Friday 11 September 2020

Abnormal Cat Breeds

What are abnormal cat breeds? As the description implies, they are cat breeds which have been developed because anatomically speaking they can be distinguished from regular-looking cats because they have at least one abnormality. These abnormalities have normally been created because of a spontaneous genetic mutation in a random bred cat. It doesn't matter where the cat lived. It just happens because that is the way nature works. Somebody sees the cat and finds him or her interesting and the news gets back to a cat breeder who wants to develop their own cat breed because they are ambitious.

They pick up the cat and start the long journey into developing a new cat breed. The cat fancy is littered with abnormal cat breeds but they are controversial. Sometimes the abnormality not only concerns the appearance such as the flat ears of the Scottish Fold but also affects the cartilage in other parts of the cat's body. There are health implications. This is the controversial aspect of abnormal cat breeds. An unusual appearance is important for a cat breeder but so is health. And you will find that when a spontaneous genetic mutation causes an abnormality in appearance it can also have undesirable health implications.

I've mentioned the Scottish Fold. Another abnormal cat breed would be the Munchkin. This is the founding dwarf cat. Dwarfism creates small legs under normal-sized bodies. This creates a very cute looking cat and they are popular. But there are two potential health problems linked to this cat breed. And there are about a dozen spin-off breeds from the Munchkin. These are dwarf cat breeds created out of hybridisations; crossing the Munchkin with another cat breed such as the Sphynx. I have a complete list of those breeds on an associated website. I also discussed the two health problems which may affect the dwarf cat which you can read by clicking on this link.

Super-cute Scottish Fold kitten but be careful about health. Picture:

The hairless cats are abnormal cat breeds. There are several variants from the Russian Don Sphynx to the Peterbald and of course there is the well-known American Sphynx cat which is based upon a random bred hairless cat found in Canada. The tailless cats are also abnormal. The Manx is a classic example. Once again there are potentially severe health implications caused by the gene which makes these cats tailless. Breeders have to be very careful because if you breed two Manx cats you can end up with an unviable embryo. You have to crossbreed the cat which dilutes the desired appearance and breeders end up creating cats which are not tailless or in the case of Scottish Fold cats they end up breeding cats with normal ears. What happens to those cats? There is a limited market for them. This is another complication facing breeders of these abnormal cats.

What you find is that some cat associations accept these abnormal cat breeds while others don't. A more tolerant or open-minded cat associations which accepts them is The International cat Association (TICA). A cat Association which rejects them is the Cat Fanciers' Association (CFA). They are more traditional in their viewpoint about what should be acceptable in a cat breed. Is the CFA more sensible? This is the controversial aspect of these breeds.

In the UK, the GCCF, the Premier cat Association in the UK, is I would argue somewhat ambivalent about accepting these breeds. They generally reject them which I think is correct because the primary objective for cat breeders should be health and then character and then appearance. But they tend to prioritise their cats in the reverse order. This is because buyers are fascinated with appearance and tend to conveniently brush under the carpet issues of health.

Looking at the hairless cats once again, briefly, you have to keep these cats indoors because without fur they can suffer in cold weather or will be sunburnt in hot weather. Admirers of the hairless cat argue that there is no issue because they will always be particularly careful in caring for their cat and keep them indoors. They do need particular care because the sebaceous glands in their skin delivering the oils for their fur deposit these oils on the skin which attracts dirt. The oil has nowhere to go and therefore it has to be washed off regularly by the cat's owner.

Another arguably abnormal cat breeder is the Ragdoll. It was put out initially that this cat lacks sensitivity to pain and would go limp when held. This may have encouraged children to hurt the cats because they considered them to be toys rather than sentient beings. Their highly placid nature also makes them more vulnerable when outdoors. It is argued that they should be kept indoors and they are well suited to an indoor life. I would not describe the Ragdoll Cat as an abnormal cat breed. They are a regular cat in truth and beautiful as well. Not all Ragdoll cats are floppy and super laid-back. They have their own individual personalities too.

Referring once again to the Scottish Fold. This breed has seen a surge in popularity recently, partly because the well-known celebrity singer, Taylor Swift, adopted two. She is very visible holding her Scottish Fold under her arm. Domestic cats normally have very mobile ear flaps so what happens for the Scottish Fold? They can't move their ears and you know that domestic cats have over 30 muscles moving their flaps. And a domestic cat's ears provide signals to an opposing cat. These signals can no longer be made. There is third issue namely that ear mites may be a particular problem for this breed although I have no evidence that this is the case.

Sometimes abnormal cat breeds are created from a normal breed. The classic example is the flat-faced Persian (peke-faced). This beautiful domestic cat should have a standard or regular-looking face but over many years of selective breeding the cat associations (primarily the CFA) decided to refine, as they saw it, the face and made it flatter and flatter to the point where they developed health issues. Breathing problems became an issue and the tears from the eyes could not drain away because the tear duct became distorted. This creates tears rolling down the side of the face which have to be wiped away by the owner. And the fur is exceptionally long to the point where the cat can no longer self-groom effectively. This also places an added burden upon the human caregiver.

There is no doubt that these abnormal cat breeds although interesting in appearance create added issues and responsibilities for the human caregiver. They were created out of a desire to produce a distinguished cat breed amongst a crowded spectrum of breeds. During the mid-part of the 1900s there was a surge in new breeds, some of them wild cat hybrids. Since those times the range of breeds has been far more settled. There is probably no more room to create a strange new breed with a distinguishing appearance. Those days are over. And it is time, in a world which is more sensitive towards animal welfare, for the cat associations to re-emphasise the importance of health and to modify their breed standards accordingly to gently encourage breeders away from extreme breeding.

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