Scientists criticise cat breed standards which promote flat faced cats leading to breathing problems

We know it and now scientists have confirmed it: snub-nosed cats (heavily shortened muzzles) are vulnerable to breathing problems. Cat purchasers should be very clear on this.

Flat faced cats and health
This picture comes from the study and shows how they measure whether a cat has a flat face or not. This cat does not look too bad. In fact she looks fairly normal with a slightly shortened muzzle.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

Scientists at the University of Edinburgh conducted a questionnaire survey involving 1000 cat owners in which they reported that their cats with flat faces – the contemporary Persian and Exotic Shorthair being the two iconic breeds with this abnormality – have breathing difficulties particularly after exercise and while asleep. They report that their flat faced cats make abnormal breathing sounds.

The scientists impliedly criticise the cat associations for setting breed standards which promote breathing problems in the Persian and Exotic SH. Other breeds such as the British SH and Himalayan can also have flattish faces

They write in their conclusion:

“Attention should be paid to breed standards which promote increased brachycephalia in cats which has the potential to negatively impact upon their welfare, and potential buyers of brachycephalic cat breeds should be made aware of the risks of their conformation.”

Note: brachycephalia means rounded heads which also means, in cats, flat faces.

For the Cat Fanciers’ Association to promote through their breed standard flat faced cats with breathing problems goes against what they state on their website.

For example they say:

No other organization does more for the health and welfare of cats than The Cat Fanciers’ Association….(this can’t be true…)

…our dedication to present the most beautiful cats in the world to the public, and our quest to constantly do the “right thing” – (neither can this be true because encouraging the breeding of cats with “built in” health issues is not doing the right thing and is unethical).

I think, too, that you will find that the CFA has an overall objective which requires that cat breeders affiliated to them produce healthy cats. The breeders can’t do this and win cat show competitions because the breed standards by which judges gauge a cat’s quality dictate that they breed Persians and Exotic SHs with breathing problems.

It is time for change. Read more on this page. Another cat with an extreme appearance is the Modern Siamese. You can read about that cat breeds history here.

Read the study report if you like here.

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Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

5 thoughts on “Scientists criticise cat breed standards which promote flat faced cats leading to breathing problems”

  1. It’s the show judges interpretation of “standards” which has led breeders to strive for prize-winning looks, over health concerns. By favouring ever-flatter faced cats, judges have done a terrible disservice to the animals themselves. Persians and Siamese didn’t evolve naturally to look the way they do now – breeders have deliberately done this to them over the last 50 years or so.

    The public also needs educating that it’s actually cruel to breed cats and dogs which have breathing difficulties, neurological problems and need to undergo c-sections because the heads of their offspring are too wide or large for a natural delivery.

    We’re not the only ones disgusted by the way these poor creatures are suffering. There’s currently an on-line petition by the UK veterinary profession calling for an Urgent Working Party on Brachycephalic Dogs and Cats. They want reforms of breed standards to introduce minimum muzzle lengths, functional tests before brachycephalic animals can be bred, better education of the public.

  2. Interesting that many airlines warn about flying with flat faced pets. These animals are bred for extreme form and shamefully placed by judges that encourage someone to take it to the next level.
    My experience is with the Arabian Show Horse and how they were bred down from hardy , sound even tempered but spirited mounts to un-rideable giraffed necked with such extreme dishing in the nasal area they can’t breath correctly.

  3. Any altering of a cat breed does disservice to the world of cats. We had a purebred Siamese who wasn’t allowed in a show because he was of the original large cats. He was a beautiful redpoint and was the most friendly cat to all he met. Leave the breeds the way they were originally-there were a lot fewer health issues and they were gorgeous.

    1. Absolutely Susan. I agree. What shocks me is that for many decades breeders have been creating inherently unhealthy Persian cats because they have breathing problems and the breeders are following the breed standard.

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