How do Manx breeders create healthy cats?

Managing Manx cat health
Photo by liberalmind1012. I am sure the Manx in this picture is not a pedigree cat.
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I am interested in how breeders of the Manx cat are able to create healthy cats. We know that the gene that causes taillessness in the Manx is a nasty gene, which potentially causes severe health problems in living Manx cats and which causes the death of embryos before birth.

Kittens die before birth when they are homozygous for the Manx gene. “Homozygous” means possessing a pair of identical alleles at a place (locus) on the chromosome. The Manx gene is symbolised by the capital letter “M” because It is dominant. The CFA say it is “incomplete dominant”.

At one time breeders were not aware that kittens were dying in the womb. I presume there was no evidence of their existence except that there was a decrease in the average number of young per litter when Manx mated Manx cat, which is when the offspring will be homozygous to the M gene.

Some kittens are stillborn and some cats die before 12 months of age. In cats that survive, the effect of the Manx gene is not only seen in a short tail or no tail. There are defects along the entire length of the cat’s spine.

At the front of the vertebral column the vertebrae are shortened, while in the rear part there are missing vertebrae and fusing of vertebrae. There are umpteen deficiencies, potential or actual, to contend with such as spina bifida and the spinal cord terminating prematurely, which means nerves do not reach certain internal organs or the hind limbs (‘Manx syndrome’ describes the various problems).

Surely, it must be a breeder’s nightmare. Of course, breeders cannot mate Manx with Manx because that results in kittens dying inside the womb. But do breeders do this?

It would seem certain that breeders should have to mate Manx with a random bred cat or a cat of another breed to at least minimise the number of kittens born with health problems.

However, the Cat Fanciers’ Association says that outcrossing is not permitted. “Outcrossing” means introducing a different breed or random bred cat into the breeding line. They also say:

…Once a Manx kitten gets past the age of six months the majority of well-cared-for pets live long lives – 15 or more years…

This implies that kittens sometimes don’t get beyond the age of 6 months due to the health defects of the M gene. The CFA do not, as far as I can tell, provide information about best breeding practice on their website. They barely touch on the health issues.

Without information as to how Manx breeders create healthy cats, I must presume that they create lots of unhealthy cats and that these cats are killed by breeders at an early stage of their lives.

If I have that wrong, please correct me. It seems to me that the health problems associated with a lack of a tail are too severe to manage in a way that prevents the creation of ill kittens.

There is another hidden problem. Not all Manx cats are tailless. And some don’t have the right sort of taillessness. What happens to these cats? Who wants a Manx with a tail? Customers certainly don’t. A breeder might retain one of these tailed Manx cats for breeding purposes but how often does that happen?

My regrettable conclusion is that the Manx is a famous cat breed that is almost impossible to breed in an ethical way. It should, therefore, not be bred.

11 thoughts on “How do Manx breeders create healthy cats?”

  1. There are bad breeders of Manx cats, just as there are bad breeders of any dog or cat – but there are also some very good ones. I got my Manx from a very ethical breeder who even went as far as having genetic testing done on all of her cats, as well as routine FIV/FeLV testing, to make sure she wasn’t propagating any defective hidden genes or risking kitten health. My beautiful Manx (with a short-tailed and a long-tailed Manx parents, so still a purebred but without the risks of the lethal genes) is healthy, strong, full of personality, and doing all of the things that Manx cats are loved for – romping through mud, catching small critters, chattering, leaping extraordinary heights.

    I think the solution to this problem, as well as to the problems of Persian cats, pug dogs and most other breeds you care to name, is going to be public pressure on breeders to become ethical breeders who do thorough testing and get genetics advice from experts. The unique breeds we love CAN be preserved and their health CAN be improved if breeders choose science over business.

    • Kayt, I liked your comment. Very well thought out and I completely agree with you. There is a place in the world for cat breeders provided they act responsibly and to high ethical standards. And it is down to us, the consumer, to ensure that breeders act in a highly ethical manner as you state.

  2. I have a Manx kitty cat. She’s about three years old now. She’s a very happy, healthy kitty! I am completely in love with her and wouldn’t trade her for all the money in the world. She is the most perfect cat I have ever had. I adopted her from the humane society when she was only three months old. She has made me happier than any other pet I have ever met or lived with in my lifetime.

    She weighs seven pounds (yes, she looks really small), has a short, stubby little tail with a tuff of fur at the end, making her look like a bunny, the most beautiful gray tabby coat with all the spots and stripes delicately blended with a creamy brown color on her belly and chest, amazingly bright and brilliant green eyes, large hind legs, and slightly rounded, really big ears!

    She’s extremely playful and very strong. As tiny as she is, she can jump an entire six to seven feet into the air if so inclined! I can hardly believe it. She is also an avid huntress! I walk her outdoors only on a leash, if she’s in the mood.

    I feed her only the best food. If you’re curious, I only feed her Royal Canin dry (Indoor Beauty) cat food and Soulistic Soups for Cats pouches. She has a water purifier to ensure that she always has fresh water to drink.

    I understand the issues that could result from poor breeding, but this is wrong to say that there shouldn’t be more Manx cats. They have great personalities. They are beautiful. They’re a bit like dogs in a cat’s body.

    Don’t blame this breed. Blame the breeder.

    My Manx is spayed because I believe that’s one less system for her body to have to deal with. I want her to live as long as she possibly can. I can see her living to be fifteen years of age or older.

  3. You don’t outbreed the manx cat. You can breed a rumpy with a stumpy and the offspring will be fine. That why some members of the breed have longer (stumpy, stubby, longy) tails. If you breed two rumpies together you will have problems.

    But I’m not an advocate of breeding. Just sayin’

  4. I agree Michael, they should not be bred.
    Cats were created to come with supple healthy bodies and bones, whiskers, claws and tails, why mess with Nature when she already made them perfect?

    • Exactly – sadly I think the answer is money mixed with the pursuit of perfection results in something quite the opposite to perfection in the view of organic nature.

      Actually it’s the negative things these animals have that the breeders feed on to promote something different which stands out. Tastes then follow.

      I therefore conclude that breeders of unhealthy animals of any kind are morally corrupted and should stop immediately from any such breeding. Futhermore they should be prosecuted for animal abuse because that’s what it is in one of it’s worst forms given the duration or endgame of these health problems.

  5. Thanks “P.O.C” and thanks Michael.Excellent breeding information on the “Manx Cats’, a cat i have never ever seen in my life to date.We humans are meddling excessively in trying to become god and alter or create new life through our own artificial means.Sometimes the results could be disastrous , a la Frankenstein saga.Feel sad for the numerous Manx kittens and cats that are condemned to a life of medical illnesses due to no fault of their own but we humans.Not only “Manx Cats” but even the “Punch-Faced Persian” cats physiology are definitely not suitable for certain climatic conditions due to alterations by humans selectively breeding them.

    • We, as a species are implicitly, totally wrong to do what we have done to these poor kittens/cats. I do not think much of our species, Mr. Furtado. (thank You again, for raising this in our faces, because it NEEDS to be!)


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