DNA testing for cats is now available and affordable! Breeders can easily prevent a large number of genetic disorders by using a simple DNA swab sent to a lab for testing. All Verified Bengal Breeders are required to test for Pyruvate Kinase Deficiency (PKDef) and Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRAb) which are both genetic diseases that have been identified in Bengals. Many breeders are also testing for other genetic diseases that more rarely occur such as Polycycstic Kidney Disease (PKD). Kitten buyers should expect their breeder to provide testing results for their kitten’s parents or the kitten itself. If your breeder doesn’t offer them, ask! If a cat is known to be clear based on the clear results of both parents, your breeder should still be able to offer you reports to confirm. DNA testing kits are available through Optimal Selection, UC Davis, and Langford Vets – links to purchase are included below.
Pyruvate Kinase Deficiency (PKDef)
Pyruvate Kinase Deficiency (commonly abbreviated as PKDef) is an inherited disease which causes anemia in cats. Pyruvate Kinase is a red blood cell enzyme necessary for supporting red blood cell energy metabolism and life span. A deficiency of this enzyme can lead to a reduction in the number of red blood cells or hemolytic anemia. Anemia symptoms may be mild, particularly in young cats, and include lethargy, weakness, lack of appetite, jaundice, and swelling of the abdomen. Severe life-threatening anemia can occur but is more rare. It is caused by a recessive gene which means the cat must inherit two copies of the faulty gene – one from each parent. Cats with only one of the faulty genes are said to be “carriers” since they themselves are unaffected by the disease but can pass the gene on to their offspring. The PKDef genes can be identified by a simple DNA test using a swab mailed to a lab. This test is available through Optimal Selection, UC Davis, and Langford vets. It is important that breeding cats be tested for PKDef since most cats that are affected won’t show symptoms of anemia until they are older. Additionally, since carrier cats are completely unaffected, they will never show symptoms but can produce affected cats when bred to another carrier. There is no cure for PKDef.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRAb)
Progressive Retinal Atrophy (commonly abbreviated as PRA or PRAb when referring to Bengals) is a disease which causes degeneration of the retinal tissue in the cats’ eyes. This condition is progressive – cats are normal at birth and gradually lose their eyesight, usually becoming completely blind sometime between the ages of 3 and 5. The PRAb genes can be identified by a simple DNA test using a swab mailed to a lab. This test is available through Optimal Selection, UC Davis, and Langford vets. PRAb is caused by a recessive gene which means that the cat must inherit two copies of the faulty gene – one from each parent. Cats with only one copy of the faulty gene are said to be “carriers” since they themselves are unaffected by the disease but can pass the gene on to their offspring. There is no cure for genetically caused PRAb. PRA is occasionally caused by exposure to certain antibiotics (fluoroquinalone and orbifloxacin) or a lack of sufficient taurine in the cat’s diet. In those instances discontinuing the use of the antibiotic or increasing the taurine can halt the progression of the disease.
Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD)
Polycystic Kidney Disease is characterized by the multiple fluid-filled sacks (cysts) that occur on the kidneys of the cat. While the cysts are present at birth and do not initially cause symptoms they gradually enlarge and can eventually lead to kidney failure and death. The rate at which kidney disease occurs varies widely among cats – some experience kidney failure early in life while others have no trouble til they are older. Symptoms of kidney disease can include decreased appetite, increased thirst and urination, vomiting, weight loss, and lethargy. The disease is most common in Persians and Exotic Shorthairs but can occur in other breeds. It is not very common in Bengals, but many breeders ARE testing for it. The PKD genes can be identified by a simple DNA test using a swab mailed to a lab. This test is available through Optimal Selection, UC Davis, and Langford vets. PKD is an inherited disease caused by an autosomal dominant gene. This means that only one copy of the gene is required to cause the disease. There is no cure for the disease, though certain diets, medications, and fluid therapy can help with the symptoms.
Where to purchase feline DNA testing kits:
Optimal Selection Feline Genetic Breeding Analysis
$99.99 for one test kit – includes 40 genetic diseases and 20+ traits
Discount codes are often available for TICA members
UCDavis – Veterinary Genetics Laboratory Cat DNA Tests
Each genetic disease or trait is tested individually – $40 for one test – $65 for both PRAb and PKDef
Langford Vets (United Kingdom) – Diagnostic Laboratory Cat Genetic Testing
Each genetic disease or trait is tested individually – Price in Euros 30.50 for one test and 13.00 for each additional test OR 24.50 for one test and 10.40 for each additional test for members of registered breed societies