The British Veterinary Association (BVA) and International Cat Care are urging cat-lovers to avoid choosing pedigree breeds of cat designed to have extreme or unusual features, such as flat faces or folded ears due to the health problems they face.
Figures released today (8 August), to mark International Cat Day 2018, show that on average, 28 percent of the flat-faced (brachycephalic) cats vets see in their practices have had or would benefit from having treatment for conformation-related health or welfare problems (problems caused by body size, shape and appearance).
Vets also said that only a quarter of brachycephalic cat owners were already aware of the potential health issues and just one in twenty were aware of the additional costs associated with the breeds before choosing their pet.
When asked last year, 86 percent of companion animal vets surveyed had treated conformation-related health problems in brachycephalic cats, such as Persians and Exotic Shorthairs. The most common conformation-related treatments carried out by these vets were for:
• Eye problems (69 percent)
• Breathing/respiratory problems (60 percent)
• Dental issues (45 percent)
• Skin problems (32 percent)
The Scottish Fold, thought of as ‘cute’ because of its folded down ears which give it a round, baby-like face, suffers from joint pain because the gene which affects the cartilage to allow the ears to fold forward, also affects cartilage in the joints causing problems such as arthritis in these cats, even from an early age.
BVA senior vice president, Gudrun Ravetz, said: “Everyone knows that the internet loves cat photos and videos. But as time passes we’ve noticed a growing appetite for novelty creeping in – with quirky and unusual cat breeds proving increasingly popular on social media.
“Currently the UK population of pure breed cats is very small as most cat owners opt for regular non-pedigree ‘moggies’. However, we are worried that the popularity on the internet of breeds with extreme conformation, such as the very flat-faced Persians and Exotic Shorthairs, or gene abnormalities such as cause the ears to bend forward in the Scottish Fold breed, may prompt increased demand among consumers who are unaware of the potential serious health and welfare issues associated with such breeding.”
Claire Bessant, chief executive of International Cat Care, added: “No owner wants to think that the cat which they love is suffering, and that the person who bred and marketed the breed did not have its best welfare at heart. However, the reality is that, in the complex world of human needs and wants, the welfare of the cat is not always prioritised.
“We have the evidence for problems in these breeds and vets have ways to help owners to care for them. The important thing is to recognise the problems and not perpetuate them. People buying cats can make a difference if they are aware of the issues and vote with their buying power and for cat welfare.”