Both the Persian and the Himalayan cats are breeds known as brachycephalic. This, as you may know, means a skull and face which is, in a general sense, round. In the Persian and Himalayan cat it means that the face is, in fact, flat. The face is compressed. In both dogs and cats (and there are many more dog breeds which are brachycephalic than cat breeds) this anatomical condition results in breathing problems. In medical terminology they call it brachycephalic syndrome. In addition, for these two cat breeds there are other issues such as tear duct overflow and in the Persian cat a high rate of polycystic kidney disease.
In Germany cats which are bred to extreme with abnormal anatomical features resulting in lifelong medical issues are banned. They call it torture breeding or torment breeding.
In both America and in the UK cat breeding like this is accepted. There are no laws or regulations governing it. However, in the UK, there are discussions in Parliament about introducing statutory regulations governing brachycephalic dog breeds. This may mean banning certain breeds (highly unlikely) or at least regulating the breeding of brachycephalic breeds in such a way that their welfare is better managed. Purebred cats are not mentioned which is disappointing but unsurprising.
For example legislation could be introduced which places an obligation upon the breeder to make health and welfare paramount. What I mean is the breeder should make sure that the breeding cats are healthy and not going to produce kittens with inherited health problems. The way to do this, though, is not to breed from brachycephalic cats and this would go against the breed standard for the Persian cat in America. The Cat Fanciers’ Association insist upon the Persian cat being brachycephalic.
On that basis, the only way, currently, to prioritise the health of these cats and make it a paramount concern is to impose an obligation upon breeders through legislation of some sort or another.
In the UK there is pressure upon dog breeders to take steps to focus more on health rather than appearance but not enough is being done by the Kennel Club UK in the opinion of legislators.
People like designer cats and dogs. Amongst dogs, the pug has grown very popular to the detriment of the breed’s welfare. It is said that pugs have become a must-have accessory but they are extremely brachycephalic and suffer from brachycephalic syndrome.
Brachycephalic syndrome is a bundle of physical abnormalities shared by brachycephalic cats and dogs resulting in breathing difficulties. There are associated health issues such as eye problems, periodontal disease issues, difficulties in swallowing and amongst dogs susceptibility to heatstroke.
I’m just making the point again really in this article that very little is being done to prioritise the welfare of brachycephalic cats and something should be done because the breeders themselves and the cat associations to whom they are associated do nothing. I am sure the associations would disagree. They would probably say that they ensure that their members breed responsibly. Clearly they are not.