SOURCE: Morris Animal Foundation

August 13, 2013 13:36 ET

Cat Health Network Announces Discovery of New Feline Gene Mutations, Other Advances in Disease Treatment

Results of Studies Will Inform Development of Screening Tests to Eradicate Genetic Defects and Improve Cat Health

SCHAUMBURG, IL--(Marketwired - August 13, 2013) - Partners of the Cat Health Network (CHN) today released final results of several major research projects that investigated genetic predispositions to disease in cats.

CHN officials reported that, among many significant accomplishments, scientists have

  • Succeeded in creating a high-density genetic map of the cat genome
  • Identified a genetic mutation linked to muscle weakness in certain species of cat
  • Concluded that genetic factors -- in addition to lifestyle -- influence body weight

Other studies revealed that, despite scientists' hypotheses, genes involved in white coat color were not also associated with deafness in white cats and that no significant genetic indicator predetermined a cat's response to catnip. For a complete summary of findings, contact Allen Byrne at

These findings will help advance feline medicine and offer veterinarians new ways to improve the health and welfare of cats, said Dr. Roy Smith, president of the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AFP) and liaison to the CHN.

"The CHN funds research efforts that help accelerate advancements in addressing the many problems we face in feline medicine," Dr. Smith said.

Founded in 2011 in response to cats lagging behind dogs in visits to the veterinarian, CHN comprises the American Veterinary Medical Foundation (AVMF), Morris Animal Foundation, Winn Feline Foundation (WFF) and American Association of Feline Practitioners (AFP). Together, the partners are committed to making a substantial difference in the health and welfare of domestic cats by funding targeted health studies.

This research money is critical to advancing feline medicine, said Dr. Wayne Jensen, Morris Animal Foundation's chief scientific officer. "The cat is the most underfunded domestic animal in research," he noted.

Research funded by CHN focuses on feline cancer, chronic renal disease, diabetes mellitus, feline lower urinary tract disease, and pain management. Scientists used gene chips containing feline single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs)-variations from the common feline DNA sequence that can be used as markers to track down genes responsible for genetic diseases-to conduct their investigations.

The research conclusions will continue to fill in gaps in knowledge about the cat genome, said Dr. Vicki L. Thayer, president of WFF. "The results from these studies show that genetic mutations do cause many diseases or enhance susceptibility, and tests can now be developed to identify carriers," said Dr. Thayer.

CHN is an initiative of the Animal Health Network, a collaboration of like-minded groups working together toward scientific study of feline, canine and equine health.

"The AVMF is proud to be a member of the CHN," said AVMF Executive Director Michael Cathey. "Progressive support is needed to continue making crucial advancements in developing, testing, producing, and distributing knowledge and products related to improved animal health."

These research studies were made possible by Hill's Pet Nutrition, which donated the SNPs used in these studies, valued at about $1 million, to Morris Animal Foundation in 2008, and the AVMF, WFF and AAFP, who each committed $100,000 to fund the approved studies.

About Morris Animal Foundation

Morris Animal Foundation is a nonprofit organization that invests in science that advances veterinary medicine for companion animals, horses and wildlife. It is a global leader in animal health science, and its funding helps more species in more places than any other organization in the world. Learn more at

About the AVMF

The American Veterinary Medical Foundation (AVMF) is the charitable arm of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). For 50 years, AVMF has embraced and advanced the well-being and medical care of animals. Charitable contributions and support to the Foundation help veterinarians help animals. Initiatives include Humane Outreach-Animal Welfare, Education and Public Awareness, Research Support, Student Enhancement and Support of the AVMA and its Initiatives. In the past decade, AVMF has awarded grants totaling nearly $10,000,000. The AVMF, a two-time, four-star rated nonprofit by Charity Navigator, has awarded more than $50 million in grants since it began in 1963. As we celebrate our golden anniversary this year, we want to do even more. To support the AVMF, visit

About the Winn Feline Foundation

The Winn Feline Foundation is a non-profit organization established in 1968 that supports studies to improve cat health. Projects funded by Winn provide information that is used every day to treat cat diseases. Visit for more information.

About the American Association of Feline Practitioners

The American Association of Feline Practitioners improves the health and welfare of cats by supporting high standards of practice, continuing education, and scientific investigation. For more information, please visit

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