Savannah Cats Take Part in Cornell’s Biobank Study

These cats are helping to build a database of genetic sequences and medical information that scientists will use to identify the underlying causes of many inherited diseases of cats.

Savannah cats Motzie (left) and Peanut say “hello” to Dr. Bruce Kornreich, associate director of the Cornell Feline Health Center. The cats were at the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine to participate in a genetic study.

Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine

Two Savannah cats recently stopped by the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine to donate blood samples and undergo testing for a feline health screening study. This will help build a database of genetic sequences and medical information that scientists will use to identify the underlying causes of many inherited diseases of cats, according to Marta Castelhano, DVM, director of Cornell Veterinary Biobank.

Conditions like inflammatory bowel disease, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and diabetes mellitus may have some basis in genetics, Dr. Castelhano said. By comparing DNA from cats that have these diseases with DNA from healthy cats, the Biobank hopes to locate the genes responsible, he further said.

These answers will help identify cats at risk of disease and may eventually aid in developing more effective treatments, said Bruce Kornreich, DVM, Ph.D., associate director of the Cornell Feline Health Center, which helps fund the Biobank.

The Savannah cat is a cross between a domestic cat and a species of wild cat native to Africa called a serval, a breeding that results in a cat with some features of both animals, according to Cornell University.

The two Savannahs that visited, Motzie and Peanut, live in Oklahoma with their owner Deborah-Ann Milette, a retired veteran. Motzie is the second tallest cat in the world, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, measuring 16.75 inches tall at the shoulder. Motzie weighs 20 pounds. Both cats can jump 7 ½ feet in the air from a standstill, according to Milette.

Castelhano noted that although Peanut and Motzie are extraordinary cats, felines of all types can help with the study. Forty-eight domestic cats over the age of 10 years are still needed to complete the study. Cats belonging to specific breeds are especially needed.

To participate, cats donate a small blood sample and undergo a physical exam, bloodwork, urinalysis, a nutrition exam, an echocardiogram of their heart, body measurements, an oncology exam, an eye exam, an oral evaluation, an orthopedic exam and a whole body computed tomography scan.

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