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Love is Blind – how popularity is making these cute cats suffer

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  • RSPCA Australia
  • Friday, 13 December 2019

Jimmy started his life as a pretty special cat. As a purebred exotic shorthair cat, (similar to a Persian) Jimmy was imported to New Zealand from northern Europe as a kitten, intended to be a breeding cat. 

Unfortunately, like many other exotic shorthair cats, Jimmy was bred for his looks to the detriment of his health and wellbeing. Due to the flat face that is a trademark of the exotic shorthair cat, Jimmy suffered from exercise intolerance – a common issue for brachycephalic breeds that can have narrowed airways, dental issues and jaw problems as a result of being bred to have exaggerated flat faces. 

He also suffered very frequent severe conjunctivitis, another common issue for brachycephalic cats who have problems with their tear ducts that can cause excessive eye watering and inflammation.

Jimmy eventually came into the vet at the age of six, having suffered three urethral blockages in one month as the result of a feline lower urinary tract disease. He needed surgery, but his owner was unable to afford his treatment, having spent thousands of dollars importing him to New Zealand and many thousands more in vet treatments by that point. 

Luckily for Jimmy, his vet fell in love with him, and offered to adopt him and continue his treatment. Now, Jimmy lives with his vet owner, who is knowledgeable about the heightened health issues that are typical of his breed and is able to give him the extra care that he needs. 

Unfortunately, many other cats continue to suffer from being bred to have exaggerated features that compromise their health. 

Brachycephalic cats are in high demand, but they suffer for their looks

While the flat faces of brachycephalic cats are one of the things that make them so appealing to so many owners, unfortunately the breeding of these cats over decades has led to exaggerated features that significantly impact on their health. 

The flat faces are associated with changes to the respiratory tracts of these cats, which include narrowed nostrils and airways, and a longer than normal soft palate which makes it harder for them to breathe. This can make exercising difficult for these cats, as they struggle to breathe normally. 

Other health issues include problems with their tear ducts which can lead to inflammation of their eyes and other eye problems like conjunctivitis. They can also suffer from dental issues as a result of their jaws being too small for their teeth. 

How can we help cats like Jimmy?

We know that people love their cats – but unfortunately, that love can sometimes make us blind to the way these breeds are suffering in order to look a certain way. 

The most important way we can help cats like Jimmy is to encourage breeders to shift the way they breed to move away from exaggerated features like extremely flat faces, in order to protect the health of their cats. 

If you do choose to purchase a brachycephalic breed cat, it’s important to be informed about the potential health issues your cat can face, and to get advice from your vet as early as possible. You’ll need to be prepared for potentially costly treatment as your cat ages. 

Head to the Love is Blind website to find out more about the plight of animals bred for exaggerated features. 

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