After reading a ’10 most popular cat breeds in the UK’ list, we took a look at some lists from around the world.
Much to our disappointment, a number of cat breeds with extreme or unusual features, such as flat faces or folded ears, came up again and again:
The Scottish Fold is often thought of as ‘cute’ because of its folded down ears which give it a round, baby-like face. However, the gene which affects the cartilage to allow the ears to fold down also affects the cartilage in the joints resulting in abnormal bone development, joint pain, and arthritis even from an early age.
Folded ears can also be difficult for the cat to clean, so owners may need to remove any wax or dirt accumulation from the ear to help prevent discomfort and infection.
Persian and Exotic (extremely flat-faced cats were used as examples in the lists)
The squashed faces of these cats might look amusing at first. However, once we realise that these cats can struggle to breathe, eat, and face painful skin and eye problems, we realise that their suffering is no laughing matter.
In extreme cases, brachycephalic animals will have serious respiratory disease, causing significant suffering. Impaired breathing in these animals – part of a condition called brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome (BOAS) – can lead to health problems throughout animals’ lives and is often life-limiting.
For a cat, a coat is essential – it provides protection, warmth and helps with communication. Depriving a cat of its hair coat will have many detrimental consequences including exposing delicate skin to a cat's barbed tongue while grooming, harmful ultraviolet light, and making skin injury much more likely. Because there is no hair on which to distribute the oil produced by the skin, the oil accumulates and can make it feel greasy, mark furniture or collect in the cat’s nail beds. Hairless cats have to be bathed on a regular basis and the skin may be prone to yeast infections. Wax build-up can also be a problem in the breed, making them prone to ear infections. Sphynx cats are also susceptible to cold and to sunburn if they go outside.
And, despite their lack of hair, Sphynx cats can still cause allergic reactions, as allergies to cats are usually caused by an allergen in feline saliva.
We urge all cat-lovers to recognise these problems and not perpetuate them. Please don't promote these cats on social media, spread the word that we should always prioritise health over looks when breeding cats and talk to your vet for advice before getting a new cat or kitten to better understand any potential health problems and to find the right cat for you.