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Did you know simple genetic diseases could be eradicated from cat breeds – within the next 5 – 10 years!

As we close out our 2023 Spring Fundraiser, we’d like to share an essay written for us by Dr. Leslie Lyons, PhD. about the importance of continuing research and the on-going need for research funding. Research that helps cats live longer, healthier lives. Dr. Lyons  has been the recipient of several EveryCat grants.

“The Online Mendelian Inheritance in Animals (OMIA – https://www.omia.org) is a website for the curation of DNA variants in animals that cause genetic diseases, phenotypes, and traits. For cats, most of the listed 176 DNA variants are for simple genetic traits that are caused by a single gene. Of these 176 DNA variants, 56 variants cause breed traits, such as coat color and pattern variation, fur types and ear and tail types. Fourteen variants are associated with the cat AB blood group. Two variants are specific to all domestic cats, including the loss of a sweet taste receptor and cat-specific and the inability to metabolize acetaminophen (Tylenol).

About 98 DNA variants cause genetic diseases in cats, but only 28 or so cause inherited diseases in cat breeds that should be monitored by genetic testing to help eradicate the disease and prevent the production of sick cats or cats that can pass on the disease (carriers).

For over the past 30 years of my cat-genetics career, I have been fortunate to discover nearly 30% of the documented variants in cats and the EveryCat Health (Winn Feline) Foundation has been in my corner – every step of the way! I found these variants because of support from the EveryCat Health Foundation. Without their consistent funding, many projects would never have been accomplished as no other funding agency wants to support cats with the commitment of EveryCat. EveryCat Health funding has helped to keep laboratory managers, students and post-doctoral fellows focused on the task at hand – eradicating cat genetic disease.

One of our first discoveries was for polycystic kidney disease. Once plaguing about 38% of Persian cats and their related breeds, now PKD is found in less than 10% of cats, mostly in cats from countries with poor genetic testing opportunities.

With a little bit of focused effort from cat breeders and cat registries over the next 5 – 10 years, all the 28 – 30 simple genetic diseases could be eliminated because most are actually rare. Although some genetic diseases are more complex, such as amyloidosis, diabetes, and heart disease, or caused by specific mutations within an individual cat as they get older, such as cancers, cat breeds could be genetic disease free!

Funding from the EveryCat Health Foundation now supports Precision / Genomic Medicine in cats. Thus, just like in humans, state-of-the-art genome sequencing can be used to rapidly find new DNA variants for newly discovered diseases in specific breeds and also in every cat – meaning all the random bred, non-pedigreed, moggies, house cats, barn cats, community cats, your cats, and my cats that constitute the vast majority of cats in the world.

Please support EveryCat Health Foundation wit your gift. Help EveryCat help me continue my life-long quest to eradicate genetic diseases from cats.

EveryCat Health is clearly the Cat’s Meow!”


~Leslie Lyons, PhD

Dr. Lyons is a Gilbreath McLorn Endowed Professor of Comparative Medicine, in the Department of Veterinary Medicine and Surgery at the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine. She is also the creator of the 99 Lives Cat Genome Project.