Tuesday 19 August 2008

Pedigree cat breeding

Can pedigree cat breeding in the UK learn something from pedigree dog breeding? A recent story in the Times newspaper is about a BBC documentary on the management of dog breeding in the UK by The Kennel Club, the oldest (all-breed) dog club in the world. The Kennel Club run the Crufts Dog Show and the BBC are considering walking away from covering the event as a result of the conclusions drawn from the film documentary.

I haven't seen the film yet (I'll update this post when I have seen it) but it seems to conclude that the Kennel Club is presiding over (or perhaps actively encouraging) poor breeding practices that focus on the appearance rather than the character of pedigree dogs.

When a breeder over focuses on appearance to the detriment of other factors such as health, health may and often does suffer due to inbreeding depression (genetically based ill health and deformities).

"Type", the breeders word for an appearance matching the breed standard is the first goal of cat breeders. It is very tempting to over breed to type when the show hall judges reward the cats and dogs that match type or their interpretation of it. There is often a gradual drift towards more extreme type as it is more outstanding. This is the slippery path to over doing breeding and breeding too closely.

The percentage of pedigree dogs in the UK is much higher than for cats. Apparently 75% of the 7.3 million dogs in the UK are pedigree dogs. Of the 7.2 million cats, only 18% are pedigree. (src: www.pfma.org.uk)

Purebred breeding of the dog is therefore far more advanced than for the cat. The norm is a purebred dog. The norm is to keep a mixed breed unregistered non-purebred cat in the UK. So there must by definition be less inbreeding going on in the cat world as mixed breed cats are the opposite to purebred cats in that respect.

The film documentary found that an unacceptable percentage of dogs (the Kennel Club admits to 10% of the total number of pedigree dogs) suffer from genetically based diseases. That equates to over three quarters of million dogs created by dog breeders with significant diseases that impaired their lives. Of the remaining 10% some will also suffer from diseases brought about by inbreeding but to an extent that is not detrimental to their quality of life (src: Kennel Club).

That is a lot of pain to be suffered in the quest for a beautiful looking dog. Beautiful dogs are pleasing humans. Beautiful looking or outstanding looking dogs are bred to please humans. The dog doesn't care if he/she is beautiful or not. The same of course applies to cats. So the social equation is this:

730,000 x 1 unit of pain in the dog = 6,570,000 units of pleasure in humans

Is that a balanced equation? Cat breeding has its problems too but it should and probably does take heed of dog breeding experiences and focus as much if not more on character and health and give appearance second place. The GCCF, the major association in Britain has the responsibility to achieve this. Cat associations should take the lead. The Kennel Club surely has not.

Pedigree cat breeding to home page

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