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The first kitty-zen science project using the latest DNA sequencing technologies to explore the microbes that live in and on kitties.
The first kitty-zen science project using the latest DNA sequencing technologies to explore the microbes that live in and on kitties.
The first kitty-zen science project using the latest DNA sequencing technologies to explore the microbes that live in and on kitties.
229 backers pledged $23,183 to help bring this project to life.

About this project

kittybiome: kitty microbiomes for cat health and biology project video thumbnail
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kittybiome: kitty microbiomes for cat health and biology

$23,183

229

as featured in

T-shirts and kitty microbe scarves and lions, oh my!

Photo by Russell Neches
Photo by Russell Neches

To celebrate reaching our minimum funding goal, all backers at the $25 level and above will receive a laser pointer pen to play with their cats or lecture their friends. And now that we have reached our stretch goal of $15,000, we will be able to cover the expenses associated with this campaign and sequence 500 samples. All backers at the $99 level and above will receive a free t-shirt! Here is our fabulous t-shirt design (modeled by Felix). We have also added a reward option for folks to get a t-shirt when you back a shelter cat as well. More "pawticipants" are welcome through Wednesday morning and will help us towards our goal of sequencing 1,000 cats. Many thanks everyone!

Discover your cat!

You are invited to join kittybiome, a citizen science study of the kitty microbiome to better understand how microbiomes differ among cats, whether those differences reveal insights into cat behavior and biology, and how the kitty microbiome depends on and may shape the health of your cat.

The microbiome is all the bacteria, fungi and other tiny things that live in and on us and on our kitties. These microbial communities differ between ears and noses and mouths and tummies. This project focuses on characterizing bacteria living in the microbiome of kitties.

There are many questions that can be answered using today's DNA sequencing technologies to characterize the microbiome of your kitty. 

  • How do grumpy cats compare to happy cats?
  • How do athletic cats compare to couch potato cats?
  • Does it matter if you feed your cat a paleo-mouse diet?
  • How do indoor and outdoor cats compare? 
  • What happens when your cat goes on antibiotics? 
  • How does the microbiome change during your cat's nine lives?

Join kittybiome and we will send you a sampling kit and ask you some fun questions about your cat. You send us a sample and we take care of the rest. When the results are ready, you and your kitty can explore its microbiome on our interactive website.

 
 

Our Mission

We love cats. We are studying how microbes interact with cat biology, behavior and health. We invite YOU and your CAT to join our study on the microbiome and biology of cats that also include cats living in shelters and wild cats.

An important part of the research we're doing requires the help of animal care organizations. At least 10% of the funds we raise on Kickstarter will be paid to the organizations that are helping us.

We love science

Latest technologies. We are using the latest DNA sequencing methods to characterize the microbial diversity in cats. 

Big data. With your help, we will create the largest database of microbiome data and other data (behavior, health, diet, breed, geography) on cats.

Open science. We are committed to open science. While protecting your privacy, we will openly share the results of this study with you. And we will share the database with other researchers who are developing new methods and applications. We will publish our findings in open access journals that everyone can read.

Here's a video by Jorge Cham of Piled Higher and Deeper (PHD Comics) where kittybiome co-founder Jonathan Eisen and Nick Shockey explain what open access publishing is all about.

We value diversity.

Cats. We are launching the largest study of the microbiome of kitties. By looking at all kinds of kitties, from big to small, house cats and wild cats, cats spanning a wide range of health conditions and personalities, we will begin to understand how kitties differ and what makes for happy kitties.

People. We are committed to including all kinds of people in science. We believe in citizen science and invite everyone who cares about kitties to join this project.  

Microbes. A healthy gut microbiome contains a diversity of microbes.

Your support can help make kittybiome happen.

Co-founders Jonathan Eisen, Holly Ganz, Jack Gilbert, & Jennifer Gardy are microbiologists focusing on the microbiome.
Co-founders Jonathan Eisen, Holly Ganz, Jack Gilbert, & Jennifer Gardy are microbiologists focusing on the microbiome.

Celebrity kitties

We are inviting some celebrity kitties to join the project, so we can see how our cats' microbiomes compare to rich and famous cats. We are very pleased to announce that we have two celebrity kitties! 

Lil BUB has agreed to provide a poop sample in the name of kitty science and discovery.

And Political Reporter, Television Pundit and Author, Eleanor Clift's cat Precious (AKA Preshie) has already joined kittybiome.

Interactive website

Here is an early draft of the interactive website that we are developing for you to view your kitty's results. The website will offer a number of different ways for you to visualize and explore your data.

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About our rewards

Here is more information about the great rewards that we have put together for this campaign. Our primary goal is to provide personal microbiome information for your cat. We are also providing the opportunity for you to contribute to our ongoing research on shelter cats, feral cats, and wild cats. So we can all learn more about the microbiome of cats in houses, shelters, zoos, and the wild.

Reward #1 Pledge $5. Donate to kittybiome and earn our gratitude. We will tweet or email (your preference) our gratitude for your support of the launch of kittybiome. Estimated delivery: June 2015. Ships anywhere in the world.

Reward #2 Pledge $25. Don't have a cat? Sequence the microbiome of a shelter cat! You will receive access to an interactive website once the results for your shelter kitty are ready. Estimated delivery: September 2015. Ships anywhere in the world.

We are partnering with the Vancouver Orphan Kitten Rescue Association (VOKRA) and other local shelters to collect microbiome samples from shelter cats. They do the dirty work of collecting the sample and you get online access to the shelter cat's microbiome data and you can see how it compared to others in the study. 

UBC Undergraduates Clare Gilhooly and Josh Postman will lead efforts to sample shelter kitty microbiomes.
UBC Undergraduates Clare Gilhooly and Josh Postman will lead efforts to sample shelter kitty microbiomes.

Reward #3 Pledge $39. Limited reward (Limit of 30). Sequence the microbiome of a shelter kitty and get an inscribed book! It’s Catching: the Infectious World of Germs and Microbes by Jennifer Gardy. And you will receive access to an interactive website once the results for your shelter kitty are ready. Estimated delivery: September 2015. Ships anywhere, let us know if we need to add your country.

Reward #4 Pledge $59. Sequence the microbiome of a shelter kitty and get a fabulous custom kittybiome chiffon silk scarf designed by the famous maker of science-y art, Michele Banks of @artologica. And you will receive access to an interactive website once the results for your shelter kitty are ready. Estimated delivery: September 2015. Ships anywhere, let us know if we need to add your country.

Reward #5 Pledge $99. Sequence my kitty's gut microbiome! Limited reward (Limit of 200). We will send you a kit with detailed instructions for collecting a sample from your kitty that you will send back to us for analysis. You will receive access to an interactive website once your kitty's results are ready. Estimated delivery: September 2015. Ships anywhere, let us know if we need to add your country.

***This is your opportunity to learn more about your kitty and how it compares to other cats.***

Reward #6 Pledge $129. Limited reward (Limit of 100). Sequence my kitty's gut microbiome and get the fabulous custom kittybiome chiffon silk scarf designed by the famous maker of science-y art, Michele Banks of @artologica. We will send you a kit with detailed instructions for collecting a sample from your kitty that you will send back to us for analysis. You will receive access to an interactive website once your kitty's results are ready. Estimated delivery: September 2015.  Ships anywhere, let us know if we need to add your country.

Reward #7 Pledge $149. Limited reward (Limit of 100). Sequence the microbiome of a wild cat (leopard, puma, lion or cheetah)! And get the fabulous custom kittybiome chiffon silk scarf designed by the famous maker of science-y art, Michele Banks of @artologica. You will receive access to an interactive website once the results for your big cat are ready. Estimated delivery: Sept 2015. Ships anywhere in the world.

Holly Ganz and Jonathan Eisen study the microbiomes of the domestic cat, the European wild cat, lions, leopards, pumas, and cheetahs. We are interested in exploring how differences in sociality in these groups might affect the the composition, function and evolution of the microbial communities associated with them. In addition, we are collaborating on a study on the effects of diet and captivity on cheetahs with researchers in South Africa. We have 500 samples from lions, leopards, cheetahs and pumas in hand and are seeking funds to sequence them.

Reward #8 Pledge $225. Limited reward (Limit of 10) Sequence my kitty's microbiome x 2! And get the custom scarf by Michele Banks and Jennifer Gardy's book. We will send you a sampling kit to collect two samples from your kitty or one sample from two kitties. You will receive detailed instructions for collecting these samples and sending them back to us for analysis. You will have access to an interactive website once your kitty's (or kitties') results are ready. Estimated delivery: Sep 2015 Ships anywhere, let us know if we need to add your country.

Reward #9 Pledge $249. Limited reward (Limit of 25). Sequence my kitty's microbiome x 3! We will send you a sampling kit to collect three samples from your kitty. You will receive with detailed instructions for collecting these samples from your kitty and sending them back to us for analysis. You will receive access to an interactive website once your kitty's results are ready. Estimated delivery: September 2015. Ships anywhere, let us know if we need to add your country.

Reward #10 Pledge $500. Limited reward (Limit of 20). Learn all about the kitty microbiome with hands on activities at an exclusive event that will be held at the Bay Area Science Festival (October 22 - November 7). Ideal for the budding scientist. Estimated delivery: November 2015. (Only available in the San Francisco Bay Area, California, transportation and accommodations not included; minors must be accompanied by guardian).

How we will sequence the samples

We will perform ultra-high-throughput microbial community analysis using the Illumina MiSeq platform. Bacterial taxa present in the samples will be identified by sequencing the V4 hypervariable region of 16S rRNA.

Sequencing will be performed with minor modifications following the protocols of the Earth Microbiome Project. DNA will be extracted from samples using the MoBio PowerFecal Kit (Carlsbad, CA) with bead beating. DNA concentrations will be standardized across all samples for PCR enrichment and library preparation. After verifying amplification, amplicons will be cleaned with magnetic beads and quantified using a Qubit Fluorometer (Invitrogen, NY), and pooled in equimolar concentrations for sequencing. The resulting libraries will be sequenced in one Illumina MiSeq lane (paired-end 250 base pair sequencing) according to standard protocols. 

Bacterial species will be identified using the Quantitative Insights in Microbial Ecology (QIIME) and Mothur. We will assess differences in microbiome diversity using various nonparametric multivariate methods in R. Results will be presented in an interactive website that we are developing for this project.

Thank you and meow!

Risks and challenges

It may take a while to connect what we learn about the cat microbiome to specific features of cats like their health, personalities or lifestyles. Initially we need to describe the cat microbiome and see how much variation is observed. This is a long term project that will greatly benefit from the contributions of citizen scientists.

We have chosen a modest funding goal to launch kittybiome that provides the minimum needed to prepare and sequence one lane of samples. We can handle a much greater sequencing capacity and would love it if more people sign up. We have set a cap that reflects our maximum capacity for fulfillment.

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Support this project

  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $5 or more About $5

    Contribute to kittybiome and earn our gratitude. We will tweet or email (your preference) our gratitude for your support of the launch of kittybiome.

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    24 backers
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    Pledge $25 or more About $25

    Don't have a cat? Sequence the microbiome of a shelter cat! You will receive access to an interactive website once the results for your shelter kitty are ready.

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    Ships to Anywhere in the world
    32 backers
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  3. Select this reward

    Pledge $39 or more About $39

    Sequence the microbiome of a shelter kitty and get an inscribed book! It’s Catching: the Infectious World of Germs and Microbes by Jennifer Gardy. And you will receive access to an interactive website once the results for your shelter kitty are ready.

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    Ships to Only certain countries
    Limited 12 backers
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  4. Select this reward

    Pledge $59 or more About $59

    Sequence the microbiome of a shelter kitty and get a custom kittybiome chiffon silk scarf designed by the amazing maker of science-y art, Michele Banks @artologica. And you will receive access to an interactive website once the results for your shelter kitty are ready.

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    Ships to Only certain countries
    14 backers
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  5. Select this reward

    Pledge $65 or more About $65

    Sequence the microbiome of a shelter kitty and get a beautiful "cats for science" t-shirt. And you will receive access to an interactive website once the results for your shelter kitty are ready.

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    Ships to Only certain countries
    2 backers
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  6. Select this reward

    Pledge $75 or more About $75

    Sequence the microbiome of a shelter kitty and get a custom kittybiome chiffon silk scarf designed by the amazing maker of science-y art, Michele Banks @artologica and the "cats for science" t-shirt. And you will receive access to an interactive website once the results for your shelter kitty are ready.

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    3 backers
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  7. Select this reward

    Pledge $99 or more About $99

    Sequence my kitty's microbiome! We will send you a kit with detailed instructions for collecting a sample from your kitty that you will send back to us for analysis. You will receive access to an interactive website once your kitty's results are ready.

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    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Only certain countries
    Limited 63 backers
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  8. Select this reward

    Pledge $129 or more About $129

    Sequence my kitty's microbiome and get a custom kittybiome silk scarf designed by the famous maker of science-y art, Michele Banks @artologica. We will send you a kit with detailed instructions for collecting a sample from your kitty that you will send back to us for analysis. You will receive access to an interactive website once your kitty's results are ready.

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    Ships to Only certain countries
    Limited 16 backers
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  9. Select this reward

    Pledge $149 or more About $149

    Sequence the gut microbiome of a wild cat (cheetah, puma, leopard or lion)! And get a custom kittybiome silk scarf designed by the famous maker of science-y art, Michele Banks @artologica. You will receive access to an interactive website once the results for your big cat are ready.

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    Ships to Anywhere in the world
    Limited 6 backers
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  10. Select this reward

    Pledge $225 or more About $225

    Sequence my kitty's microbiome x 2! And get the custom scarf by Michele Banks and Jennifer Gardy's book. We will send you a sampling kit to collect two samples from your kitty or one sample from two kitties. You will receive detailed instructions for collecting these samples and sending them back to us for analysis. You will have access to an interactive website once your kitty's (or kitties') results are ready.

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    Ships to Only certain countries
    Limited 14 backers
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  11. Select this reward

    Pledge $249 or more About $249

    Sequence my kitty's microbiome x 3!
    We will send you a sampling kit to collect three samples from your kitty. You will receive with detailed instructions for collecting these samples from your kitty and sending them back to us for analysis. You will receive access to an interactive website once your kitty's results are ready.

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    Limited 12 backers
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  12. Select this reward

    Pledge $274 or more About $274

    Sequence my kitty's microbiome x 3! And get the adorable kitty microbe scarf!
    We will send you a sampling kit to collect three samples from your kitty or from three different kitties. You will receive with detailed instructions for collecting these samples from your kitty (or kitties) and sending them back to us for analysis. You will receive access to an interactive website once your kitty's results are ready.

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    Limited 5 backers
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  13. Select this reward

    Pledge $275 or more About $275

    Sequence my kitty's microbiome x 4!
    We will send you a sampling kit to collect four samples from your kitty or sample four kitties. You will receive with detailed instructions for collecting these samples and sending them back to us for analysis. You will receive access to an interactive website once your kitty's results are ready.

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  14. Select this reward

    Pledge $349 or more About $349

    Sequence my kitty's microbiome x 7! And get the adorable kitty microbe scarf!
    We will send you a sampling kit to collect seven samples from your kitty or sample seven kitties. You will receive with detailed instructions for collecting these samples and sending them back to us for analysis. You will receive access to an interactive website once your kitty's results are ready.

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  15. Select this reward

    Pledge $500 or more About $500

    Learn all about the kitty microbiome with hands on activities at an exclusive event held during the Bay Area Science Festival 10/22-11/7 in the San Francisco Bay Area, California. Ideal for the budding scientist. (Transportation and accommodations not included.)

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Funding period

- (30 days)