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First feline DNA database created

Curious cat

Forensic scientists from the University of Leicester have compiled the UK’s first database of cat DNA. Researchers at the university’s Department of Genetics created the database of DNA from 152 felines across the UK, evidence which has already been used for a criminal trial.

Lead researcher Dr Jon Wetton said: “This is the first time cat DNA has been used in a criminal trial in the UK. We now hope to publish the database so it can be used in future crime investigations. “This could be a real boon for forensic science, as the 10 million cats in the UK are unwittingly tagging the clothes and furnishings in more than a quarter of households.

The exploratory team at Leicester gathered the DNA samples from a business which handles the analysis of pet blood samples on behalf of vets across the country.

Samples showed cats’ age, gender and postcode, with 23 samples from cats in Southsea and the remaining 129 from elsewhere in the country. Only three of these samples matched the hairs found at the scene of the crime, which confirmed that the cat’s mitochondrial DNA – a type of DNA contained in small structures within cells – was uncommon in the UK.

According to the research team, this evidence was subsequently used as part of the prosecution case during the trial, leading to a successful conviction.

The team hope to use their collection of DNAs to evaluate more discriminating nuclear DNA tests, as well as continuing to use the database to analyse mitochondrial DNA.

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