My husband Thomas and I have been curious about Avery’s breed and genetic background since we first fist took him in as a stray many years ago. At his first checkup, our vet told us he was full grown and had no more height left in him. This turned out not to be true. He sure did surprise the vet when we took him in for his next annual check up. Turned out we’d taken in a kitten without even knowing. Avery’s crazy long-cat height only increased our curiosity about his genetic background, and led Thomas to assume he might have some Maine Coon blood in him.
Nothing could put our suspicions to rest besides a DNA test, and while we were always considering grabbing one, when Basepaws reached out to us and offered one in exchange for a review, we were excited to have something we’d wanted for so long fall into our lap. Yes, we definitely did want to find out anything and everything we could learn about Avery. Who could resist?
Now, getting a product for free never has and never will change the fact that I’m honest in my reviews. When I review, I always pretend I spent full retail price grabbing a product myself. Nothing is ever perfect, so I usually find at least a few faults to share, even in glowing reviews. That being said, with the Basepaws CatKit, I definitely feel I had a mixed or even slightly negative experience, especially considering my preconceptions, and I’ll get into that in the remainder of this article.
While I wouldn’t say Basepaws offers a bad product, I would say you should know what you’re getting yourself into before you buy a CatKit. I certainly had to temper my initial enthusiasm getting Avery’s DNA test done considering the results I got and how long those results took to arrive. That being said, it may surprise you to learn that I can’t and won’t put this wholly on Basepaws. I’ll need a lot more space to write about this than a sentence or two, however, so if you’re only interested in learning about my thoughts on the final product, or want to skip to that section then come back to learn about the sending-the-kit-in process, scroll below to the “Results” section now.
Basepaws CatKit Pet Genetic DNA Test for Cats – Basepaws
The Process: Sending In Your Cat’s DNA
Honestly, Basepaws makes sending in your cat’s DNA a much more simple than I first imagined. Basically:
- Order the kit.
- Once the kit arrives in the mail, collect DNA for your pet (this is a lot easier than you might expect it to be).
- Activate your CatKit online (you do this with the number that’s on your kit – again, very simple to do).
- Mail your kit back in (if you live in the United States, return shipping is included).
- Wait for the lab to process the results, then once the lab is done, they’ll email you to login and check on the results.
Again, I thought this would be a much more complicated process than it really was.
When I first glanced at the Basepaws CatKit instructions, I was a little overwhelmed seeing there were 13 steps outlined. Reading them over, I realized there was nothing to stress about. Each and every step is a very small, sometimes obvious thing – written in case you’re like me and prefer to have everything explicitly stated. The instructions take out any and all guesswork, and that’s something I personally appreciate.
There are two parts to collecting your cat’s DNA:
- A saliva swab.
- Hair collection.
Both were absolutely easier to do than I imagined, and painless for my cat.
Swabbing was up first. Thomas and I found with Avery that if we stuck to swabbing the sides of Avery’s mouth and not the front, it was much less of a bother to him. The whole time Thomas swabbed, I was talking to and petting Avery, in order to distract him as much as possible from the confusing sensation. Following the set of the instructions that advise you to essentially use light pressure like when you’re brushing teeth is not difficult at all. Is it likely your cat’s going to make a fuss? Yes of course, though only because he/she likely isn’t used to something in his or her mouth, unless you happen to brush your cat’s teeth regularly.
Grabbing a hair sample was even easier than swabbing. We had to keep Avery still for it, but that was all. Yet again, distraction was the most helpful trick to use, and since we’d just taken the saliva swabs (which require you to wait an hour after your cat has eaten/drank before taking samples), at this point in the game it was obvious I should be using some kibble to bribe Avery to stay in place. What you do is stick stickers onto your cat, then pet him or her over the stickers, wait for two minutes, then pull them off in the direction against hair growth.
As a rule of thumb, we tried these stickers out on Avery’s side and back. I definitely think he preferred the sticker being on his side, but no pain either time we removed the sticker, just a very shocked expression. We sure did get a few, “What are you crazy humans DOING?” faces, but besides those few looks, they were no trouble for Avery at all.
We sealed and mailed the test to Basepaws and waited for the results, which took ages (I think roughly 6-8 months longer than expected) because the lab kept having delays. But a first version of the CatKit did finally get here, which brings me to the next section…
The Results: What You Get & If It’s Worth It
Now, I probably was way too excited over this CatKit to be unbiased about the results I got, but I’ll do my best to explain my bias so you know if this product is right for you.
In terms of price, the Basepaws CatKit runs at $95. Fair enough since a human genetic test will probably cost you around the same, and I’m assuming doing tests on animal DNA is a similar process. I don’t expect genetic tests to be dirt cheap, and since you have them done once, I honestly don’t mind the price at all. Since I currently have one cat, the $95 price tag isn’t ridiculously expensive for me. If you have 5 and want all of them tested by Basepaws, that’ll run you $475, which is madness. So I do feel as though there should be somewhat of a sliding scale or a discount for the second cat on, if it’s at all possible for Basepaws to do. I can’t imagine a person wanting this test for just one cat, but not for others, so if it’s at all possible, I think a discount on additional CatKits past the first would make sense. That being said I have no idea what Basepaws’ figures are and if this is remotely feasible for them – just an idea!
In terms of what you get (so far) out of the Basepaws CatKit – well here’s where I was more than a little disappointed.
Here’s what I got –
The Breed index & the Wild Cats index (click here to see it in full size):
Let’s start with the Breed index.
Now I’m sure that this section was designed to be as visually appealing as possible, but I honestly don’t find easy to read at all. The instructions for interpreting your results: “The width of the marker indicates the exactness of our prediction. If your cat does not clearly match a breed, your cat is most likely a Domestic.”
Great, so it’s obvious that my cat is domestic; what isn’t at all easy to figure out is the exact figures they’re trying to visually show me. They’re apparently slightly sure that he’s ever so slightly likely to be of nearly every breed – except for Abyssinian where he’s very likely to be slightly that breed? And Maine Coon where they’re pretty unsure but think he is neither likely or unlikely to be of that breed? It’s very confusing, especially when you try to compare the figures. I wish Basepaws would just give a number value, maybe not as a replacement for this visual, but at least as a summary before or after this visual section. It would make the data a lot easier to digest and dig into.
The Wild Cats index is a lot easier to digest, since it’s just a numerical value (Avery is more alike to a jaguar than 63% of cats, more alike to a fishing cat than 57% of cats, and so on). This section is fine, but even with the Breed index data – these sections are not in my opinion worth the $95 you need to pay for a test to get done.
That’s not where this review ends, however, because Basepaws has a whole bunch of other features they’re hoping to release in the future. Have a look at their product page, and you’ll see all they want to add: maternal/paternal tracing, breed determination, and in-breeding to the Ancestry eport. A Health report including: genetic health risks, genetic diseases, carrier status (PKD, HCM) sections, both having the estimated timeline as coming out this year. In 2019, they want to add a Traits section including personality prediction, catnip-addict likelihood, physical traits, fun facts subsections, as well as a wellness section that includes diet recommendations and wellness assessments sections. They even want to add the ability to match your cat with genetically similar cats, which is amazing if you were ever curious to know whether strays you found at similar times were siblings. They hope to add a feature allowing you to send your report to your vet, and even access your cat’s raw DNA sequence: which would be an important feature to me considering when other pet DNA analysis sites spring up, you can easily upload the raw data onto them and not have to re-do the genetic test all over again.
So if Basepaws is trying to do all these astonishing things, what could I possibly be complaining about?
What the Basepaws CatKit is – as it stands – is not in fact a final, finished product. What it is, in essence, is something like a crowdfunding campaign – similar to a Kickstarter or Indiegogo. And if you’ve ever invested in a few of those products, you know that:
- Crowdfunded products may take loads longer to finally become tangible, finished products shipped to be used than the company’s timeline ever predicted.
- The product may never be what the creators intended or pitched the product would be like.
- You may never even get the final product if the company is mismanaged or for any reason goes under.
When you pay that $95 to Basepaws, you’re not paying for a CatKit. You’re paying them for R&D (research and development) that may be delivered on time, but more likely will arrive after massive delays, with less remarkable features than you imagined, and may even flop completely if the company can’t keep afloat for one reason or another.
If you know this. If you are fine with this. If you believe that Basepaws can get the CatKit to where you want it to be and you’re happy to wait things out with them. If you want to help fund scientists research cat DNA to the point where all these amazing reports are a reality and you’re okay knowing that it may never come to be if the company crashes and burns: this product is for you. Not okay with any or all of the above? I wouldn’t recommend investing in the Basepaws CatKit unless you somehow really think the Breed index and the Wild Cats index which are already out in and of themselves are worth it.
I want to make it clear, I am not hating on Basepaws. I was concerned at one point that they may not be a legitimate company considering how long they took to get out their first release of data – the Alpha Report. But since they have put that out into the world, those initial fears I had thinking, “What if this is a scam?” vanished. No, they’re legitimate, they’re just not far along in terms of R&D, and need more time, funding, and probably a lot more cat DNA to test on to get to where they really hope they will be.
Now, if you’re on the fence, and just aren’t sure which way to go, I’ll say this: while I don’t know much about Basepaws, their co-founder/CEO Anna Skaya does seem to have a strong enough resume. Do some more digging on the company if you’re curious. Ask them questions. And remember that the more cat DNA Basepaws gets into its system, the more funding they get, the faster they can get those results out and, in the end, the more accurate their results can be.
Their vision for the Basepaws brand: the kits they’re hoping to release, are quite frankly very cool and if they do finally make it to the bitter end, I honestly believe all cats’ health, wellness, and well being will be better off for it. Breakthroughs in DNA and isolating genes can help us go so far in making the world a better place for our feline friends.
But you have to know what you’re getting yourself into, so I would never say whether this is a good product to buy into right now. That really all depends on where you personally stand.
Your Thoughts on the Basepaws CatKit?
What do you personally think about the Basepaws CatKit?
Is getting a cat DNA test for one or more of your pets something you’ve ever been interested in? Would you invest in Basepaws now, at the start of its research and before it has a really solid product? Would you want to wait a little longer before investing?
What do you think about the price tag, and if you’re okay with it for one cat, but wish it was cheaper for additional ones, how much do you feel is a good price point for additional CatKits after the first?
Any other thoughts you have on Basepaws as a company or pet genetic tests in general, please do leave in the comments down below!