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Cat Fecal Samples Help Scientists Better Understand Humans And Cats

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio
 

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

A new UC Davis study will analyze the bacteria in cats in the hopes of better understanding our pets and maybe ourselves. 

The “Kitty Biome Project” is directed by Jonathan Eisen. He’s a microbial ecology professor at UC Davis. He suspects people and their cats might have more in common than anyone knew.

“[There are] hundreds of papers now where people have used the microbial community as a potential diagnostic for gut problems, for cancer, skin problems, behavior, for forensic purposes," says Eisen. "And the same is true of cats if you want to understand what’s going in the health of your cat it’s really easy to collect a fecal sample from a kitty litter.”

Eisen hopes to answer questions like: How do athletic cats compare to couch potato cats. Or, does it matter if you feed your cat a paleo-mouse diet? Or, what happens when your cat takes antibiotics?

Kitty litter samples will be donated by volunteers in the community. The research team will sequence the DNA in bacteria.

The data also might reveal something about cat owners. A study on dogs showed that humans and their pups shared a lot of the same microbes.

The study is funded in part by a crowd-funding campaign currently running through the website, KickStarter.com. The original goal was $3,000 and they've raised more than $15,000. The campaign ends June 10.