Science Newsletter Vol.12: June 2021
In This Issue
Help Educate Others About FIP and Enter to Win a Sleepypod Carrier | Feline Dwarfism (Chondrodysplasia) Gene Found! | PEA15 Gene Deletion Causes Tremors, Head Tilt & Gait Changes in Cats | Tech, Data, Science + Love = Early Detection of Feline Chronic Kidney Disease | Siberian Cats, Owners & Breeders Join Polyneuropathy Investigation | Loving Cats is a Super Power | FDA Approves Three New Drugs for Cats | Pay Attention, Your Cat is Gazing | TICA Science Bits…. | TICA 2021 Annual Awards Banquet and Presentation to be Held January 29, 2022 | TICA Board Passes 11 Motions During Spring 2021 Board Meeting | Congratulations to Trupanion’s March $50 Gift Card Giveaway Winners! | EveryCat Health Foundation June 2021 Webinar | TICA Cats Debuts on YouTube
Help Educate Others About FIP and Enter to Win a Sleepypod Carrier
The American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) needs your help! They are working with Dr. Pedersen and others like Dr. Katrin Hartmann to write FIP Guidelines on Diagnosis through AAFP and EveryCat Health Foundation. The Guidelines are primarily aimed at veterinarians to show the different ways FIP expresses itself. They will include tools to make a correct diagnosis, and hopefully fewer under or over diagnosing the disease.
But we need your help! Photo images of cats with FIP cases of effusive and non-effusive disease are needed for the guidelines. Images will remain anonymous, unless you wish to identify yourself with the image you submit.
Each image submitted will be entered into a drawing to receive a Sleepypod carrier. One winner will be selected at random.
Everyone interested in participating must fill out the photo authorization form and send it with their images to Vicki Thayer at firstname.lastname@example.org. All entries must be received by 11:59 PM ET on July 15, 2021.
CONTEST RULES: 1. Animals and humans in the photos and the photos themselves must be owned/taken by you. If the animals aren’t yours, you must have written and signed permission from the owners. You cannot enter the contest for someone else. 2. Send only previously non-published photos and photos that have not won previous photo contests. 3. You must be 18 or older to enter. 4. Employees and relatives of The International Cat Association (TICA) are not eligible to enter. 5. The photo contest is open to all TICA members. 8. Void where prohibited by law.
Feline Dwarfism (Chondrodysplasia) Gene Found!
By Anthony Hutcherson
In Germany and the U.S. two separate teams analyzed the genomes of different short legged cats and confirmed a dominant structural variant, a deletion of 3303 base pairs, in gene UGDH is responsible for chondrodysplasia or short legged dwarfism in cats. Every Munchkin, Minuet and Genetta (a vanity name for unrecognized spotted short legged Munchkin x Bengal) had one copy of the dominant allele change. Two copies of the gene are proposed to cause early-stage embryonic death prior to birth.
In June 2020, Ann-Kathrin Struck, Marina Braun, Kim Aline Detering, Peter Dziallas, Jasmin Neßler, Michael Fehr, Julia Metzger, and Ottmar Distl at the Institute of Animal Breeding and Genetics, University of Veterinary Medicine in Hannover, Germany published their open access research in the journal BMC Genetics. Read the complete article.
In October 2020, Reuben M. Buckley, Brian W. Davis, Wesley A. Brashear, Fabiana H.G. Farias, Kei Kuroki, Tina Graves, LaDeana W. Hillier, Milinn Kremitzki, Gang Li, Rondo P. Middleton, Patrick Minx, Chad Tomlinson, Leslie A. Lyons, William J. Murphy and Wesley C. Warren from University of Missouri, Texas A & M, Nestle Purina, and Washington University published an article in the journal PLOS Genetics. Read the full article.
Both groups of researchers acknowledge and thank the breeders and owners of these cats for their participation in the research. The recognition of the trait and the identification of the gene associated with it could not be accomplished without the collaboration of breeders and researchers.
Pedigree cat enthusiasts, breeders, cat lovers and their veterinarians are encouraged to read the studies. The article by Ann-Kathrin Struck and her colleagues includes striking computerized tomography images depicting the changes to bone length and motion related to the gene. The Institute of Animal Breeding and Genetics at the University of Veterinary Medicine in Hannover Germany offers testing for the gene. It is very likely that other commercial and research laboratories will add screening for the gene as well.
PEA15 Gene Deletion Causes Tremors,
Head Tilt & Gait Changes in Cats
By Anthony Hutcherson
Emily Graff, DVM PhD of Auburn University is the veterinary pathologist who garnered the combined efforts of colleagues in genetic science and veterinary medicine to identify a heritable change in the PEA15 gene results in kittens with twitching and shaking with a strange high stepping walk that gets better the regresses.
In a December 8, 2020 article in PLOS Genetics “PEA15 loss of function and defective cerebral development in the domestic cat” presents the compelling story of how a change in this gene can affect the life of a domestic cat while application of the science holds therapeutic efforts for children born with the condition.
The strange way a kitten walks, turns its head or seems to shiver shouldn’t be discounted. Watch videos Dr. Graff presented to demonstrate how this particular condition manifests as part of our conversation.
“Breeders and owners who think they have a cat or kitten with a neurologic condition that may be inherited should contact a veterinary geneticist at one of the veterinary colleges with their concerns,” remarked Dr. Graff when asked what the next step should be for someone who suspects an inherited condition.
For more information, read the full article.
Tech, Data, Science + Love = Early Detection of
Feline Chronic Kidney Disease
By Anthony Hutcherson
Combining the expertise and resources of Mars Pet Care, Waltham Center for Animal Nutrition, and Antech Laboratories, with over 750,000 veterinary visits to Banfield Vet Hospitals, generated a new tool for feline medicine – RenalTech. RenalTech has been able to diagnose feline chronic kidney disease (CKD) up to two years before any clinical symptoms using artificial intelligence!
Jennifer Ogeer, DVM and Vice President of Medical Affairs & Commercial Marketing, Antech Diagnostics points out, “… it’s all about the data. RenalTech is the first and only predictive diagnostic tool in veterinary medicine: It predicts CKD in cats up to 2 years before it occurs.” When addressing the source of the data, the owners and pet cats that allow the data tools and test results to come up with a diagnosis Dr. Ogeer points out, “… by combining artificial intelligence and machine learning with 20 years of data from over 150,000 cats to predict whether or not a cat will develop CKD within 2 years.” The conversation between an owner and their veterinarian about using the technology and what, if any, changes to how a beloved cat lives is an important aspect in this author’s opinion.
One in every three cats may develop CKD over the course of its life with an estimated 20 – 50% of all cats over the age of 15 having some degree of the disease, according to International Cat Care (icatcare.com). The use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) sounds far more futuristic than it really is for anyone walking around with what used to be called a super-computer (now a smart phone) in their pocket/purse.
Dr. Ogeer elaborates in a 2019 article, “While it may sound like science fiction, it’s currently underway in both human and animal health by coupling advanced computing power with AI. This technology is an umbrella term that refers broadly to a computer’s ability to conduct deep analysis of data too vast for the human mind, detect patterns and trends, and even learn from these discoveries…”
In a 2015 interview with Pet Talk for Texas A&M University Clinical Assistant Professor at the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences Dr. Johanna Heseltine noted “In the early stages of kidney disease there are often no clinical signs. The earliest clinical signs of kidney disease are non-specific and often include increased thirst and urination, decreased appetite, and decreased energy levels. As the kidneys begin to fail and toxins build up in the blood stream, other signs can develop, such as vomiting and loss of appetite.”
According to Dr. Ogeer, RenalTech doesn’t require more or additional blood and urine than a veterinarian would normally need for the processing of a complete blood count and urinalysis. The benefits of increased information and warning of an oncoming disease provide cat owners with the means to use all the current tools, such as diet and medication, to delay the onset of serious symptoms of CKD until other research provides a breakthrough in or innovation in treatment or care.
Dr. Jonathan Elliott, MA, Vet MB, PhD, Cert SAC, Dip ECVPT, MRCVS, Professor of Veterinary Clinical Pharmacology at Royal Veterinary College in London, commented in the press release for RenalTech, “With appropriate medical management, cats with chronic kidney disease can survive for a significant amount of time with good quality of life. With recent developments in diagnostic tests and ways of utilizing the data we gather from routine geriatric health screens; we now have a very real opportunity to impact both access to preventive care for all cats and improve on the duration of good quality of life of cats facing and living with CKD.”
Read the full interview with Jennifer Ogeer, BSc., DVM, MSc., MBA, MA and Vice President of Medical Affairs & Commercial Marketing, Antech Diagnostics.
Siberian Cats, Owners & Breeders
Join Polyneuropathy Investigation
By Anthony Hutcherson
Appreciation of the adorable fluffy cuteness of Siberian kittens was interrupted by concern for the acute onset of changes to the uncoordinated laborious way the kitten was walking. The kitten’s owner pursued diagnosis and treatment finally reaching the medical staff Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine where it became part of a cohort of Siberian Cats, owners, and breeders helping veterinarian and geneticist Kari Ekenstedt, DVM, PhD, Veterinary Neurologist and Neurosurgeon Melissa Lewis, VMD PhD and their colleagues in identifying ”Juvenile onset motor Polyneuropathy in Siberian Cats” as published in the November 2020 issue of the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine.
“Polyneuropathy is a challenging diagnosis because it can be a little bit variable from cat to cat,” pointed out Dr. Lewis. In explaining how Polyneuropathy presented in these Siberian kittens compared to other neurologic conditions she said, “The short answer is that they all had some degree of weakness…with preserved proprioception, the ability to right their feet when turned down. Most of the kittens had weakness in their pelvic limbs and one had weakness in all four limbs but it was worse in the pelvis limbs.”
“Owners noticed that these kittens who used to jump off the counter and launch themselves from the couch had difficulty jumping. The kittens would only walk short distances before they would seem tired and sit down,” reported Dr. Lewis. She went on to say “Cats don’t walk on the bottom of their feet like we do but up on their fingers and toes normally, and so their ankles would drop down in a plantigrade posture, something that is quite abnormal for a kitten.” Affirmative diagnosis of Polyneuropathy generally requires, “Usually electrodiagnostics, which are functional tests to determine how well those muscles and nerves are working. Those tests are not very specific. Then we take samples of a couple different muscles and a small piece of nerve which is safe for us to do without affecting their function for analysis by our colleague.”
I asked Dr. Miller why she and her colleagues considered the possibility that this was more than a single kitten with polyneuropathy to the idea that this could be occurring within the breed. She remarked, “A fortuitous conversation with another veterinary neurologist in a different state who had recently seen a Siberian kitten with similar symptoms. So, I did some legwork and figured out our patients were quite related.”
Dr. Ekenstedt picks up by adding, “We start by contacting the breeder. The breeder informed us that there were four kittens from the same family with similar symptoms. We started putting together a pedigree and followed up with each owner to see if the normal cat had ever shown any symptoms or produced offspring that did.”
Referring to the pedigree illustration within the article, Dr. Ekenstedt points out “We look for ratios, how many affected versus unaffected kittens in any given litter, inheritance patterns: are there are bunch of affected cats in multiple generations or does it show up from unaffected parents. That is the classic recessive condition. Then we look to see if we can trace the version of the mutated gene to a cat that all the affected cats have in common.”
“We absolutely positively respect confidentiality. We never reveal names, we never reveal registered names, kennel or cattery names. It’s important to note that we take confidentiality very seriously when we are working with breeders. We also know how seriously breeders take their reputations and the reputations of their breeding programs.”
“We are still looking for cats to participate in our ongoing work, perfectly healthy Siberians and Siberians who have been diagnosed with Polyneuropathy to isolate the genes responsible for the condition,” noted Dr. Ekenstedt during a conversation with TICA Science in May 2021. Dr. Ekenstedt continued, “We don’t have a final answer yet or even a specific gene or genes. Thanks to the efforts of breeders and owners, who can participate in total anonymity, we have been able to begin the work of comparing pedigree to inherited genes to the clinical diagnosis of Polyneuropathy.”
Watch Anthony’s interview with Dr. Ekenstedt and Dr. Lewis on their paper “Juvenile onset motor polyneuropathy in Siberian Cats” published in the November 2020 issue of the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine.
Breeders and owners of Siberians are encouraged to contact Dr. Ekenstedt via email at email@example.com for participation in the study. Participants in the study are eligible for the title “TICA Genetic Pioneer” once participation has been confirmed.
Loving Cats is a Super Power
By Anthony Hutcherson
The League of VetaHumanz program now includes TICA and CFA coloring books and visitor guides. TICA and CFA are providing support for a program at Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine to present veterinary science and the love of animals to children from underserved communities through diverse, equitable, and inclusive veterinary role models.
The February meeting of EveryCAT Health Foundation’s Diversity & Inclusion Committee, of which TICA President Vicki Jo Harrison is a member, included special guest Sandra San Miguel, DVM PhD of Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine. Supported by the Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA) program of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health, Dr. San Miguel founded and with colleagues administers the “League of VetaHumanz”, an innovative engagement in veterinary medicine and animal science through the pop culture phenomenon of superheroes. The League VetaHumanz has books, a card game, a podcast, and is always recruiting new allies.
“Count TICA in, we’ll send you as many coloring books as you need,” noted TICA President Vicki Jo Harrison when she learned of the program. Just as Vicki Jo’s sentence was completed nearly the same words were offered by Kathy Calhoun, CFA Treasurer and EveryCAT Diversity & Inclusion committee member. By the end of May 2021, the coloring books had been received by Dr. San Miguel and were ready to offer a boost of feline force to the power packs.
The League of VetaHumanz was founded to provide access and support for underserved youth as they pursue their dreams of becoming veterinary professionals. Our ultimate mission is to improve health literacy and reduce health disparities in people and their animals.
Committed to excellence through a diverse, equitable, and inclusive veterinary profession, VetaHumanz engages with community centers and schools across the globe, delivers STEM resources that provide K-12 students with relatable veterinary role models, communicates the positive impact of veterinary medicine on public and animal health, facilitates career exploration and experiential learning, and so much more.
The League of VetaHumanz at Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine welcomes new heroes, allies, and support.
Learn more about the League of VetaHumanz.
Disclaimer: TICA Science Newsletter Editor, Anthony Hutcherson, is an ally of the League of VetaHumanz.
Pay Attention, Your Cat is Gazing
By Anthony Hutcherson
Cats notice when you are paying attention to them and when you are not. A new study compared the ways a cat interacts with a person who showed them attention and a person who was inattentive when the cat was faced with a problem. The results are a revelation for animal behavior and cognition and serve as validation of the personal experiences of cat owners all over the world.
“They are smart…” noted François Martin, M.A., Ph.D., Applied Behavior and Welfare Research section leader at Purina. Dr. Martin joined Lingna Zhang, Katie B. Needham, Serena Juma, Xuemei Si as authors of the April 2021 Animal Cognition journal published article Feline communication strategies when presented with an unsolvable task: the attentional state of the person matters.
“The idea for our study came from a presentation someone made a few years ago at an animal behavior conference. The speaker was explaining that, compared to dogs, cats, when faced with a problem, were not good at all at turning to their humans and asking for help,” recalled Dr. Martin. My reaction was “Well, not the cats I know! Unfortunately, there is not a lot of research done on cat behavior.” He and his colleagues designed a research study, carried it out, analyzed the data and are sharing it with the world. Read in the article.
Results: The article confirms “gaze alternation is a behavior reliably indicating social referencing in cats and that cats’ social communication with humans is affected by the person’s availability for visual interaction.” When cats in the study were presented with an unsolvable problem, they initiated a visual gaze directed to their caregivers for help but only if the caregiver was fully present and paying attention to the cat.
I asked how a cat owner in a home setting might encounter this “gaze alternation” Dr. Martin responded, “Perhaps, when providing your cat with a new puzzle feeder or treat dispenser toy, see if she looks at you and then back at it when she is trying to figure it out. If she is, your cat is probably trying to tell you that she needs your help. Show her how the puzzle works and then let her try again.”
For those who’ve spent a lot of time with a cat in different situations, particularly with cats that aren’t vocal, this behavior is frequently seen. I’ve personally observed many fine felines at cat shows in an unfamiliar setting visually search a ring for their person to help them address the “problem”. It is a fascinating demonstration of bond between cat and caregiver that is often on display as part of exhibition.
The study was comprehensive, and the analysis was detailed so that it was repeatable and valuable to those who care. The article is thorough in articulation of every aspect of the work. A great deal of time and resources were exerted in the production of this important feline behavioral science.
I had just one last question for Dr. Martin, “Were the study’s finding far out of your realm of expectation?” The wise and experienced cat lover replied, “I was not surprised. In fact…each time we study them, cats surprise us.”
TICA Science Bits...
Ticked Tabby is Caused by Two Genes according to a new article by Leslie Lyons, PhD and colleagues in follow up to Chris Kaelin, PhD work. Read the article.
Donskoy Cats Have a Gene for Inherited Albinism Found in People Too. Read more in the new article that suggests the Donskoy breed as an animal model.
New Rex Gene Causes Wavy Coat in Ural Rex. Read about the new gene scientists identified in the Russian Ural Rex responsible for their special coat.
TICA News Briefs
TICA 2021 Annual Awards Banquet and Presentation
to be Held January 29, 2022
Last month, during TICA’s Spring Board meeting, the Board voted to postpone the 2021 Annual Awards Banquet and Presentation to January 29, 2022. The event will be held in Houston, TX. The non-refundable venue deposit from the January 2021 banquet in Houston will be used and was a motivating factor in deciding the location.
TICA Board Passes 11 Motions During Spring 2021 Board Meeting
The TICA Board meeting was held May 21-23, 2021 via Zoom. The following proposals were discussed from the Agenda.
COO Update Report: Watch this video update by TICA COO Danny Nevarez on the launch of our new innovative software Salesforce that will streamline most Executive Office requests and help us work more efficiently.
Financial Report: Key points: TICA’s revenues are coming in a lot stronger than anticipated. Registrations and memberships are performing well above the budgeted expectations. $400+K above budget. Overtime is high as the staff at the EO is committed to working on the backlog. Motion to move $200K from Cash Management account to TICA’s main investment portfolio. PASSES
Proposed Budget FY 2022: Motion to adopt the budget as presented with two edits ($25K to budget for as how application program & salary schedule adjustment for a vacant position at the EO). PASSES
Regional Rebates: Discussion & options on how to handle the rebates for this past show season. Motion to accept Option 1 as presented to the Board for modified regional rebate – PASSES Members Note: Contact your Regional Director to find out your region’s rebate.
- Amend Reg Rule 33.3.1(Genetics Review of new Experimental Breeds) PASSES & GOES TO MEMBERSHIP IN FALL FOR VOTE with friendly amendment to remove the "...or 33.9.4" at the end of 184.108.40.206
- Add New Reg Rule 33.3.2 and re-number 33.3.2 etc (Duration in Experimental Record) WITHDRAWN FOR WORK BY AUTHOR
- Amend Reg Rules 33.3.2 and 220.127.116.11 (mutation ownership voting) WITHDRAWN FOR WORK BY AUTHOR
- Amend Reg Rule 36.6.1and 37.2.1 (Outcrosses within Cat I) MOTION TO ACCEPT PASSES & GOES TO MEMBERSHIP IN FALL FOR VOTE
- Amend Reg Rules 18.104.22.168, 37.6,37.8.3 (Amend Cat V Definitions) WITHDRAWN BY AUTHOR
- Add new Reg Rule 39.16 (Transfer Documentation) with friendly amendment for the last sentence "The breeder/seller does not have to provide this documentation until payment is made in full" MOTION TO ACCEPT PASSES & GOES TO MEMBERSHIP IN FALL FOR VOTE
- Amend Judging Program Article SIX (Provisional Allbreed Judge) MOTION TO ACCEPT PASSES
- Amend JP 41.1.10 to read "Approving acceptance into and advancements within the Judging Program." MOTION TO ACCEPT PASSES
- Amend Judging Program Article SEVEN (Approved Allbreed) MOTION TO ACCEPT PASSES
- Amending Standing Rules 106.2.1, 106.2.2 and 22.214.171.124 (Judging Committee) WITHDRAWN FOR WORK BY AUTHOR
- Amend Standing Rule 126.96.36.199.10 (Selection of TICA Judging Administrator and Deputy Judging Administrator) MOTION TO ACCEPT PASSES
- Amend Standing Rule 109.1.1 (Annual Rotation) MOTION TO ACCEPT PASSES
Congratulations to Trupanion’s
March $50 Gift Card Giveaway Winners!
You Could Be Next: Still Time to Enter June $100 Gift Card Giveaway
As part of TICA’s partnership with Trupanion, medical insurance for pets, Trupanion gave away three $50 Chewy gift cards to U.S. breeders and two $50 Amazon.ca gift cards to Canadian breeders in April.
Help us congratulate winners from the U.S.: Teresa L. (Clearwater, FL), Bobbie D. (Oxford, NC), and Sonya M. (Clermont, FL) – each winning a $50 USD Chewy gift card; and winners from Canada: Renée W. (Ontario, CA) and Rian D. (Alberta, CA) - each winning a $50 CAD Amazon.ca gift card
Want to see your name on the next winner list? Read about how to enter Trupanion’s June giveaway. If you’re a breeder in the US or Canada, all you have to do is sign up for Trupanion’s free Breeder Support Program.
Each entry automatically receives a gift of 10 cat toys to send home with your next litter and a chance to win a $100 gift card!*
By joining Trupanion’s Breeder Support Program, you’ll gain access to an exclusive offer that gives your buyers the option to enroll in a Trupanion policy with no waiting periods. You’ll also receive materials for your kitten packs, your own dedicated account manager, and the option to join a private breeder support Facebook group – all at no cost to you!
Don’t wait! This offer and giveaway is only valid for breeders who sign up by June 30, 2021.
*$100 USD Chewy gift card for US, $100 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.
EveryCat Health Foundation June 2021 Webinar
Join EveryCat Health Foundation June 23 from 1-2 pm EDT for their webinar "Putting the FIP Puzzle Together" with Vicki Thayer, DVM, DABVP (Feline) and Susan Gogolsji, DVM, PMP, DABVP (Canine/Feline).
Feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) has been an enigmatic, life-threatening disease of cats for several decades. This webinar provides updates on putting together the FIP puzzle involving viral cause, pathogenesis, diagnosis, the complexity of treatment and management strategies for prevention of disease in multi-cat environments.
This webinar is RACE approved! Register here.
A special thank you to Dr. Wendy Novicoff. This webinar was made possible through a generous gift from her, in honor of all of the researchers, pet parents, and pet friends who are fighting FIP.
TICA Cats Debuts on YouTube
It’s official, check out TICA’s official YouTube channel, TICA Cats, and don’t fur-get to subscribe so you don’t miss out on all the fun!