BasePaws Cat DNA results for

Burton Guster Nabu, P.I.

AMBER LOVE 23-DEC-2020 Things are always busy here at the Winchester-Nabu Detective Agency. With the fascinating discoveries and investigations into the chipmunk mafia, the blue jay gang, the neighborhood critters, and cryptid sightings, there’s no shortage of things to post about on Instagram and here at the blog.

Gus Sian Mandrake
Gus portrait by Sian Mandrake

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When the DNA craze took off because of Ancestry and then 23andMe, I had a feeling I’d never submit my own sample to them. I don’t trust them. I know they are used by law enforcement to track people down who might be related. Not to mention, they can do whatever they want with your DNA and that seems bananas. Unless you’re going to exonerate me from criminal charges or prove that I’m royalty, I’m not giving up my own DNA willy-nilly.

What We Do in the Shadows

I do not have the same protective nature when it comes to Gus’ genetic code because I doubt the corporations or government are going to come looking for him. I mean, I read and watch a lot of apocalyptic type stuff so it’s plausible that somewhere in animal DNA there is a cure for a plague; but I think he’s pretty safe.

Plus, I also know by looking at Gus that he’s an average tom cat. A good ol’ domestic shorthair boy who was found on the streets of New Jersey. He’s not even pure black. His two white domino dots are only of interest because they are described as the markings of the cat sidhe of Celtic lore. Pure black cats are more rare than people think. There are a lot more like Gus out there. In fact, the few shelters I follow on Instagram usually have a couple every month looking for permanent homes.

Gus

The thing is, everyone wants to believe that their cat or dog is something remarkable or special. The “mutt” doesn’t bring starry twinkles to the eye of someone in conversation the way saying, “This is Charmaine, a white Borzoi bred in Wales and gifted to me by Duchess Hasenpfeffer du Lac.”

Caico was a seal point Himalayan, but without papers and would not have been considered “good enough” by breeders because she had a straight nose and round head (called apple-head) rather than the smushed face of brachycephalic Persians favored by breeders and judges. Basically because of her head, Caico looked more like the highly sought after Ragdoll breed. And everyone out there wants to be able to call their long-haired cat a Persian or Ragdoll. Why? Cats come in all coat lengths. Long hair does not make a cat a Persian or Ragdoll.

Caico with Santa 2014

The other reason to get genetic tests is to look for health and disease markers. Luckily, Gus came back with no markers of all the diseases on the Basepaws list.

There was a half price sale for Basepaws that convinced me to try and get a genetic profile for Gus just for the fun of it. I find his long fangs particularly interesting and something I’ve seen in a lot of the black cats of Instagram. My last male black cat, Binx, also had very long fangs but his head was even more triangular than Gus. Binx only had a few random white hairs and in old age, his whiskers turned white on one side. Otherwise, he could pass for an all black cat.

binx and gus

I also heard from a science podcast that the human DNA tests are not remotely accurate (yet). As more data is added, the more variations in the genomes they can compare. This is particularly important for BIPOC who want to know their ancestry. The sample size is so small that the results put all of them in about three or four different origin nations/regions.

What do you mean by “Broadly Western”?
Your report is a comparison of how closely breed-specific regions of your cat’s DNA match with the pedigree cats in our database. For example, Koko is 63% similar to pedigree cats in the Western breed group, with the highest similarity to a Russian Blue (still only by 17.64%). We’ve added two extra categories of breeds, the Broadly Western and Broadly Exotic, to help us identify and categorize major differences in their DNA better.

I don’t know what the sampling bias is for cats, but clearly there is enough to note since Basepaws has invented its own category called “Broadly Western” which means nothing in terms of known cat breeds. They also have this note on their website as of today’s writing:

To date, we only have DNA from Thai Siamese in our database. The Siamese breed is a mystery genetically, and we are still working hard to understand this breed and share the results. We are continuously adding more pedigree cats to help you discover your cat’s most accurate genetic makeup so look for more updates on this breed coming soon.

You might find that your cat is more closely related to the Modern Siamese rather than the Thai Siamese breed based on the submissions we have received so far. Be on the lookout for more updates as we work to redefine the cat breeds of the world.

The Siamese note is interesting to us because we’ve had veterinarians tell us that a particular cat was “black Siamese” based on how thin and athletic her body shape stayed and the wedge shape of her head. Our long-haired petite barn cat, Lady Claire had a sleek short-haired mother we named Tippy. Tippy was called “black Siamese” at the time; but Lady was called “domestic long-hair” or DLH when we ask if she was part Persian or something else exotic. Nope, DLH. So chances are Tippy was DSH and just happened to be lithe and athletic. She died fairly young so I don’t know if she would have become a fat house cat at any point. Lady Claire stayed lightweight and muscular but she lived outside or in the neighbor’s barn 99% of her life.

Lady Claire

The Siamese is one breed I have always loved. My love for them grew after Lilian Jackson Braun’s The Cat Who mysteries. They’re such gorgeous creatures whether it’s the “apple-head” or the “wedge” variety. The color points are more diverse than you might think. They can be flame (pale orange), soft grey (blue or lilac), and then the dark browns (chocolate and seal). There are probably more but those are the ones I know off the top of my head. The “Siamese” that’s not in the traditional color pointed pattern is called the Oriental (a word that exists in cat culture and maybe for rugs, but is otherwise not used today). There are Oriental Long Hair and Oriental Short Hair cats. They have ears that are usually larger than an average domestic cat, but some breeders have become extreme about the ears. One of my favorite OSH families to follow are New Jersey’s own Hobbitkats! They make appearances at Cat Con too. Another favorite is Lebron the Batcat.

I like how Basepaws has a dynamic report where you can move the slider from “maybe” to “confident” which adjusts the percentages of the breeds listed. Here’s what they had to say about Gus:

If you know even the basics of cat breeds, you would never look at Gus and think “Maine Coon” nor “Siberian” nor “Norwegian Forest Cat.” He may have the personalities of them, but he doesn’t look like any of them. Take a look this Maine Coon account and you’ll see incredible examples of what the breed is. It’s majestic death metal fierce.

Why Gus would have any percentage of the Peterbald breed is beyond me. The only thing that comes to mind is that he has less hair in his “eye brow” slants than another cat like some kind of pattern baldness.

What makes even less sense as far as genetic mapping goes is the fraction that comes up as Savannah. As far as personality — yes, Gus matches it. He also has the personality traits for other athletic cats like the Maine Coons, Norwegians, and OSH, but Gus is not graceful. He’s daring and adventurous, but not light on his feet at all. He sounds like a stampeding rhino going up and down the stairs and he’s been known to miss the mark when jumping up to a fairly low cat tree. Savannahs are also crazy expensive and therefore rare. They’re wild cats (the Serval) bred with a domestic cat. If you watch My Cat from Hell, Jackson Galaxy is called in to a lot of appointments for Savannahs and Bengals because people have no realistic idea what it takes to keep them entertained and exercised ALL DAY long. The likelihood of Savannah DNA getting mixed into whatever lineage it is that made Gus is impossible in my opinion.

Gus and Vole

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