A long time ago, perhaps about seven years ago, I wrote an article about genetic diseases in purebred cats. It is a comprehensive article. Many purebred cats are linked to inherited diseases due to defective recessive genes coming to the fore as a result of overenthusiastic selective breeding in order to create a cat which matches as near as possible the breed standard and even beyond that standard.
The same sort of problem exists with dogs. In fact, it is even worse in the dog world because people have been breeding dogs for longer.
It is time, I believe, for the most popular and/or most severely affected pedigree cat breeds to have their DNA mapped as a first step towards helping breeders to root out common genetic diseases.
I’m sure that very many breeders are concerned about inherited health conditions due to the transference of defective, recessive genes from parent to offspring. I’m sure that many breeders know which cats carry these recessive genes whereupon they remove them from the breeding program. That said, I’m also convinced that many breeders do not do this. They ignore these dangers. They breed irresponsibly in a mad rush to create a wonderful and impressive looking cat pursuant to the breed standard so that they can win competitions at cat shows, gain kudos and sell more cats to the public.
Because, as I see it, there is a percentage of breeders who are irresponsible, it is time to consider DNA mapping. Under this sort of process scientists would use genomics to track down the mutated genes causing genetic diseases and devise DNA tests to locate them.
This will allow breeders to pick out cats which carry the deadly mutations and prevent them from producing kittens. What could happen is that scientists could sequence the entire genomes of the major cat breeds whereupon they could create a DNA database from which disease-causing abnormalities could be picked out.
Over time, this will allow breeders to stop creating kittens carrying genes causing these diseases, thereby improving the health of all purebred cats.
The science in order to carry out this sort of work has only recently been available. It may also be wise to make it obligatory to isolate defective genes as mentioned because I don’t see this of the work being adopted voluntarily. The cat associations should be far more rigorous in this respect. Cat health should be a major cause of concern.
It only takes around a few days to create a genome using modern science. You then have to work through the feline DNA data generated to find the tiny flaws that cause diseases. This would demand high quality computing processes. In order to isolate these defective genes a computer would compare the genome of an affected cat with others in the database, looking for the differences in its disease. Once mutations have been found a DNA test could be devised to spot the problem in other cats.
I just think it’s time that something was done about a long list of genetic diseases which appear to be accepted by breeders and the public alike. It need not be like this. We owe it purebred cats to create them healthy. It is bad enough breeding cats when there are unwanted healthy random bred cats being killed in their millions. DNA mapping must be the way forward although I’m sure that this sort of work or something similar is taking place already but at a fairly low level; in which case it needs to be speeded up and expanded.