Wednesday 8 October 2008

Cat breed standards need reviewing

Cat breed standards need reviewing, in respect of certain breeds, in the light of the decision by the Kennel Club, the most prestigious dog club in the UK and the organizer of the biggest dog show in the world, to change its position regarding breed standards such that they focus on health and away from appearance. What brought this about?

The Kennel Club is a very old institution and their breed standards have been refined, I'd expect, over a hundred years or more. The best and most senior members would have been on committees to decide the most minute changes. All this has been overturned by a BBC program that effectively claimed that purebred dog breeders were following unhealthy breeding programs. The breeders and judges at shows were making decisions based on the breed standard, which is normally drafted in a way that allows some leeway. And the standard would have gently encouraged breeders to inbreed their dogs to achieve dogs with an outstanding appearance. This means an appearance that could be and on occasions is extreme. The classic example is the Pekinese dog, a dog with a very flat face.

Which brings me nicely to a cat that resembles the Pekinese's flat face. The Pekinese lacks a muzzle, the part of the face that sticks out from the eyes to the lips. The modern looking Persian, called an Ultra Persian by some people, is a very flat faced cat. The breed standard demands it. The CFA standard states that the elements of the face should be in vertical alignment. No natural cat has a face like that. Cat breed standards need reviewing and this is an example.

The Ultra Persian is a cat breed that blatantly flouts the underlying breed standard of the most prestigious cat association in the United States, the CFA (the Cat Fanciers Association). The underlying breed standard for the CFA states that the ideal show cat is free from any characteristics, exaggerated or otherwise, which cause discomfort or jeopardize health and well-being. This is another reason why in respect of some breeds, cat breed standards need reviewing.

Due to its flat face the Pekinese dog has breathing problems. The flat faced Persian has similar problems and tear drainage problems (tear duct overflow). The Kennel Club is rushing through new breed standards and new rules for the judges. The rules will ensure that judges award prizes to the healthiest dogs not dogs that simply look good. The same changes should take place in respect of the Ultra Persian in my view. There are other breeds bred to extremes. Another is the Modern Siamese in my view (others agree and most people prefer the traditional or classic appearance). The Sphynxs too look awfully extreme sometimes.

What is particularly nice to see is that the Kennel Club is in consultation with the authorities (DEFRA) to discuss breeding standards. This is real control beginning to be exercised and a government department coming in on the scene to assist.

This is the kind of cooperation I have been suggesting on not only breeding but wider issues such as the feral cat problem. There is no reason why senior cat associations can't cooperate with the relevant government departments to better control the feral cat population. Cat associations could become much bigger forces for good than they currently are. This would improve the profile of the cat fancy.

Cat breed standards need reviewing and this is a good opportunity to start doing it.

Cat breed standards need reviewing to Pictures of Persian cats.
See Persian cat breeding
See the story behind the transformation of the Persian cat face

Cat breed standards need reviewing - Thanks to the Times Newspaper story in the Times of the date of this post about the Kennel Club.

Cat breed standards need reviewing - Photo top right: Ultra Persian at a cat show in her cage, photo by ~Sage~ published under a Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs creative commons License


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