drug Administration announced the approval of three new medications specifically for use in cats. Two of the new medications treat weight loss and reduced appetite in cats while the third treats high blood pressure in cats.
This announcement is special because it is fairly rare for medications to be approved specifically for cats, as many medications veterinarians prescribe for cats are done in an "off label" fashion.
Read more about the three drugs recently approved by the FDA to see if any impact your cats.
EveryCat Health Foundation (A WINN Feline Foundation Legacy) March 2021 Update
Published research final report – EveryCat Health Foundation grant W14-035: E.coli, a gastrointestinal infection – looking at a cause of death in kittens and determining whether probiotics offer a protective effect. Read about the grant proposal information and a summary, including the press release and published article.
Upcoming Grant Review – The EveryCat Health Foundation Grant Review Committee, including the veterinary and scientific advisors, began reviewing 67 grant proposals on March 12th, 2021. Announcement of the proposals selected for funding is expected to be made in May.
Congratulations to President-Elect Vickie Fisher – Help us congratulate EveryCat Health Foundation Board member Vickie Fisher, on her election to EveryCat’s President-Elect. Vickie is expected to take over as President at the June 2021 Quarterly Board meeting.
TICA News Briefs
PIJAC Seeks Your Help in Asking the Colorado Senate
Agriculture & Nature Resources NOT to Advance HB21-1102
The Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC) issued an advisory for pet owners to contact Colorado Senate Agriculture & Natural Resources committee members immediately to ask them to OPPOSE HB21-1102, which would ban any future pet stores from selling dogs or cats and "grandfathers" existing pet stores' ability to sell dogs or cats.
- Send emails to the committee NOW supporting Colorado’s responsible pet stores.
- Contact EVERYONE you know in Colorado or in the pet trade and urge them to send emails to these legislators. The more that lawmakers realize how many people oppose this bill, and why, the better chance we have to make sure it is stopped in its tracks.
Read more details about this issue and find out how you can participate.
Austin Becomes First City in Texas to Ban Declawing Cats
After two years of meetings with veterinarians, the public, and officials from New York State (the first state to ban declawing cats), Austin City Council officials unanimously passed the ordinance to ban the declawing of cats for non-therapeutic reasons. Read more about what went into the decision for Austin to ban declawing cats.
California Assemblyman Introduces Bill
to End Breeding Statewide
Last week, California Assembly member Miguel Santiago introduced a bill intended to regulate all who breed a cat or dog in the state.
Assembly Bill 702 can be scheduled for a committee hearing beginning March 19. No hearing is currently scheduled; however, this is an opportunity for all who breed cats in the state to reach out to their Member of the Assembly to express concerns and educate them on the negative impact this could have on knowledgeable breeders in the state.
This bill would prohibit a person from establishing or maintaining a dog or cat kennel for breeding purposes, as specified, without a breeder permit, as defined. The bill would require an application for a breeder permit to contain specified information requested by the local jurisdiction and would require a local jurisdiction to issue a breeder permit if the owner provides specified proof that various conditions are met, as specified, thereby imposing a state-mandated local program. The bill would authorize the local jurisdiction to assess fees pursuant to these provisions but would prohibit those fees from exceeding the reasonable costs of administering the provisions. Read more details about this proposed bill.
TICA Joins Forces with PetFolio
to Offer Members and Clients 50% Off
Emergency Notification Service
TICA announced a new partnership with PetFolio that allows members and clients 50% off the first-ever emergency notification service that allows cat owners the piece-of-mind that their felines will be taken care of in their absence.
PetFolio is a secure online information portal that allows pet owners to enter the details of their pets’ daily living routines and assign alternate caregivers so that they can be properly cared for when they need to be away from home or in the event of an emergency.
When PetFolio is activated, either by the owner or an emergency response personnel, up to three caregivers will be notified by email and text message that they need to check in on your pets to coordinate care. Caregivers are provided access to everything they need to know to properly care for your cat, including likes, dislikes, routines, medical needs, and preferences to ensure they maintain as much of a normal lifestyle in the absence of their owner.
The regular annual fee is $39/year, but PetFolio is offering TICA members and clients the annual service for $19.50/year. To redeem the discount, TICA members and clients can sign up on the PetFolio website and enter the special promotion code “TICA50” at check out. A one-time $10 fee applies to monthly subscriptions only and is waived for all annual subscriptions.
Member and Client Discount - 50% in perpetuity
Promo Code: TICA50
Special TICA Price: $19.50/year, Regular Price $39/year
Visit TICA’s PetFolio page for more details.
Don’t Miss Out on Trupanion’s Special Giveaway Offer
Remember - through our partnership with Trupanion, medical insurance for pets, you can receive a gift of 10 cat toys to send home with your next litter and a chance to win a $50 gift card!*
If you’re a breeder in the U.S., Canada, or Puerto Rico, all you have to do is sign up for Trupanion’s free Breeder Support Program, which provides you with an exclusive Trupanion offer for your litters.
Click here to sign up for the program and giveaway.
Hurry! This offer and giveaway are only valid for breeders who sign up during the month of March.
*$50 USD Chewy gift card for US, $50 CAD Amazon.ca gift card for CAN
Trupanion is a registered trademark owned by Trupanion, Inc. Underwritten in Canada by Omega General Insurance Company and in the United States by American Pet Insurance Company, 6100-4th Ave S, Seattle, WA 98108. Please visit AmericanPetInsurance.com to review all available pet health insurance products.