Animal welfare charity Battersea Dogs & Cats Home has today warned that cats are needlessly suffering by being bred to look a certain way.
The charity’s warning comes after six flat-faced cats arrived at the London rescue centre in the same week, with all but the youngest two, a pair of three-week old kittens, requiring medical treatment for breed-related health issues.
In recent years animal welfare and veterinary organisations have successfully raised public awareness about the health crisis facing brachycephalic, or ‘flat faced’ dogs, and Battersea believes that more must now be done to make cats part of the conversation.
With their huge eyes, tiny noses and lush manes of fur, it is easy to see why breeds with exaggerated features such as Persian, Exotic Shorthair and Scottish Fold cats can be appealing, both to potential owners and to the millions of social media users who follow accounts dedicated to these types of cat.
From celebrities like Taylor Swift, Ed Sheeran and Martha Stewart regularly posting photos of their Scottish Fold and Persian cats to millions of followers, to hashtags such as ‘flat face’ and ‘flat face cat’ having over 435,000 and 75,000 Instagram users respectively, Battersea believes that social media has played a role in glamourising health defects in cats, turning them into something viewed as ‘cute’ and desirable by an unsuspecting public.
Battersea’s Head Vet, Shaun Opperman, said: “At Battersea we treat our animals for a wide variety of health issues, a number of which are specifically related to hot these animals have been bred to look. In an apparent quest to make them look increasingly photographic or fashionable, these cats can sadly spend their whole lives suffering with a range of health problems ranging from matted fur and eye infections to difficulty breathing and degenerative diseases.”
There are several pedigree cat breeds that face genetic health issues, however one of the breeds that most consistently requires medical attention upon arriving at Battersea, is the Persian.
Once such cat is CeeCee, a four-year old Persian currently residing at Battersea’s London cattery while she waits for crucial surgery to help her breath. When CeeCee first arrived, her fur was heavily matted, she was suffering from excessively watery eyes and it didn’t take staff long to notice that whenever she moved around, her breathing became laboured.
Vets at Battersea’s Clinic are now considering where to operate on the young cat’s nose to widen her almost non-existent nostrils in a bid to make breathing easier for her. These same vets recently performed surgery on a a male four-year old Persian named Rucca to remove one of his eyes, which had become irreparably damaged due to chronic ulceration, an issue faced by many flat-faced cats.
While charities like Battersea do everything they can to help these cats, many of the problems they face cannot be cured and they will continue to face a level of discomfort or health issues for the rest of their lives.
Battersea vet Shaun added: “If it weren’t for the unrelated circumstances that brought these cats to Battersea, they would have potentially continued suffering for the rest of their lives, possibly without their owners ever believing anything was wrong. With many of the pedigree cats that are brought to us, we can see that the owners clearly loved their pets, however their lack of breed knowledge means that they have unknowingly neglected their care, such as not grooming often enough or failing to consult a vet at the right time.
“As with any type of cat, pedigrees can of course make wonderful pets for the right owners, however we would urge anyone thinking of adding a cat to the family to first consider adopting from a rescue like Battersea. If you do have your heart set on buying a cat, do your research first and ensure that you make a decision based on your lifestyle and an individual’s cat’s needs, rather than what might get the most likes in Instagram.”
For more information, you can visit www.battersea.org.uk.