Siamese: The World’s Most Unhealthy Cat!

Despite its esteemed position as one of the world’s most recognisable and popular purebred cats, the Siamese is arguably the most sick of all the cat breeds, indeed of any other cat.

The title is deliberately provocative but the statement is rooted in fact. Here is a chart that lists the inherited diseases associated with cat breeds. Some cat breeds are not represented on this chart. The reason is that there is, as yet, not enough research on this matter and therefore the information is unavailable. Also some cat breeds have no known inherited diseases.

The number of Siamese cat genetic diseases are greater than other breeds

The number of Siamese cat genetic diseases are greater than other breeds

This is the list of genetic (inherited) diseases associated with the Siamese:

  1. Asthma
  2. Cutaneous asthenia  – 2 types (a) thin skin, or (b) soft velvety skin that is easily damaged.
  3. Esophageal hypomotility – spontaneous movement of the intestine. The cat regurgitates, is feverish and has respiratory problems.
  4. Mast cell tumors
  5. Hypotrichosis – abnormal hair patterns due to thinning.
  6. Cutaneous mastocytomas – masses under the skin.
  7. Glaucoma – chronic open-angled glaucoma – increased eye pressure.
  8. Cervical neck lesions – bad teeth. Siamese cats need dental checks.
  9. Hip dysplasia – loose hip joint
  10. Feline hyperesthesia syndrome
  11. Feline endocrine alopecia
  12. Mucopolysaccharidosis
  13. Gangliosidosis
  14. Adenocarcinomas of the small intestine
  15. Malignant mammary tumors
  16. Numerous congenital heart defects (PDA, aortic stenosis, AV valve Malformation, pyloric stenosis, etc)
  17. Strabismus – squint – the classic. original cross-eyed cat.
  18. Primary endocardial fibroelastosis
  19. Nystagmus – rapid eye movements left to right.
  20. Congenital heart defects
  21. Hydrocephalus – kittens have a domed shaped head, abnormal gait, depression, head ache.
  22. Sphingomyelinosis – retarded growth and ataxia (wobbly gait). Head bobbing. Death before one year of age.
  23. Chronic Degenerative Keratitis 
  24. Hepatic Amyloidosis

When the Siamese cat was first imported from Siam to England, UK in 1886, Mrs Vyvyan of Dover, England, UK, describes the cat as dominant over other cats in the area where she lived. They were strong cats but they suffered from an acute case of worms. The condition was so bad the cats tried to cough them up. Veterinary surgery was hardly in existence and she gave them chicken heads and feathers for relief. An inauspicious start, health-wise.

The high number of genetic diseases associated with the Siamese has not been explained. For me it is caused by over zealous breeding for appearance while placing health as a secondary consideration.

I am referring to the extreme selective breeding that has created the slender and highly “refined” modern Siamese with the bony, elongated head. All breeders will disagree with me. I am fine with that.

Primary Source: Genetic Diseases in Purebred Cats – Source: Medical, Genetic, & Behavioral Aspects of Purebred Cats; Ross D.Clark, DVM.

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Siamese: The World’s Most Unhealthy Cat! — 12 Comments

  1. Depends on which Siamese you are referring to. You can contact the Traditional Cat Association for a better understanding of the original traditional apple-head Siamese, and the new mangled version with a host of health problems.

  2. This is one reason I’ve always like Moggies. Really, with DNA testing these days, breeders should be breeding to increase health. The leading Cat Fancy organizations could require a registration of only cats with healthy DNA, and only those could be shown.

  3. I’ve been around the ‘traditional’ apple-head siamese all my life and didn’t think ours were particularly troublesome with diseases. I have, in fact, turned around the kidney disease of my old 16 year old cat with Reiki treatments. His bloodwork confirms it.

    • Thanks for the comment. There are many healthy Siamese cats, it is just that, in general, they are more liable to become unhealthy. Please note I am referring to the Modern Siamese. Your cat is a traditional style Siamese. There are different breeding practices involved, I believe.

    • Traditional apple head Siamese are most likely much more healthy. If anything it would be interesting to fit them in as a separate group and see how do in the list. I’d bet that they are very healthy. I bet the modern Siamese are actually more unhealthy than the list shows because the statistic mixes the two to make an average.

      Well done with the reiki by the way – it works wonders. It’s quite something to diminish a kidney problem in a cat as old as 16. You must be an excellent caretaker 🙂

      • I bet the modern Siamese are actually more unhealthy than the list shows because the statistic mixes the two to make an average.

        Absolutely, the list is an average. The trouble is there are a wide range of types of Siamese cats. The original is now put into the same category as the extreme bred Modern Siamese. That is unfortunate for the old style Siamese.

        • …yes and it also masks the issues of the modern siamese so it’s not good for them either unless you are simply trying to make money selling them and don’t care about the rest. The healthier traditional cats make the modern ones look healthier statistically I guess. Not good at all. Its about time the breeds got separated for these kinds of purposes. There has to be more awareness of the difference. The variations within one breed are almost akin to the differences between two different breeds – it’s that extreme it would seem. The apple head versus the long face modern is a huge difference. Calling them both siamese and not much more in some cases is not very accurate or good in my opinion.

  4. It’s sad that some breeders keep on breeding cats even knowing of the many health problems they could face. It’s sad too that these people are making money out of selling especially bred pedigree kittens, when every day cats and kittens equally as beautiful and deserving of homes are being killed in Shelters because there are not enough homes for them.

    • I totally agree Ruth – it’s the same old argument and I too will keep on saying it until something changes. It only becomes more relevant and important as time passes because the shelter situation gets worse and worse. The fact that people want to have strange looking unhealthy expensive cats is a testament to how little people research or know whats going OR how much they don’t care if they do know.

      It’s terrible and it will remain terrible until there is change.

      • ….a testament to how little people research or know whats going OR how much they don’t care if they do know….

        People, in general, don’t “think”. They just follow their instincts. Humankind is not as well developed as we like to believe. We are an animal species and it shows all the time. But we seem to have distorted animal instincts.

  5. A bit of thread necromancy, but is this mostly relevant to the american modern siamese, or is it modern siamese worldwide? I’m surprised because as far as I know, the Australian and South African lineages are fairly robust, but that’s anecdotal.

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