Variation of cats under domestication: genetic assignment of domestic cats to breeds and worldwide random-bred populations

Anim Genet. 2013 Jun;44(3):311-24. doi: 10.1111/age.12008. Epub 2012 Nov 22.


Both cat breeders and the lay public have interests in the origins of their pets, not only in the genetic identity of the purebred individuals, but also in the historical origins of common household cats. The cat fancy is a relatively new institution with over 85% of its 40-50 breeds arising only in the past 75 years, primarily through selection on single-gene aesthetic traits. The short, yet intense cat breed history poses a significant challenge to the development of a genetic marker-based breed identification strategy. Using different breed assignment strategies and methods, 477 cats representing 29 fancy breeds were analysed with 38 short tandem repeats, 148 intergenic and five phenotypic single nucleotide polymorphisms. Results suggest the frequentist method of Paetkau (single nucleotide polymorphisms = 0.78, short tandem repeats = 0.88) surpasses the Bayesian method of Rannala and Mountain (single nucleotide polymorphisms = 0.56, short tandem repeats = 0.83) for accurate assignment of individuals to the correct breed. Additionally, a post-assignment verification step with the five phenotypic single nucleotide polymorphisms accurately identified between 0.31 and 0.58 of the misassigned individuals raising the sensitivity of assignment with the frequentist method to 0.89 and 0.92 for single nucleotide polymorphisms and short tandem repeats respectively. This study provides a novel multistep assignment strategy and suggests that, despite their short breed history and breed family groupings, a majority of cats can be assigned to their proper breed or population of origin, that is, race.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bayes Theorem
  • Breeding*
  • Cats / genetics*
  • Gene Frequency
  • Genetic Markers
  • Genetic Variation*
  • Genotype
  • Genotyping Techniques / methods*
  • Microsatellite Repeats
  • Phenotype
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide
  • Species Specificity


  • Genetic Markers