Something needs to be done about the irrepressible desire of humans to own companion animals that are substitutes for human babies. This innate desire in humans to nurture a baby but not a genuine human is expressed in the dramatic increase in popularity of breeds, both cat and dog, with round heads, flat faces and bulging, baby eyes. For example, registrations of English bulldogs have more than doubled and for French bulldogs there has been a 30-fold increase. For cats, the flat-faced Persian is still highly popular despite it being known that this breed has built-in health problems. The current success of the Scottish Fold is also due to the fact that their ears are flattened to create a rounded appearance of the head. Once again it that round baby appearance which is appealing. Taylor Swift fell for it.
With respect to dogs, in the UK, this unhealthy desire for baby-faced dogs has resulted in 37 canine fertility clinics springing up from a single clinic in 2015. They don’t appear to employ vets but they are offering complex procedures and surgery one of which is artificial insemination which is now illegal and another is cesarean sections. The French bulldog, one of the most popular breeds currently, has a cesarean section rate of 80%. These round headed flat-faced breeds, bred to extreme, cannot reproduce naturally. It should be said that it is illegal in the UK to breed from a dog if the health of its offspring is likely to be compromised. Notwithstanding that the dogs are, as mentioned, extremely popular.
As for cats, these extreme breeds cannot breathe normally. The Persian, and I’m referring to the modern flat-faced Persian not the doll-faced Persian, has very similar breathing problems because of the flatness of their face. It is not unusual to hear these dogs walking down the street making weird respiratory noises said Dr Campbell from the Royal Veterinary College.
The demand for these dogs and cats is fuelled by famous people and social media. Where there is demand there will be supply which encourages breeders to behave unethically. The cat and dog associations who provide breeding guidelines in terms of appearance do little to stop it or indeed actively encourage it. This is probably because they have don’t have genuine authority over their members. They seek to please members and not drive them down a more ethical path. If you compare purebred Persian cats, one of the oldest cat breeds, of the early 1900s with those a hundred years later, you see a dramatic difference. The early examples were quite normal-looking whereas nowadays they simply are not.
The desire for baby-faced companion animals is itself embedded in the desire for a cute looking animal. It isn’t just their facial appearance. Sometimes they have an awkward shuffle-gait. The dwarf cats also have an endearing way to walk which makes them popular although in that instance, the cat associations have rejected registration of the dwarf breeds for health reasons because there are two potential inherited health issues with dwarf cats of which there are many types.
These cat and dog breeds quite naturally require more maintenance by their human guardians. Is not clear whether they realise this when they adopt their companion animal. An underlying reason for this trend towards baby faced companion animals is because whereas once dogs were bred for utility i.e. their speed, strength and athleticism, nowadays there are bred to be companions and interesting looking. Cats were never really bred for utility although early on in the history of the domestic cat they were working cats at least to a certain extent. Their role nowadays is to be an entertaining companion often living inside all the time. This does not encourage good health. The campaign to keep all cats inside the home will make matters worse.
There is a huge reluctance to undo what I would regard as the damage done to these breeds and the Smithsonian Magazine questions whether the damage can be undone. We have to try and get into the heads of the customer that they should not be driven by celebrities and social media, they should not be choosing cats and dogs on cute, baby appearances but on health, character and naturalness.