West Australian diabetes researchers have for the first time discovered six genes that put Australian Burmese cats at higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes (T2D).
Professor Grant Morahan from University of Western Australia’s Centre for Diabetes Research, which is supported by charity Diabetes Research WA, said Australian Burmese cats were significantly more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than other cat breeds.
“Burmese cats in Australia are more at risk of type 2 diabetes than American Burmese cats, or other cat breeds in Australia. They were bred from only a few founder cats brought here in the 1960s, which by chance had more type 2 diabetes susceptibility genes than usual,” Professor Morahan said.
“Our eight-year research project investigating the genetic make-up of these cats has discovered six genes that are over-represented in Australian Burmese cats with type 2 diabetes, and some of these genes are also involved in human diabetes.”
More than 100 Australian Burmese cats were involved in the project, with their genetic information compared to the genetic information of 84 American Burmese cats.
Cats with type 2 diabetes tend to develop it later in their lives and experience health impacts similar to humans with the condition. Symptoms include inadequate insulin secretion and impaired insulin action, and they are more at risk of obesity and physical inactivity.
“On top of the harmful health effects, which can lead to these cats dying prematurely, it can prove costly for owners,” Professor Morahan said.
The discovery paves the way for vets to be able to arrange genetic testing, and work with owners to help prevent high-risk cats from developing the condition. Cat breeders can also use the information to breed low-risk cats.