Do some cat breeds face extinction?
The headline sounds apocalyptic and impossibly odd but please read on. The effective breeding populations of adult cats from certain cat breeds may be much lower than the total number of cats of these particular cat breeds. Smaller gene pools have an impact on fertility. Where there is inbreeding due to a small number of founding cats in a breed the gene pool can be very small. Infertility reduces the number of breeding cats which further reduces the gene pool and so on until the breed has become extinct. I think that is the theory.
It is certainly more than a theory with respect to certain dog breeds. Some dog breeds are said to be facing the possibility of extinction. An example is the Hungarian vizsla. One special champion cat has sired 1,000 puppies, representing 10% of the total population of dogs of this breed in Britain. Twenty-nine dog breeds are at risk. The breeding population of the bearded collie, for example, is 20 dogs but the total population is 6,650.
Inbreeding also affects health and can bring forward recessive genes that create inherited disorders such as HCM (Bengal cats) and PKD (Persian cats). These inherited illnesses make the breed less attractive to buyers and less popular further jeopardising the survival of the cat breed.
I don’t know how serious the situation is regarding cat breeds. Perhaps a breeder can leave a comment. But certain breeds do have few founding cats (Bengal) and perhaps the major cat associations should take greater steps to ensure that breeders make responsible decisions when selectively breeding.
In the wild the same problem exists. It is not talked about but the Siberian tiger population in the far east of Russia is about 400 and the breeding population is 14! As to the Bengal tiger we have no research. However, I would bet my bottom dollar that the populations of most Bengal tiger reserves is not viable. In other words the authorities have to continually import new tigers into reserves rather than letting the tigers breed. As I understand, it Corbett Tiger Reserve is the only one where the Bengal tiger population is self-sustaining. Perhaps someone can confirm that?