When Catherine McDonald was gifted a DNA test, she never could have imagined the way her life would change. But as her story continued to unfold, it turned out she knew a lot less about her family than she realized.
Meet Cat McDonald
Catherine "Cat" McDonald is a plant lover from Nashville, Tennessee. She grew up in a typical nuclear home, and even as a child, her family knew she would accomplish big things. To say the least, she surpassed their expectations.
McDonald got her first kitty at a young age, which birthed her love for the four-legged creatures. But, there was one thing she adored more than felines... Music. Violin music, to be exact. In fact, the musical instrument was arguably her first love, and it led her to incredible things.
She's Found her Passion
From a young age, Cat clearly had a natural talent. Not only did her passion for rhythm flow naturally, but her ability to learn quickly was astonishing! Her teachers were amazed by her gift, and she only improved from then on. In the following years, Cat would take her abilities to the next level in ways no one saw coming.
As a violin fanatic, Catherine began recording her own music. Incorporating DJ equipment into her performances only took her talents further. In fact, she took to Instagram to share her songs and racked up over 17.8K followers! Little did Cat know, this would play an important role in her story.
A Friend Forever
As mentioned before, one of the only things that hold as much space in the young woman's heart as music is her pet cat, Eleanor. "I can’t even begin to describe how much better my quality of life is with my fur baby," Catherine posted on her Insta. For over four years now, Eleanor has been Cat's RTP or registered therapy pet.
The pair have been together since Cat rescued Eleanor when she was a mere three weeks old. Eleanor had come from a breeder that had wanted to rid of her due to "defects." But, seeing nothing wrong with the bundle of fur, McDonald adopted her without hesitation. To this day, Eleanor has helped Cat through nearly every hardship.
Cat's Bachelor's Degree
Once she had her little gal by her side, Catherine felt she could accomplish anything she put her mind to. This included getting her Bachelor's Degree. Thus, beginning in 2013, Cat attended the prestigious Berklee College of Music. She began studying violin performance and even earned her degree in it!
She must have leaned into school with her whole heart because, according to her LinkedIn, McDonald spent over two hundred hours in the studio practicing violin, signed five performance contracts, and even made the Dean's List! But for Cat, these tremendous accomplishments were mere stepping stones on her path to fame.
Her Life Changed
After graduating from Berklee College of Music in 2017, Catherine decided to gain some experience in the higher levels of song. Thus, she began working as a music director at Cedar Fair Entertainment Company. Although she worked there for under six months, it was due to another amazing opportunity that came her way.
When McDonald was offered the chance to become a show captain and bandleader for Luminosity in 2017, she knew she couldn't pass it up. So, she moved from Massachusettes to Sandusky, Ohio, and embarked on yet another journey. She felt herself growing; however, this was far from the end of her story.
Post gaining director status, Cat decided to level up again in her music career. So, in late 2017, she was accepted to and began attending Belmont University. She studied for a Master of the Arts Degree, and by the time she was finished, Catherine gained a degree in Music Performance and formed crucial mentor relationships.
"I'm…extremely humbled and honored to be working with the musical mentors I have," Cat wrote on Insta of her time learning under Tracey Silverman, Ryan Joseph, and Kenny Sears. Even though she had spent her life fostering a love for music, Catherine never could have imagined the way it would change her life.
A Bright Future Education
Cat has undoubtedly accomplished a lot thus far, but she holds herself to a very high bar and is far from finished. According to LinkedIn, the musician has plans to pursue a second Master's Degree in Nashville, Tennessee. McDonald's vision for herself has impressed her mentors and family and the music community at large.
Although Catherine hasn't publicly posted when she wants to add this next feather to her cap, we can only imagine that her drive to earn this third degree has transcended into an unbreakable passion. Little did she know, there could have been more moolah under her name to pay for that degree than she realized.
She Landed Musical Appearances
With her resume full of gleaming accomplishments and much-deserved awards, Catherine shared some more exciting news. Just when her peers thought she couldn't be any more impressive, Cat revealed that she was chosen to feature as a singer-songwriter on an upcoming album of Disrupción Records.
If all of that wasn't enough, Cat also played in bands such as Southern City Band and Jacksonville Kid. As the cherry on top, McDonald was later featured as the vocalist and fiddle player for Cedar Point's Rockin' Country 2016. The more popularity she gained, the more doors opened for her.
Diamonds and Whiskey
"I have no idea what my music career is going to look like, but I'm starting to realize it may already be happening," Catherine said in an emotional post on Instagram. The admission came after Cat spent a year as a bassist, backup vocalist, and of course, violinist for a CCM award-winning band called Diamonds and Whiskey.
"Thank you to those that have seen me and believed in me, through last year, through life, you know who you are…thank you for telling me to not give up. I won't, I promise," Cat wrote. After getting accustomed to the traveler lifestyle, the musician soon wrapped her time in North Carolina and headed to the award's stage.
Making a Name for Herself
From the Cedar Point Amusement Park back in 2015 to being nominated as Santa Fe's top ten "Epic Artists" of her generation by the Santa Fe Pro Musical Foundation years later, there's no denying Cat has grown. In fact, McDonald even had the opportunity to perform alongside some of the best musicians in the world.
To be specific, the already accomplished Catherine brushed shoulders, matched pitches, and performed with world-renowned musicians. According to Cat, the list includes the likes of Mark O'Connor, Bobby McFerrin, and Natalie Dessay. But there's someone else she would soon want to meet with as well.
In Front of The World
Catherine seemed to be surprised by her own gift! Even after being ranked the youngest singer-songwriter in New Mexico to reach number one on the ReverbNation charts, Cat was still shocked by her ability. "I'm actually making a living full-time with music, half the time I forget I'm even getting paid," she admitted.
Awarded for her talents as a singer-songwriter, Cat was ranked second in the New Mexico Old Time Fiddlers Association finals. Thus, she proved to be simply talented in general! As more people were learning her name, many would soon discover a shocking revelation about the musician. One she had absolutely no idea of either.
The Gift that Changed Everything
Outside of her musical trophy case, one of Cat's most significant accomplishments remains the relationships she had with her family. So, when her father gifted the entire family DNA kits for Christmas, the McDonald's thought it would be a wonderful experience to learn more about their lineage.
Like many others, Catherine and her family joined the masses of those who completed a simple swab to find out a myriad of answers. But, when the results returned to their rightful owners, some unusual news sent a shock wave through the entire McDonald household.
The Shocking DNA Results
When the DNA results arrived on St. Patrick's day, which would soon prove to be an interesting twist to the whole scenario, Cat found out some surprising news. "I had an exact paternal match," the musician explained in a TikTok video, "It just wasn't him." Let's rewind. The results said Cat's dad wasn't her dad?
Yes, that's correct. Actually, her DNA results showed that Catherine wasn't even Irish like her dad - not even one percent! "There's no way you're not Irish," Cat's father tried to reassure her on the phone. But, the young woman was not taking her dad's word at face value.
The Truth About Cat
Catherine defines herself as having Irish heritage due to her red hair and Irish surname, but the results of her DNA test proved otherwise. In fact, the results showed that she was not Irish at all. Instead, Cat learned that she was actually seventy-five percent Norwegian and twenty-five percent German/British.
If that wasn't a big enough shock for the young woman, the results showed that the father she had known her entire life was, in fact, not her father at all. The DNA test proved that her one-hundred percent paternal match actually lived on the other side of the country.
An Exact Paternal Match
After learning this information, Catherine immediately called her mother and two aunts to ask what was really going on here. But, when Cat shared the news, none of the women had any idea what she was talking about and were equally as shocked to learn this information.
Apparently, Catherine's real father's name seemed to ring a bell with the dad she knew and loved. And, by digging into the situation with her loved ones, they found that the supposed parent actually turned out to be an old family friend. Even though Cat had gotten some answers, she was more confused than ever before.
McDonald went TikTok Famous
With TikTok trending as one of the most popular social media platforms, Catherine decided to share her story online and broadcast her unusual findings to the world. Since posting her findings, Cat has racked up nearly two and a half million likes and over twenty thousand comments.
After many became immediately invested in her story, McDonald posted a part two to her video, which has since reached over four-hundred and two thousand likes and more than seven thousand comments. Although Catherine only has twenty-three posts on TikTok, she and her story have since become famous.
She Couldn't Trust Anyone
With the shocking information learned about her actual identity, Catherine dove head-first into research to find out as much as she possibly could about her mystery father. "I do want to say that I am very grateful for the life that my parents have provided me," she assured in her TikTok video. However, something felt...off.
With a serious face, the violinist said that she "Smells bull****" within the situation. From her copious amounts of detective work, Cat soon found out that the man who was supposedly her birth father was actually a billionaire. She did not share his name in her TikTok, but did mention he is the CEO of his own prominent company.
Cat Traveled to Meet her Real Father
With this information in mind, Cat felt that she had no other option but to drive halfway across the country to the man's corporate office. She wanted to give him a letter. But, when she arrived and told the secretary that she was there to meet her father, he caught word and refused to meet with her.
After some back and forth, Catherine had no other option but to return home. Per her TikTok, McDonald reported feeling okay with the turn out of the situation. All she had written in the letter was "thank you," among a couple of other things that she did not clarify.
"Really Happy to be Alive"
Trying not to get discouraged by the fact that she had taken the time and devoted the energy to gain clarity about her findings, Cat reflected on her experience. While she was at the corporate office, she learned that the billionaire's three daughters actually worked in the office as well. But, she did not meet them either.
Though the women could have been the sisters she never knew she wanted, McDonald reported generally feeling okay yet still rattled by the situation. Despite that, she shared on TikTok that she wanted to give the man her letter because she is "Really happy to be alive" and wanted to thank him personally.
Searching for More Answers
"You all know as much as I do that at this point, but I really want more answers," McDonald said on TikTok. Then, she leaned into the digital world more than ever before. Cat called on the community to help her find more information. And, she said she would make a part three to her story on the platform once she learned more.
According to the comment section of her Tiktok video, Catherine seems to be in the same boat as a lot of people. Many commenters shared that they had either found out the same kind of shocking family news or had new information come to light about their own families. But, what was Cat to do now?
Non-Paternity Event Support
Well, the musician did what she felt anyone else would do in her case. She searched for support. And, luckily, she wasn't disappointed with what she found! Thankfully, the company that her family had done their DNA testing through offered options for digesting the information learned.
According to DNAngels, NPE, Non-Paternity Event" or "Not Parent Expected," is a person who has "Discovered through DNA testing that the people/person they believed to be their biological parent(s) are actually not genetically related at all." And, there were support groups in place for NPE's that felt a bit stranded.
McDonald Gained Widespread Support
As she soon found out, Catherine was not alone in feeling confused about the new revelations in her life. She joined an NPE support group who, according to DNAngels, has a mantra focused on "Spreading encouragement and reminding people who are now suffering an identity crisis that they are "Not the cause of the problem."
In fact, the organization genuinely encourages the message that NPE's are "Only the result" and can turn their "Mess into a message." As DNAngels focuses on helping those who do not know the identity of the results shown on their tests, their goal is to "Restore genetic truth" while supporting people on their journies.
She Worked with DNAngels
Caught up in a winding and confusing journey of her own, Catherine couldn't help but think about all of the other people who found themselves in the same or similar positions as her. Thus, she inquired with DNAngels about how she could help support the platform via her social media.
After some back and forth, McDonald's wishes were met with extreme gratitude. She had stepped up to the plate to find out how she could help others in her situation. Cat contacted DNAngels and spoke with the founder, Lead Genetic Genealogist, and Executive Director, Laura Leslie-Olmstead.
Cat Is Not Alone
With thousands of other men and women across all ages finding out they aren't genetically the individuals they believe to be, Cat contacted Olmstead. She expressed, "I would love to channel this to a greater good. I want to ask my following to donate to DNAngels as a final "part" of my ancestry DNA series."
She continued, explaining that she wanted to offer "A brighter future for others that have been in my shoes." In response, DNAngels released a statement about Cat's experience, saying, "We could not be more honored to join forces and become lasting allies for such a worthy cause."
Looking Forward to The Future
With unwavering support and partnership from DNAngels, Catherine McDonald expressed feeling comforted amongst this life-changing revelation. While we eagerly await part three of her TikTok series, we hope that Cat can gain more clarity as time goes on.
Despite the whirlwind experience she's had, the talented violinist seems to remain optimistic about the opportunities that may lay in wait for her. Whether or not she will decide to try meeting her billionaire birth father again? That's a story for Catherine to work out and for us to follow along with on TikTok.