My thanks to the Mail Online for being at the vanguard of discussing domestic cat breeds. They do focus on cats quite a lot which I like. And in this instance, they’ve focused on a topic which I’ve been concerned about for about 15 years. It’s a topic which should concern anybody who wants to adopt a purebred cat. I would urge people in that category to do their research on inherited diseases of purebred cats because it is these which are “coming home to roost” as the saying goes.
The Mail Online reports that the number of Bengals, Persians, Ragdolls, and Maine Coons in UK rescue centres has soared by up to 300% since 2018 as owners struggle to care for their pets according to the RSPCA. Health issues mean higher costs of caregiving at a time when for many money is tight. You’ll need a health insurance policy for some of the breeds and sometimes these policies don’t come cheap.
The information comes from the RSPCA rescue centres to where these purebred cats are being relinquished. This is because these breeds and others are at a higher risk of health problems due to inherited diseases.
The worrying element in this story is that some unhealthy designer breeds such as the Scottish fold had been made popular by Taylor Swift and other celebrities. It would have been so much better if Taylor Swift had adopted a rescue cat from a shelter. But all we see is her in love with her Scottish Folds and her Ragdoll, Benjamin Button. I’m sure many thousands of cats of these breeds have been adopted as a result.
Alice Potter, Welfare expert at the RSPCA, in talking to the Mail Online said: “We know owners want their pets to be happy and healthy, and people may not realise that cats bred with exaggerated features can struggle with extremely serious health problems.”
It isn’t just about extreme features, however. For example, the Maine Coon cat doesn’t really have extreme features (except for some Russian creations) but with great sadness it has to be reported once again that they do suffer from too many inherited health problems such as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), a serious heart disease which can shorten lifespan. And others such as hip dysplasia and spinal atrophy. That’s not a complete list by the way.
In fact, HCM appears to be the curse of many cat breeds including the Bengal. This disease should not be so prevalent among the breeds. It is more prevalent among the breeds that it is among the non-purebred cats. This strongly indicates that it’s about artificial selection; about the breeding process and how it passes down the disease from parent to offspring in the bloodline and that goes on indefinitely.
The RSPCA tells us that the most common pedigree cat in their rescue centres is the Persian “with the charity seeing a 92% increase since 2018”.
This is followed by Ragdolls at a 61% increase, Bengals as a 22% increase in Maine Coons which have seen a “whopping 300% increase over the last six years”.
That last worrying statistic probably comes about because there has been an increase in adoptions of the Maine Coon because of increased popularity over the last six years. The popularity comes about because of very many websites and social media channels featuring the Maine Coon cat. TikTok is probably the number one social media channel where the Maine Coon is heavily promoted.
RELATED: Genetic Diseases in Purebred Cats.
I have a specialised website and the Maine Coon cat called Your Maine Coon Guide, in which I discuss all aspects of this popular cat breeds including health problems which I specialise in and feature in this website. You might like to visit it to dig deep into the health problems of this magnificent breed.
Ms Potter said: “Over the last few years we have seen an increase in certain cat breeds coming into our care as a result of “designer” breeds becoming more popular with owners. Some can make cats prone to particular disorders, and some prevent them from behaving normally. Persian cats are bred to have “flat-faces” which often causes them to have brachycephaly which means they struggle to breathe, sleep and even give birth.”
The latest misstep by a celebrity, in this instance, Claudia Schiffer, the former model, is to indirectly promote, once again, the Scottish Fold by carrying her daughter’s Scottish, called Chip, in a fancy cat carrier with a large perspex window and ventilation holes, which Cats Protection, a large UK charity, criticised. It isn’t just the RSPCA who criticise the breeders for creating these breeds, it is also other charities.
It should be added, as I’ve done before that Osteochondrodysplasia is seen in ALL Scottish Fold cats.
That’s thanks to a genetic mutation which is carried by this breed in which gives the breed its famous flat ears. The problem is the weakness in the cartilage is not only present in the ear flaps but in other parts of the body. Breeders have to do do their best to avoid this disease being too severe by breeding a Scottish Fold with a non-Scottish Fold so that the resultant cat is heterozygous to the mutation. But this cat will still carry this disease. This also leads to half the cats having straight ears which is why you’ll see “Scottish Straights” for sale.
Ms Potter said this about the disease and how Chip is featured in this new film called Argylle.
“Scottish Fold cats, as featured in the new film Argylle, have a genetic disorder that causes them severe and painful lameness,’ Ms Potter explained. This is because the cartilage abnormality responsible for their distinctive folded ears also affects joints meaning they can develop painful arthritis, even from a young age. Although we have only had seven Scottish Fold cats come into our care since 2018, we fear that this film may glamourise these cats and could be the latest breed to experience a boom in their popularity, without people realising the sometimes severe issues these cats can face.”
The RSPCA wants breeders to prioritise the health of their animals and their temperament over appearance. This is a point that I have made consistently for 15 years. Sadly, the primary objective of all breeders is the appearance which should follow the breed standard guidelines.
Unfortunately, in the instance of the Persian cat, for example, the guidelines insist on a vertical face which is entirely flat and therefore the breed standard encourages, indeed insists upon an unhealthy cat with breathing problems and tear duct overflow et cetera because the head is brachycephalic and the nose squashed into the face which dramatically alters the anatomy of the face very unnaturally. If you do that you will affect health.
Flat faces have also appeared in great numbers on dogs particularly the French Bulldog. These “Frenchies” were very popular purchases during the Covid-19 pandemic. People like the flat face hence the popularity of the Persian over many years and now the French Bulldog.
But the French Bulldog is the unhealthiest dog breed in the world on my assessment with a seven year lifespan in their life in which the animal struggles to breathe. If you walk past a man with a French Bulldog in a park, you will hear the dog snuffling and snorting indicating difficulty with breathing. It’s sad and it’s a shame. I suppose the owner thinks nothing of it. They might think it is normal. It isn’t. It’s a sign of a severe health problems.
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