UK crackdown on breeding cats with genetic defects

It’s arrived at last; a crackdown on breeders who knowingly create kittens (and puppies) with cute appearances because they carry a genetic mutation but which also causes health problems in the cat or dog. There was a trend in the middle and late 20th century when cat breeders desperate to create new breeds latched onto discovered cats which looked peculiar because they carried a genetic defect. They turned these cats into cat breeds but they can be inherently unhealthy which causes suffering.

Until now it was thought that the Animal Welfare Act 2006 (the Act) did not cover the situation of creating inherently defective but cute looking cats and dogs. Now the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) have decided that the Act can be interpreted to cover these circumstances. Breeders will become liable for prosecution because they will be committing an offence. This is fantastic news because I’ve been writing about this for years.

British Veterinary Association Say Scottish Fold Breeding Should Stop

Scottish Fold. Photo copyright Helmi Flick. Soon to be outlawed in the UK.

Celebrities, in fact, have been promoting these sorts of companion animals. I can refer to Ed Sheeran and Taylor Swift, for example, both of whom own a Scottish Fold. This cat has cute ears which fold onto the top of the cat’s head but the genetic defect which causes this can also cause health issues in the cat. The genetic defect prevents the cat from forming cartilage, a connective tissue, which results in lifelong arthritis.

Another cat which has proved popular is the dwarf cat; the Munchkin and associated dwarf cat breeds. They have short legs but there are health aspects associated with these breeds.

A spokeswoman for DEFRA said:

“Anyone knowingly breeding animals with genetic defects could be considered to be committing an offence under the 2006 act.”

I’m pleased to state that British veterinarians campaigned against the breeding of these defective companion animals. It was led by the British Veterinary Association (BVA).

The BVA’s senior vice president said:

“Celebrities, advertisers and the public inadvertently normalise and even celebrate extreme physical features, which appear cute but which are the result of breeding without consideration for welfare.”

Well said. There has been far too much focus on appearance at the expense of animal welfare amongst the cat breeding fraternity.

The RSPCA unhelpfully said that they would undertake prosecutions only if they received a complaint from the public. They have received no complaints but await developments with interest. I would have hoped and thought that they could have moved against these breeders without having to wait for a complaint.

As it happens, the premier cat association in the UK, the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy, does not recognise breeds such as the Scottish Fold. As I understand it, they also do not support the extreme flat face of the American version of the Persian cat. The flat face Persian has breathing problems and tear duct overflow as a result of extreme breeding but as this is not a genetic defects I wonder whether it would be included in this change in interpretation if there are any British breeders of this cat. It probably does.

Without wishing to blow the trumpet of British veterinarians, I cannot for the life of me see American veterinarians campaigning in the same way against genetically deficient cats and dogs because they see nothing wrong in declawing cats for the convenience of their owner to the extreme detriment of the cat’s health and welfare – not a sign that they have the welfare of animals at heart.

Amongst dog breeds the French Bulldog is an equivalent example.

FB comments (see below)


UK crackdown on breeding cats with genetic defects — 3 Comments

  1. As a rescuer of cats for the past 30+ years, I don’t come in contact with many purebred cats, but am aware that trends in breeding cats for extremes of type, most notably with the flat-faced Persian, can be very detrimental to the health of such cats and have always been rather sickened that breeders would bring cats into this world so afflicted for the sake of $$$. If ALL cats that resulted from trying to perpetuate an endearing genetic mutation had accompanying health problems that resulted in suffering, it would be a no brainer that such breeding be eliminated, but some, perhaps many, of the resulting progeny seem to be OK and live ordinary lives. I have never had a cat with Munchkin breeding, and only one who was a Scottish Fold who came to me pregnant from a high-kill shelter and produced six adorable, lovable healthy kittens, four of whom had the folded ears. As she had (seal)pointed coloring, which I understand is not recognized by the SF registry, it is doubtful she was a purebred. I also understand that the folded ear is a recessive trait and not all kittens in a litter will have it. Is the cartilage-producing defect definitively linked to the folded ear, and will ALL cats with folded ears have that defect?? What about those in a SF litter born without the folded ear?? Is it the majority of those bred who are destined to have devastating health problems or a lower percentage? If arthritis is the worst result, many ordinary cats develop arthritis as they age, as well, and it can be treated more of less. I have athritis, as do MANY human beings, and there are definitely worse things to be afflicted with. (There are probably a LOT of humans who should not be breeding, as well.) Unfortunately it does not seem to be a B&W issue. How do you decide which side-effect of breeding one way or another constitutes debilitating suffering in the progeny? I have spent most of my life trying to prevent cats from breeding indiscriminately through TNR and and producing kittens more or less destined to die. While most randomly bred cats have few mutations, there are notable examples like Lil’ Bub who despite her shortcomings is adored and celebrated, or the original SF momcat in Ireland. Breeders of purebred cats are a thorn in the issue, who create kittens for the sake of profit which often perpetuates inherent weaknesses in their breeds. The same goes for breeders of purebred dogs. Some breeders are more responsible than others in culling undesirable traits from their bloodlines. I have mixed feelings about how this issue could be fairly regulated for the benefit of the cats in question. My little Scottish Fold girl Yasmin was quite the lovable diva and her kittens were so easy to find adoptive homes for. (She was, of course, spayed after the kittens were weaned.) She was very healthy and I would never wish she had not been born and come into my care. I would like to know more about the “breeds” involved and the magnitude/liklihood of the debilitating side-effects before I could say I supported such a ban. Do the breeders of these cats inform the potential buyers of possible side-effects and likely health problems?? Perhaps if such a disclaimer were required it would discourage buyers from choosing that breed of cat and according to Supply/Demand the market for potentially “defective” pets would be reduced.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Please try and upload photos that are small in size of max 500px width and 50 KB size. Large images typical of most default settings on digital cameras may fail to upload. Thanks. Comment rules: (1) respect others (2) threatening, harassing, bullying, insulting and being rude to others is forbidden (3) advocating cat cruelty is forbidden (4) trolls (I know who they are) must use real name and upload a photo of themselves. Enforcement: (1) inappropriate comments are deleted before publication and (2) commenters who demonstrate a desire to flout the rules are banned. Failure to comply with (4) results in non-publication. Lastly, please avoid adding links because spam software regards comments with links as spam and holds them in the spam folder. I delete the spam folder contents daily.