First it was dogs, now its flat faced cats who are paying the price of being in fashion.
Persians, British and Exotic Shorthair cats are increasingly suffering from health problems because their characteristic shortened muzzle features have become more extreme through breeding.
Vets have warned that this can lead to breathing difficulties, along with eye and skin infections, because of constricted nasal passages. In some cases the cats even have problems picking up food because of their flattened ‘grumpy’ faces.
A recent study by researchers at the University of Edinburgh concluded that flatter-faced cats were more likely to have breathing problems and that the breathing difficulties were also associated with increased tear staining and a more sedentary lifestyle.
The problems associated with flat faced or brachycephalic cats have become more common as the breeds have grown in popularity.
Their prominent eyes and downturned mouth – making them look as if they are smiling or scowling – have made flat faced breeds the cat of choice.
Kim Kardashian, Paris Hilton and Georgia May Jagger are among the celebrities who have been photographed carrying one.
Figures from the pet microchipping database Pet Log show that flat-faced British shorthair and Persian cats are among the top ten most popular breeds in the UK, with more than 77,000 registered between them.
But the result is growing numbers of such cats suffering from conditions such as tear fluids which can’t drain properly, or infections around the folds of the flattened nose and across the face.
Now charities are calling for an end to the breeding of the facial characteristics which create such health problems.
Animal welfare campaigners want a change in welfare regulations to make the breeding of extreme, unnatural facial features illegal.
Claire Bessant, chief executive of International Cat Care, said: “It is very depressing to see the life that has been deliberately dealt to some breeds of cats because of a human desire to develop a certain look.
“I urge cat lovers to speak out and help others to understand that this is not something we should be doing to cats and not something we should be tolerating.”
She added: “One of the best and most beautifully naturally designed animals – the cat – would not normally have any of these problems; we have created them through selective breeding. We should not be encouraging people to breed these cats by calling them ‘cute’, by being amused at their facial characteristics, or by the fact that they snore. We should never deliberately breed cats for any feature or characteristic that impairs their welfare.”
The calls follow similar fears over flat faced dogs
Vets have warned the celebrity craze for French bulldogs is helping fuel dangerous overbreeding, resulting in agonising deformities and birth defects, Britain’s leading veterinary experts warn.
Rather than being “cute and wrinkly”, experts claim that intensively bred “Frenchies” struggle to breathe due to their exaggerated features – with even short bouts of exercise triggering serious respiratory problems.
In Switzerland a prosecution under the Animal Protection Act brought against two people who bred extreme bracycephalic cats led to a strengthening of animal protection law.
New regulations prevent intentional breeding which produces specific traits that compromise the health and wellbeing of an animal.