What Is Basepaws?
Basepaws is a company that specializes in feline health and genetics. They offer test kits to analyze your cat’s DNA to learn more about your pet’s ancestry and health. Their flagship product, the Breed + Health Cat DNA Test, helps cat owners learn about their cat's breed, health, traits, and habits. It can be used to help owners make informed health decisions about their fur baby’s health. They also offer a feline dental health test kit, which screens for most major dental conditions seen in cats without requiring anesthesia. This test analyzes the microbes in your cat's mouth to find disease signatures even before they are visible to the naked eye.
I’ve been curious about the Basepaws DNA test for a while now, but I wasn’t sure if it was actually worth the money. After all, I already know that my cats are cats. Does it really matter what specific kind of cats they are? But, still, I was curious to try it since I already did the human version (23andMe) for myself. As luck would have it, at the end of August, I was contacted by a representative of Basepaws who wanted me to write an article about a virtual event the company was sponsoring in exchange for a free test kit. I offered to write that article and a review of the kits if they’d sent me one for each cat.
They sent the kits right out, and I followed the instructions and mailed them back right away. The kits each include a DNA test that includes ancestry and health information as well as a dental test that looks for microbes associated with dental problems. It took until the middle of September to receive an email that the kits were received by the company. I was excited when I got the emails, but they just said it would take another 4-6 weeks to process the results.
The results of the DNA tests and dental health tests came back on October 5th.
Basepaws DNA Breeds Report
The ancestry/breeds portion of the results report shows what “purebred” breeds each cat most resembles. Since most recognized cat breeds were created very recently, these results don’t actually mean the cat you got from a rescue or found outside your house is descended from purebred cats. It just points to genetic similarity to the cats that were bred to create the so-called “pure breeds.” This could mean your cat is a distant cousin to a cat that was used to breed kittens with specific traits by a breeder who developed a new cat breed.
If anything, the listed “breeds” can give you some insight as to where your cat’s ancestors lived (much like the human DNA tests like 23andMe). For example, a cat with a high similarity to Maine Coons can probably trace much of its family tree to the United States, while one that shows the greatest similarity to a British Shorthair is more likely to have genetic relatives in Great Britain. The Basepaws report gives more information and history about each of the included breeds.
The breed information given is kind of interesting, but I don’t know how useful it really is in actually learning anything about your individual cat. A lot of people say my Freyja looks like a Maine Coon (she’s actually too dainty to be a Maine Coon, but she is very floofy and has magnificent ear furnishings). The breed results, however, showed that Salem, with his sleek, short fur, is more genetically similar to a Maine Coon than is Freyja. Maine Coon was the top breed for both cats, however, so I wonder if most cats get that same result, or at least most cats in the United States (if you’ve had the Basepaws test done for your kitties, let me know in the comments what their top breeds are and where you got your cat!)
The ancestry report also gave information about how closely each cat is related to different wild cat species in a section of the report called “Wild Cat Index.” The lists were identical for both of my cats, which makes sense since domestic cats and all the big cats are different species. That report was entirely useless since one domestic cat isn’t going to be more related to a lion than any other cat.
Basepaws DNA Health Report
The health information report could be useful. Luckily, neither of my cats’ results showed anything troubling. Salem is a carrier of one of the genes for Factor XII deficiency, but he’s fixed so there’s no chance of him passing it on to kittens. This particular mutation is an autosomal recessive disease-associated marker, so he isn’t personally at increased risk for the disease.
Some of the other inherited feline diseases that this test checks for include polycystic kidney disease, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, hyperthyroidism, and a bunch of other things I’ve never heard of.
If your cat is having health problems, the DNA health report may be able to offer insight into what is causing them. If your cat does have a genetic marker associated with a particular disease, knowing about it early can help you and your vet take better care of them if they do develop the disease.
Basepaws Dental Health Report
The feline dental health report sounds like the least exciting part of this kit, but I found it to be the most useful for my cats. It showed that Salem has a low risk for any dental issues, but Freyja is a different story. Her results showed that she has an overabundance of the microbes that were tested for. Now I know I need to brush her teeth a lot more often.
According to her test results, Freyja has a high risk for periodontal disease, a medium risk for tooth resorption, and a medium risk for halitosis (bad breath). Salem has a low risk for all three.
The dental health test works by analyzing the microbes present in the cat’s mouth. Basepaws claims that their test detects microbes associated with certain dental diseases before they can be detected during a veterinary checkup.
They recommend repeating the dental health test after several months, depending on the particular cat’s results. For Freyja, they recommended doing another test in 3-6 months, while Salem can wait 6-8 months to be reevaluated. I’m not sure if I’m actually going to order more of the Basepaws dental tests, or just brush Freyja’s teeth more and ask the vet about it at her next checkup.
It would have been neat if Basepaws had a “genetic relatives” feature like 23andMe, where you could see your cat's relatives who had also been tested. That wouldn’t exactly be useful, but it would be fun to meet people who live with Freyja and Salem’s cousins or even siblings.
The health features are probably useful if your cat has a health problem you are trying to figure out, but the breed/ancestry features are more just for fun and entertainment. The dental health test, which is available on its own for a lower cost than the DNA test, might be the most useful feature offered by Basepaws for most cat owners.
Overall, I’m glad I did the Basepaws test, but I’m not sure I would have paid the full price of $129 each for the information that the tests provided.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
© 2021 Jennifer Wilber