Science Newsletter Vol.15: March 2022
In This Issue
From the Editor's Desk: A note from TICA Science Newsletter Editor Anthony Hutcherson | PK Def, Not Uncommon, Not Uncomplicated | Persians + Wild Cat Genes = Severe Chronic Ringworm | Significant Differences in Metabolic Profiles by Breed | 10% of Domestic Shorthairs Have Hip Dysplasia | First Monoclonal Antibody Drug Approved & It’s for Cats | Owner’s Opinion of Bengal Cat Behavior - Good, Bad or ? | TICA Celebrates Women’s History Month by Highlighting Eight Females Who Shaped the Science of Cats | TICA and Trupanion March 18 Deadline Giveaway Reminder | EveryCat Health Foundation March 2022 Update
From the Editor's Desk: A note from TICA Science Newsletter Editor Anthony Hutcherson
Hello TICA Friends,
Thank you for taking the time to delve into some interesting cat science this month. I hope you enjoy the stories, follow some of the links, and generally have a moment to appreciate the unique contribution that felines and cat lovers are making to the world. March celebrates Women’s History Month, allowing us to highlight a few of the women involved in the science of cats, or other aspects of science but have identified themselves as “cat people”.
Throughout the past year I’ve sought a diverse array of cat science stories including a criterion that the science represents a diversity of gender, nationality, ethnicity, academic disciplines, and perspectives as possible. Fortunately, “cat science” enjoys the benefit of a dynamic assortment of researchers, investigators, and students, many are also women. Thank you, women, in science, especially the feline kind.
Also, a big thank you goes to TICA President Vicki Jo Harrison, Business Manager Frances Cardona, Marketing Director Roeann Fulkerson, Communications Manager Christina Duffney-Carey, Social Media Manager Beth Spenser, and all the outstanding women who contribute to the function of TICA. These women are creating and stimulating even more progress for cats and cat science.
PK Def, Not Uncommon, Not Uncomplicated
More than 20,000 cats on four continents have been screened in the decade since commercial and academic testing for erythrocyte pyruvate kinase deficiency, or PK-Def, became available.
The autosomal recessive variant (i.e., simple recessive not related to being male or female cats) is geographically widespread, being identified in cats throughout the world and in various breeds. Pedigree cat enthusiasts actively use the PK-Def status of cats to determine which felines to breed, cats to keep, and which ones should be removed from the breeding population. Forty-nine percent of respondents to a recent survey of TICA members say they have bred or owned a cat with 1 or 2 copies of the PK-Def variant.
PK-Def is the most common inherited disease variant in pedigree cats with DNA testing companies reporting between 7 - 24% of all cats having one or two copies of the variant, but the diagnosis of clinical disease is extraordinarily rare. Is that because veterinarians are unfamiliar with the symptoms and diagnostics or could other factors, yet to be uncovered, play an important role?
“It was challenging, but ultimately rewarding to identify and follow a group of cats to understand how PK-Def affected them in the long term,” noted Barbara Kohn DVM, PhD on the remarkable study she authored following 25 Abyssinians with PK-Def for as long as 11 years. Medical Director and clinician at the Small Animal Clinic at the Free University College of Veterinary Medicine in Berlin, Germany, Dr. Kohn reiterated, “PK deficiency shows variation in age of onset and severity of signs. As PK-deficient cats can be asymptomatic, testing for PK deficiency before breeding is strongly recommended.”
If a cat has two copies of the variant it is considered affected and at risk for developing clinical disease symptom, while a cat with a single copy of the variant is a carrier, never likely to develop the clinical symptoms of intermittent anemia and lethargy. However, it gets more complicated because there are very few published and/or verifiable examples of clinical symptoms and illness in cats with two copies that are not Abyssinian or Somali cats.
“With the help of breeders and owners of the cats with two copies, we could delve deeper into understanding what is causing some to become ill and others to live without symptoms. A long-term observational study of these cats, that’s just annual bloodwork and veterinary exam over the course of several years, could be invaluable,” noted Leslie Lyons, PhD noted geneticist and proud cat owner from the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine in a recent interview. “Without the help and collaboration of breeders, owners and veterinarians are trying to find answers in the dark,” she added.
Initially the disease was identified in Abyssinian and Somali cats by Urs Giger, DVM PhD of the University of Pennsylvania in a lethargic and anemic patient in 1991. The inherited disease would be identified in other breeds of cats (including Maine Coon, Bengal, Singapura) and dogs (including Basenji, Beagle, West Highland Terriers and others).
EDITOR’S NOTE: Urs Giger DVM PhD is gratefully thanked for his thorough and extensive responses to a written interview. Dr. Giger even provided a full chapter he authored to an upcoming textbook that includes details on better characterization, understanding and treatment of PK-Def. Barbara Kohn DVM PhD and Leslie Lyons, PhD are also thanked for their terrific answers and analysis in our interview via zoom conducted Feb. 24, 2022. A more detailed article is forthcoming as this article is limited for space and timing.
Persians + Wild Cat Genes = Severe Chronic Ringworm
Persian Cats have an array of genetic variations inherited together, called a haplotype, on chromosome F1 shared with Sand Cats Felis margarita and Asian Wild Cats Felis silvestris ornata that are present in cats with severe chronic dermatophytosis or ringworm according to a new study published in the journal PLOS Genetics. When this haplotype is present in a Persian or any cat with Persian breed ancestry or admixture, it is more prone to chronic and severe ringworm infection.
Alexandra Myers, DVM is a veterinary pathologist at Texas A&M and one of the authors of the study. Dr. Myers pointed out, “The natural exchange of DNA between species has been an important driver of felid evolution, and signatures of this exchange can be found in the DNA of modern domestic cats. In our study, we showed that some Persian cats (and some other breeds less commonly) carry an ancient haplotype that was likely introduced into the ancestors of domestic cats via hybridization with a wild felid.”
This set of genes or haplotype can cause severe and chronic ringworm in Persians but exists in Sand Cats and Asian Wild Cats without any well documented cases of severe ringworm infection in those species. Dr. Myers offers, “The fact that this haplotype appears to have arisen early in the evolution of Felidae, but is still conserved in modern domestic cats, suggests it is useful for something (just not for fighting off ringworm!). Ideally, we should investigate whether this haplotype provides improved immunity to other feline pathogens first – for example feline herpesvirus, toxoplasma, and maybe even feline coronavirus.”
Read Dr. Myers full study.
Significant Differences in Metabolic Profiles by Breed
Maine Coons, Birmans and Burmese made up the 96-cat sample set in the most comprehensive study to demonstrate differences in several metabolic processes affecting the health of cats.
Blood samples were taken from each of the cats. Serum samples were analyzed for ALAT, creatinine, and fructosamine concentrations, measurements of triglyceride and cholesterol concentrations were performed, and free fatty acids were measured.
Biomarkers for Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus (T2DM) called branch chain amino acids or BCAAs were more common in Burmese cats than Maine Coons.
Burmese and Birman cats had significantly higher levels of acetylcarnitine than Maine Coons. Higher levels of acetylcarnitine are associated with an increased severity of diabetes mellitus in people.
Maine Coons had higher levels of the amino acids arginine, and methionine.
Read the full study, Differences in Metabolic Profiles between the Burmese, the Maine Coon and the Birman cat—Three Breeds with Varying Risk for Diabetes Mellitus.
10% of Domestic Shorthairs Have Hip Dysplasia
A recent survey of 20 random bred domestic shorthair cats in Accra, Ghana diagnosed hip dysplasia in two of the cats, 10% of the sample set. The diagnosis of hip dysplasia was made utilizing the Norberg Angle (NA) and Distraction Index (DI) utilized by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) and British Veterinary Association.
This study is among the first to exclusively include cats bred with no specific selection by people for breed-based phenotypes and of an entirely West African recent ancestry. The recent ancestry of the sample set was likely selected solely on their desirability as pets and ability to survive.
Previous published data reported a prevalence of hip dysplasia of 5.8% in the (random bred) domestic, 7.1% in Siamese, 15.8% in Persians, and 25.0% in Himalayans (Keller et al., 1999). Randall Loder, MD and Rory Todhunter, PhD reported as high as 24.9% prevalence of hip dysplasia in Maine Coons in 2017.
Read the full study was published in the Journal of Veterinary Medicine and Health.
First Monoclonal Antibody Drug Approved & It’s for Cats
On January 13, 2022, the United Stated Food & Drug Administration approved the first monoclonal antibody drug for use ever. The drug, Solensia with its active ingredient Frunevetmab, has been approved for use to treat pain in cats with osteoarthritis as a single monthly injection.
Frunevetmab, the active ingredient in Solensia, is a cat-specific monoclonal antibody (a type of protein) created to distinguish and attach to a protein called nerve growth factor (NGF) involved in the regulation of pain. When frunevetmab binds to NGF, it inhibits the pain signal from reaching the brain.
“Treatment options for cats with osteoarthritis are very limited,” said Steven M. Solomon, M.P.H., D.V.M., director of the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine. “Advancements in modern veterinary medicine have been instrumental in extending the lives of many animals, including cats. But with longer lives come chronic diseases, such as osteoarthritis. Today’s approval marks the first treatment option to help provide relief to cats that are suffering from this condition and may significantly improve their quality of life. We also hope that today’s approval of the first monoclonal antibody by the FDA for any animal species will expand research and development of other monoclonal antibody products to treat animal diseases.”
The FDA granted approval of Solensia to Zoetis Inc. Cat owners are encouraged to speak to their veterinarian about the use, side effects, and benefits of Solensia as treatment for pain in cats. Owners who assessed their cats’ behaviors during two clinical trials of the drug reported improved ability of their cat’s abilities to groom themselves, jump onto furniture and use the litterbox – all behaviors that can be very difficult for cats feeling pain associated with osteoarthritis.
Read details from one of the studies from the Frontiers in Veterinary Medicine journal.
Read the FDA press announcement.
Owner’s Opinion of Bengal Cat Behavior - Good, Bad or ?
Bengal cats are too vocal and it’s the most problematic behavior in the breed, according to results of an extensive survey of 256 owners of pet Bengal cats in Belgium that was published in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior.
The survey asked owners to identify their cat’s activities, behaviors, and manner of engagement with members of the family and other pets. SBT Bengal cats as well as the various generations of foundation cats close to wild cat ancestry were included in the survey to determine if Bengal cats were aggressive, territorial, excessively vocal, in poor health, or had poor litter box habits.
The acknowledged and empirically verifiable development of the Bengal includes purposeful hybridization with a species of wild cat, the Asian Leopard Cat, Prionailurus bengalensis. The resulting F1 hybrid females are then backcrossed with domestic males until fertility is achieved in both sexes, meeting the biological classification of species. However, the morphological remnants of wild cat ancestry are plainly visible and have always been specifically sought after in TICA’s Bengal standard since first accepted to the New Breed and Color class in 1986.
Politicians, veterinarians, breeders and owners have discussed and debated if the selection for morphological traits brings with it behavioral traits. Despite evidence that Asian Leopard Cats and humans have shared close quarters for nearly as long as the domestic cat and humans (see that study in PLOS One) Asian Leopard Cats are a distinct species with behaviors, needs, and adaptations that make them successful small wild cats throughout Asian without any human intervention.
The results: Most frequent “bad” Behaviors
|Bengal Cat||Domestic Cat|
|Aggression toward owner:||13%||24%|
Read the entire study.
TICA Celebrates Women’s History Month by Highlighting Eight Females Who Shaped the Science of Cats
To celebrate Women's History Month, TICA highlights eight women who shattered stereotypes by helping shape the science of cats. Their research has inspired others and improved the health of felines. Join us in celebrating their work.
Dr. Leslie Lyons, Gilbreath-McLorn Endowed Professor of Comparative Medicine, College of Veterinary Medicine’s Department of Veterinary Pathobiology, University of Missouri. Dr. Lyons’ research has led to the discovery of over 30 disease and trait DNA variants in cats, many are tested at the VGL. Her research also developed the Cat Ancestry test, and her laboratory has produced several of the background databases used in forensic applications.
Kelly McGowan, PhD Stanford University & HudsonAlpha Institute. Co-author of study identifying the mechanisms and timing of pattern development in all cats.
Shu-Jin Luo, PhD Luo Lab, Peking University. Identified short tail gene, Tiger genes and genomics of Chinese Mountain Cat.
Candace Croney, PhD Purdue University. Author of Canine Care standards utilized by AKC & Avid Cat lover.
Elinor Karlsson, PhD Broad Institute, Harvard & MIT. Director of Vertebrate Genomics Group and Director of Darwin's Ark.
Leighanne Clark, PhD Clark Lab, Clemson University. Identified genes and mechanism for Merle in dogs and Ragdoll owner.
Fiona Marshall, PhD Washington University. Archeologist delving into the history of cat domestication in Africa.
Heidi Anderson, PhD Wisdom Health. Empowering owners to improve feline health and identifying new genes in dogs and cats.
TICA and Trupanion March 18 Deadline Giveaway Reminder
Don’t forget to enter the newest TICA and Trupanion giveaway. As part of our partnership with Trupanion, medical insurance for pets, we are excited to offer a gift of 10 cat toys to send home with your next litter and a chance to win a $100 gift card!* If you’re a breeder in the U.S. or Canada, you can also sign up for Trupanion’s free Breeder Support Program.
Trupanion’s Breeder Support Program gives those who sign up access to an exclusive offer that gives buyers the option to enroll in a Trupanion policy with no waiting periods. Materials for kitten packs, a dedicated account manager, and access to a private breeder support Facebook group – all at no cost – is also included.
*$100 USD Chewy gift card for US, $100 CAD Amazon.ca gift card for CAN. Valid only for breeders in the US and Canada. Maximum reward of up to $600 a year for individuals and households in Canada and the US (excluding Washington State). Maximum reward of up to $100 a year for individuals and households in Washington State.
** NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Must be legal resident of Canada (excluding Quebec) or 50 US states and DC (excluding ND and WV), 18+ and at least age of majority. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED. Enter by: March 18, 2022. Odds of winning depend on the # of entries. Details and rules can be found here. Sponsor: Trupanion Managers USA, Inc.
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 March 2022 Update
Visit Us at the Super Pet Expo in Chantilly, VA. EveryCat will be attending the Super Pet Expo in Chantilly, VA with TICA March 18-20! Stop by, say hello, learn more about the Foundation and gather a little swag!
Free March 30 Ringworm Webinar. Join EveryCat Health Foundation on March 30, 2022, at 1:00 pm EDT for the FREE webinar “The Ringer in Treating Ringworm” with Dr. Jennifer Lopez. The webinar will discuss the clinical presentation, diagnosis, and treatment of dermatophytosis. The multitude of treatment and disinfectant options, both successful and those less efficacious, will be discussed as well as systemic vs. topical treatments and how to approach exposed animals from rescue groups, shelter or in hoarding situations will be discussed. This one-hour webinar is Registry of Approved Continuing Education (RACE) approved and is sponsored by Antech Diagnostics. Registration is required.
Save The Date: July Feline Health Symposium. Join EveryCat Health Foundation July 8-9, 2022, for the feline health symposium Health Breakthroughs for Every Cat: FIP and Beyond. The event, presented by EveryCat Health Foundation, in conjunction with the University of Florida, College of Veterinary Medicine is being offered as a hybrid (in-person and virtual) event. In-person seating is limited to 150 attendees.
Registration opens later this month. Check our social media pages and website for more information or contact Virginia Rud at firstname.lastname@example.org.