A vaccine for FIP? Compound GC376 may be the answer

There may be a vaccine to prevent FIP in the future. Researchers at Kansas State University, together with a medicinal chemist at Wichita University and Dr. Neils Pedersen at UC Davis, have been working on an FIP vaccine, and last week it was announced that they had licensed their compound GC376 to Anivive Lifesciences, which is a major step towards developing the compound into a commercial vaccine available to veterinarians.

Remember, though, that getting the compound to a pharmaceutical developer is just the first step. Clinical trials need to be run, and then the vaccine needs to be approved by the FDA before it will be available for sale. That will probably take a few years. But still…we may very well see a vaccine in our lifetimes that will prevent FIP in our feline companions!

Aby-a-Day – April 24: Kylie’s 10th Birthday (Friday Flashback)

Today is a very special day – it’s Kylie’s 10th birthday!

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Of course, we don’t know her exact birthday, but we got her on June 20, and she was about 7 or 8 weeks old. So, counting back, we decided that her birthday was April 24.

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My husband wanted a tiny girl kitten. I found a Craigslist post for free kittens in Quincy, and when I emailed the man, he said he had mostly white kittens and one grey tabby. My husband kind of wanted a tabby, but by the time we got to the house, only the white kittens were left. We saw them running around, and then heard a tiny “mew” from a side table behind us. The tiny mew came from a tiny, white kitten with two grey stripes on her head. And that was that.

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Kylie was tiny when we got her, too.

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She was literally the same size as a Beanie Baby cat! We got to meet her mother, who was a very petite, slender all-white shorthair with odd-coloured eyes, one green and one blue. Her name was Mary Jane, and she was so pretty. To this day, I wish I’d taken a camera along and gotten a photo of her.

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At the time, I had my two Siamese, Harri, aged 14, and Patrick, aged 11. We had just gotten Tessie a month before, and she was meant to be Kylie’s mother figure and playmate, since the boys were a little old to be much fun for an active, lively kitten. This is one of Kylie’s first encounters with Tessie…it got better.

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Kylie was a very lively kitten.

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She was the type who would play with anything.

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Anything!

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A piece of plastic foil wrapping paper was an awesome toy. I think she played with this for days.

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Despite being 14 years older than Kylie, Harri really loved her. He always loved other cats and kittens; even though he was an only cat until he was 3, Harri was the most welcoming, friendly cat I’ve ever known – he never minded having other cats around him.

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Kylie looked up to Tessie as her role model.

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“This is how you lie on a hot day, Kylie.” “Okay, Tessie, am I doing it right?”

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Like I said…Kylie was tiny. Look at her compared to Tessie in this photo!

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She was tough, though. She could hold her own against Tessie, despite the size difference.

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Tessie was so patient with her. Of course, Tessie had one litter of kittens before I adopted her, so she knew how to handle Kylie.

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Kylie and Tessie were almost always together. Even today they still sleep together.

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Kylie was also fond of Patrick.

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They would play together. At the time, Patrick was our largest cat; he was a bit chunky at 13-14lbs. It was comical to watch Kylie and Patrick play together because of their size difference.

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Patrick was always the last cat to accept a newcomer. I guess Kylie won him over.

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Trick even shared the cave at the top of the cat tree with her!

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This photo of the four of them sleeping together on my bed in my old apartment was my Christmas card in 2005.

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Kylie loved to play and cuddle with stuffed kittens. This was one of her most favourite “dollies.”

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Harri died in August of 2006, and then that following December, Gun-Hee joined the family. Kylie was only a year older than Gun-Hee, so they were pretty close.

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She took on the role that Tessie had taken with her.

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You would find them together a lot.

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They used to play together all the time.

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They had projects, like trying to open the dishwasher. Gun-Hee was the brains and Kylie was the muscles of the operation.

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They hung out together.

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She helped him celebrate his first birthday. She was really sad when Gun-Hee died and she mourned him. She didn’t eat treats for a week.

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She was quick to accept Jacoby, too. I think she was happy to have another Aby to play with.

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Kylie and Jake have always gotten along.

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She was one of the first to not hiss at him and let him play with her, actually.

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They like to go out to the park together, too…although Kylie isn’t as brave around dogs as Jake is.

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But since Kylie is four years older than Jake, their bond isn’t quite the same as the one she and Gun-Hee’ shared.

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They share a love of high places.

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This is also a common sight at our house: Jake cuddling with Tessie and Kylie.

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Angel always seems to be the odd cat out. Of all the cats, Kylie and Angel probably interact the least. I think that’s more Angel’s doing than Kylie’s, though.

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I had Kylie’s DNA tested at UC Davis. We think her father was a tabby Maine Coon. Since her mother was a white shorthair, those dominant traits covered up anything her father was carrying. I know that she does carry the genes for long hair, dilute, and tabby, and that her ancestors originated in England rather than the Middle East or Asia. Underneath her dominant white, she is probably a non-dilute tabby, and she may actually be a torbie (UCD doesn’t have a test for sex-linked red). While Kylie is small like her mother, she is built like a Maine Coon, with a long tail, lanky legs and a boxy muzzle. She’s just a miniature shorthaired version.

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She also does a mean Hello Kitty impersonation!

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It’s hard to believe she’s 10 years old. Happy birthday, Kylie!

Winn-ing the fight against FIP

Interesting the way things collude sometimes, isn’t it?

An interesting new study just came to my attention today via the Winn Foundation blog: Risk factors for feline infectious peritonitis in Australian cats

According to the blog entry, “the purpose of this study was to determine whether patient signalment (age, breed, sex, and neuter status) is associated with naturally-occurring feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) in cats in Australia.”

Of course, Australia, being an island nation, makes a nice enclosed laboratory for a study like this. What I didn’t know (but have suspected), is this: Pedigreed cats were significantly over-represented and domestic crossbreeds under-represented in FIP cases. Several breeds were over-represented, including British Shorthair, Devon Rex, and Abyssinian. Male cats had a significantly higher proportion of representation than female cats.

That dovetails nicely with my personal theory that there is at least some component of FIP that involves the Y chromosome. And I hadn’t seen that Abyssinians were one of the more susceptible breeds before this article. There’s a related article which explores this further: “Abyssinians, Bengals, Birmans, Himalayans, Ragdolls and Rexes had a significantly higher risk, whereas Burmese, Exotic Shorthairs, Manxes, Persians, Russian Blues and Siamese cats were not at increased risk for development of FIP.”

Interesting! And what’s more, this weekend is the CFA Annual Meeting, and just so happens to be about 6 or 7 stops away on the red line in Quincy. I’m going to the Winn Foundation Symposium this afternoon; the subject is “Diving Into the Feline Gene Pool” and one of the speakers is Dr. Leslie Lyons from UCD, who pretty much invented all those Cat Genetics and Ancestry tests that I got for Kylie. She and her study are also the subject of a National Geographic feature entitled “The Science of Cats.” I can’t wait!

Then, on Saturday, I’ll be attending the Abyssinan Breed Council Meeting with Meg. That should also be quite an experience.

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But the biggest reason that it’s somehow fitting that all these things fall into place on today of all days? Today, in 2008, was the day that Gun-Hee lost his battle with FIP.

Edit: Steve Dale posted a recap of the Symposium on his Pet World blog on the Chicago Now website. Check it out! There’s also a shot of our friend Banjo Mooner greeting everyone as they came in. You can also see me in one of the photos…well, my arm and one eye, anyway…

UC Davis announces new Cat Ancestry Test

I got this very interesting email yesterday:

As a client of the Veterinary Genetics Laboratory, you may be interested to learn about our new Cat Ancestry test. The test, developed by Dr. Leslie Lyons and the Lyons’ Feline Genetics Laboratory at UC Davis, can identify the racial origin and possible breed of a cat. The test also provides information regarding coat color and fur type.

As an owner/breeder of purebred cats, the test may not be useful to you, but if you have friends who own random bred cats, please let them know about the Cat Ancestry test as they might be interested to learn more about the genetic history of their cats.

For more information regarding our Cat Ancestry test, go to: http://www.vgl.ucdavis.edu/services/cat/ancestry/

Thank you,
Veterinary Genetics Laboratory
UC Davis
PO Box 1102
Davis, CA 95617-1102
(530) 752-2211

It’s a bit pricey ($120), but if you’ve got a mixed-breed cat and wonder about his or her ancestry, this may be well worth it. Since I already got Kylie’s coat length and colour tested, this test may not tell me any more about what she is underneath her white, but I’ve sent them an email to ask if this new test will tell me anything more. If I get her the Ancestry Test, I’ll keep you posted!

CSI: Kylie and Jacoby

I have been intrigued by genetics and inheritance since I was about four years old; my dad bought me a little book on zoology when I was seven and I wore out the part that illustrated basic Mendelian theory with black and white guinea pigs. Of course, cat genetics were my primary focus; in 7th grade, while everyone was trying to grasp how a green smooth pea and a yellow wrinkled pea would produce all green smooth peas, I was making a four-trait Punnett square showing to to breed a black Scottish Fold to a blue-point Siamese to get folded-eared, pointed cats (and I even took into consideration that the fold gene couldn’t be homozygous). Why didn’t I go to college for this stuff? Well…who knew this would actually turn out to be a “thing” back then?

Anyway, I’ve been wanting to get Kylie’s DNA tested because I just wanted to know if she really is part Maine Coon as I’ve always suspected. I also want to know if, underneath her big white spot, she’s actually a blue tabby (which the little patches on the top of her head when she was a kitten implied). But every time I looked, there “wasn’t a DNA test that could tell what breeds a cat was descended from, the way you can test a mixed-breed dog for its ancestral breeds,” because, basically, most cat breeds haven’t been distinct for as many generations as have dog breeds.

But I figured there HAD to be a way to figure out certain breed traits, since so many cat breeds are based on genetic mutations (Abys are, actually, one of the few breeds that aren’t really based on a mutation, interestingly enough). And, today, while answering a question about the Siamese (thermorestrictive partial albinism), I found (via this super-cute and also informative link) that UC Davis actually does several genetic tests for cats that, while not breed-detecting, can at least tell you some probable genetic contributors.

(Pause for a bit of irony: I grew up in Davis, California I did not go to UC Davis because, being a typical 17-year-old, I wanted to “get the hell out of town” as fast as I could…so I went to CSU Sacramento. Whoo hoo, moving on up to the big city!)

I ordered two tests for Kylie: the Longhair Mutation test, which will tell me which longhair mutation, if any, Kylie carries (N/M1, N/M2, N/M3 or N/M4: Cat has short hair and carries one copy of a long hair mutation. Cat can produce short and long-haired kittens depending on genotype of the mate), and the Coat Colour Panel, which will tell me, among other things, if she carries the Agouti (tabby) gene or the Dilute gene. So, finally, I’ll know if she is part Maine Coon and if she’s a blue tabby with a big white spot.

I also ordered a test for Jake, the PK Deficiency/Progressive Retinal Atrophy carrier combo test, because those are the two major genetic-related problems Abyssinians are known for, and it’d be nice to know if I might need to worry about them cropping up someday.

These are actually part their “birthday presents” this year, since they’re both born in April…talk about perfect timing!

And, when the results came back, I was so giddy!

Jake’s were all good news:

PK DEFICIENCY results for Pellburn Jacoby Stealin’ Home(CAT44879):
N/N – no copies of PK deficiency, cat is normal

PROGRESSIVE RETINAL ATROPHY (PRA) results for Pellburn Jacoby Stealin’ Home(CAT44879):
PRA-CEP290 Result:
N/N – Normal, cat does not have rdAc mutation
PRA-CRX Result:
N/N – Normal, cat does not have Rdy mutation

But Kylie’s results…WOW.

Agouti Result:
A/a – Offspring can be agouti or non-agouti depending on the genetics of the mating. (So, she is a tabby underneath the white!)

Amber Result:
E/E – No copies of the mutation for Amber. (Not a surprise)

Brown Result:
B/B – Full color, cat does not carry brown or cinnamon (Again, not a surprise)

Dilute Result:
D/d – One copy of dilute allele. Cat is a carrier of dilute. (She is NOT a blue. She carries it, but she’s not a blue tabby under the white. Which is interesting, because she had grey spots on her head. Hm. That result is kind of puzzling…)

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I mean…she’s not a blue tabby? Don’t her little “racing stripes” look blue?

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I mean…I guess they could be brown (genetically black) tabby marks, but they really look more blue than black to me. Still, DNA doesn’t lie, so it must be black.

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Gloves Result:
N/N – Normal, cat does not have gloving. (So her white spotting is not the glove/mitted type).

Colorpoint Restriction Result:
C/c(s) – Carrier of Siamese colorpoint restriction (She carries the Siamese gene! That I wasn’t expecting! If she had kittens, they could have been pointed! This is definitely the shocker of Kylie’s colour results.)

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She could have had kittens that looked like Patrick!

And her Longhair results…Well, I was right!

Genotype Result: N/M4

Cat has short hair and carries one copy of a long hair mutation. Cat can produce short and long-haired kittens depending on genotype of the mate.

M4 isn’t the genotype that’s specific to Maine Coons (that’s M3), but it does occur in Maine Coons. M4 is the longhair mutation that’s present in all longhaired cats. But still, I was right, one of her parents (or possibly a grandparent) was a longhair, and she may still actually be part Maine Coon (since she’s a native New Englander, it’s a pretty good bet that she is).

I just think it’s so very awesome that we can even get this kind of information on our random-bred, Craigslist kitty!