This is a post about Maine Coon cat health in Europe and is based on an email from a concerned Maine Coon cat breeder in Italy, Max. This is his email. One or two bits have been amendeed as his email was written in English and Max is Italian. I therefore tidied it up a bit. He writes pretty good English though.
…..Hi I am Massimo (Max). I run a Maine Coon cattery in Italy. It is called Trillo Team (new window). We are first and foremost 'cat-lovers' and then breeders. We also have two rescue cats who were condemned to death and we had bottle feed them to complete their weaning. If you look at our website, which is unfortunately only in Italian (sorry), you'll find lots of information relating to the health of the Maine Coon.
We are currently fighting a tough battle against many Italian breeders to isolate and eliminate the HCM gene from our breeding lines, but unfortunately the situation between breeders in Italy and in Europe is very serious, especially for what I reluctantly consider to be their irresponsible behaviour, that I'll try to explain below. I am sorry to say this but I feel that I must. In Italy there are breeders who continue to reproduce cats that HCM test for p / p (homozygous) and more so cats that test for n / p (heterozygous) not caring to only breed with cats that test negative n / n. But in doing so, in a litter, for example, of 6 puppies, 20% of the pups could be n / p, and therefore bearers of HCM.
I consider this irresponsible behaviour, because thinking about the reproductive life of a cat of at least 5 years with 2 litters per year, for an average of 6 pups at a time, this means that a cat that is n / p, gives the world at least 20 baby carriers of HCM ... Can you tell me, if you know, how the breeders in the U.S.A. are doing? Is it the same? We, as a breeder, unfortunately in these 4 years of activity, took cats from other breeders with the assurance that the examinations had resulted in negative HCM testing resulting in n / n. But the re-test on these cats indicated that they were n / p. I think it is irresponsible behavior. There are only 3-4 breeders in Italy who breed Maine Coon cats under rigorous testing and removing carriers of HCM from the reproductive cycle.
So we are looking the U.K. for instance to see if we can find a guaranteed cat, n / n, from a line that is not present in Italy, for at least 6 generations. We would like to found a Quality Maine Coon Club, bringing together Italian and foreign breeders, that pursue a rigorous selection in its breeding.
Another problem has occurred in relation to laboratories in Italy that perform analytical testing of HCM. In Italy there is a laboratory at the University of Milan (Vetogene) running this test that is connected to the University of Michigan, where the gene was identified and isolated. Otherwise we turn to a laboratory in Germany (LaboKlin) or France (Antagene). But what has happened is that the same cat resulted in, n / n in Italy was found to be n / p in Germany. So we no longer know what to do.
I've read with interest the study of HCM made in Stockholm, Sweden, but I've seen that they didn't talk about HCM's genetic analysis. I think that there is a lot to do to in generating awareness in people about this problem. For me, it is really a nightmare to think of selling a kitten, that after 2 or 3 years is dead of HCM. A cat is not a computer or a radio, for example, so that I can say “this cat is under warranty and can be replaced with another puppy”. When a cat becomes part of the family he or she becomes the object of attention and love from all, and when he dies you can not replace this companion just like a broken TV ...
I would welcome any input or comments from breeders or concerned people who might be able to assist in eliminting the curse of HCM from Maine Coons in Italy.