UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine Veterinary Genetics Laboratory
Spinal Muscular Atrophy in Maine Coon Cats


Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) is a genetic disease seen in Maine Coon cats. The disease is characterized by progressive instability with unsteady gait and posture abnormalities due to loss of motor neurons in the lower spinal cord and atrophy of muscles in the hind limbs. Affected kittens first show signs of SMA at about 3-4 months of age. The condition is neither painful nor fatal and affected cats can live a comfortable life indoors. The disease is inherited as an autosomal recessive, thus 2 copies of the mutation are required to produce the disease and both males and females are equally affected.  SMA in Maine Coon cats is caused by a large deletion of chromosome 1.

Procedure for collecting a feline DNA sample

Allow 2-6 business days for results.

The VGL offers a test to identify both affected kittens and carriers. Genetic testing assists breeders to avoid future matings that can produce affected kittens.

Results reported as:

Test Result Spinal Muscular Atrophy Status
N/N No copies of SMA are present.

1 copy of SMA is present. Cat is normal but is a carrier. Breeding between carriers will be expected to produce 25% affected, 50% carriers and 25% normal kittens.


2 copies of SMA are present, cat is affected.


Fyfe J.C., M Menotti-Raymond, VA David, et al. An ~140-kb deletion associated with feline spinal muscular atrophy implies an essential LIX1 function for motor neuron survival. Genome Research 2006 16: 1084-1090.

Veterinary Genetics Laboratory, Tel 530-752-2211, Email VGL