Scientists Want To Map Your Moggy's Microbiome

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Caroline Reid

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35 Scientists Want To Map Your Moggy's Microbiome
Chepko Danil Vitalevich/ Shutterstock

Human beings are rarely ever alone; our bodies are the homes of bacteria, fungi and other living microscopic beings that make up our microbiome. These organisms play a variety of crucial roles in the body, such as aiding digestion and influencing the immune system. It's not just humans either; our closest kitty companions are also obliging hosts to a moggy microbiome. 

Now, four enterprising biologists are itching to find out which microorganisms are prevalent in your kitty's gut. If you're thinking, "You have cat to be kitten me right now," then check out their Kickstarter campaign here


"Like us, animals are enveloped in a cloud of microbes," said Holly Ganz, a research scientist at the University of California and pawject leader of kittybiome. "We're really interested in them because they influence health and behavior."

The human gut microbial composition has been shown to affect health conditions such as asthma, autism, diabetes and inflammatory bowel disease. Cats are also susceptible to some of these conditions, so it will be interesting to see if any correlations arise from the first sweep of data.

The microbiomes are mapped using kitty fecal samples. Yes, that is poop. Cat owners everywhere are getting up close and personal with their pet's biowaste and sending it to the kittybiome team. And no worries, the cat poop will be in safe hands as each mouser's microbiome remains anonymous. However, the project is also committed to open science, so all of the results will be available. 

This means that if you want, you and your cat can explore the bacteria living in its gut. You can also see how your kitty compares to healthy cats, obese cats and even grumpy cats. So whether your cat is cathletic, has got cat-titude or is just plain paw-some, it will be a valuable addition to the microbiome catalogue. It's not just house kitties that are going to be mapped either; you can also sponsor a shelter cat. The differences in microbiome content between domestic and shelter cats may produce some interesting results.


Holly Ganz and Jonathan Eisen, Purrfessor at the University of California, have even collected fecal samples from big cats in Africa: lions, cheetahs, pumas and leopards. Hopefully, the team will be able to collate enough data to make meaningful comparisons between domestic kitties and wild cats.

Those who send in a sample will be able to compare their cat's gut to celebrity kitties: Lil' Bub has sent in a sample, and the team hopes to get some poop from Grumpy Cat.

"We're committed to studying the cat microbiome for the next 10 years," Ganz said. "And we can all have a little bit of fun with it."

The team hopes to eventually discover how different environments and diets affect cats, and how the microbiome changes over a cat's "nine lives." If you ever wanted to find out what tiny creatures, fungi and bacteria live inside your cat, the time is meow or never.


[H/T Live Science]


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