There has been a trend over many years to breed Persian cats (and some related breeds) with a greater and greater degree of brachycephalic (short nose).
For inexplicable reasons this has been seen to be desirable among many breeders and show judges. Many Persian (and related cats) are now bred with extremely malformed heads having exceptionally short and flattened/squashed noses, with large eyes.
This selective breeding has been highly detrimental to the health of the cats. Many different problems have been identified that have arisen directly from this selective breeding. These include:
- Large protruding eyes with reduced ability to close the eyelids resulting in increased exposure of the cornea. This contributes to exposure keratitis and probably contributes to corneal sequestrum development (to which Persians are predisposed)
- Persistent epiphora (ocular discharge) – this occurs because the tear ducts which would normally drain tears into the nose (tears are constantly produced to help protect the eye) have become so deformed with the change of facial shape that it is impossible for tears to drain properly
- Dental disease – the abnormalities of the skull mean that, not only is the nose extremely short, the jaws and teeth are affected as well. The teeth no longer align properly in short-nosed persian cats so they cannot bite and chew properly, predisposing to dental disease
- Studies have shown that the degree of brachycephalic is also related to small pelvis size in Persian cats which will contribute to dystocia (difficulty giving birth)
- Severe brachycephalic also causes excessive skin folds on the face – this may predispose to bacterial or fungal skin infections, and may also contribute to the development of idiopathic facial dermatitis in Persians (see Feline acne and stud tail)
- Brachycephalic airway syndrome is common in these cats – this is where affected cats have difficulty breathing due to a very narrow external opening of the nose (stenotic nares), narrow nasal passages or nasopharynx, and/or due to a relatively long soft palate – in some cases the breathing difficulties can be severe
All of these consequences from breeding cats with marked brachycephalic are clearly very detrimental to the health and welfare of the cat.
International Cat Care believe that it is unethical to deliberately breed cats with such malformed skulls that the health of the cat suffers. We believe breeders, breed clubs and associations and cat show judges all have an overriding responsibility to ensure the cats that are bred are as healthy as possible. As such, severely brachycephalic cats should not be bred from and every attempt should be made to breed cats with a conformation that is not detrimental to their health.
Figure 1. – Taken from Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery (2009) 11, 891–900
This classification system outlines the different degrees of brachycephalic – from mild (I) to severe (IV). The main features on which this classification is based are the dorsal displacement of the maxillary canine teeth and the dorsorotation of the jaw. Note that drainage discolouration of the skin starts in moderately affected cats; and that the tip of the nose is located at a higher level than the lower eyelid in profound and severe degrees of brachycephalic.