Cats' genomes have much in common with those of their human companions and that, along with their shared environments, has led some researchers to argue that cats may make a good study animal, the Atlantic writes.
"Other than primates, the cat-human comparison is one of the closest you can get" regarding how their genomes are organized, University of Missouri's Leslie Lyons tells the Atlantic.
In an essay in Trends in Genetics, Lyons further argues her point. She writes that studying cats has helped researchers disentangle processes like X inactivation — the Atlantic notes that X inactivation is what leads to the calico cat's particular coat — and that cats can be cloned, like the Cc cat in the early 2000s. That cat, too, she writes, provided genetic insight, as it did not have the expected calico coat color.
She further adds that whole-genome and whole-exome sequencing is increasing being used in veterinary care for cats to uncover variants that are linked to disease as well as ones that appear benign, which she says can also help tease out the meaning of a variant of uncertain significance in a human variant database.
The Atlantic adds that pet owners are also often eager to help, and Texas A&M University's Bill Murphy tells it cats' cheek cells can be sampled gently using a wired brush.