Are Purebred Cats Animal Cruelty?

I’ll always be a cats-first kind of gal, but I do love dogs, too. Sometimes I even watch the Westminster Kennel Club dog show when it airs on TV — and maybe even Crufts, if they choose to air it in the U.S. But I hate dog shows as much as I love watching them because it’s so painful to watch these dogs who were once bred for important work that helped the human race to survive, turned into caricatures of themselves by massive inbreeding to achieve a specific look.

Although the cat fancy hasn’t gone quite as completely wacko about breeding for appearance as the dog fancy has, this desire to produce “typey” cats is starting to get its tentacles into the world of cat breeding, too.

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What got me thinking about this is that I met my first ever Munchkin cat last month. She was a gorgeous creature and you couldn’t ask for a better personality, but when I saw her try to jump from the floor to the top of a couch, only to land with a thud back on the floor, my heart almost broke.

Here was a cat who couldn’t do the most basic of feline functions: execute a graceful jump a couple of feet in the air.

Although this darling little Munchkin couldn’t jump very well, she and her fellow Munchkins got a lot luckier in the health lottery than the breed’s critics predicted when it was first shown on television during a broadcast of a the International Cat Association show in 1991. But other breeds have not fared so well.

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The trouble with the kind of sibling-to-sibling and parent-to-offspring inbreeding required to produce or maintain a breed is that a lot of undesirable traits ride along with the desirable ones. Whether those problems are related to health, behavior, or both, the more overbred and inbred a line of cats is, the more likely it is that serious issues will crop up in ever-increasing numbers.

Take, for example, the Persian, which has suffered quite a bit from being the most popular cat in the U.S. The supply of cats produced by responsible breeders simply can’t meet the demand, so kitten mills churn out Persians as fast as they can, resulting in a population of cats rife with extremely severe health issues. But even breeding for “type” by responsible breeders has caused untold suffering for this noble and gentle cat.

According to Purebred Cat Rescue, Persians are “absolutely unfit to live outdoors due to physical makeup.” Their super-flat faces result in misaligned teeth, which can lead to excessive tartar buildup and decay. Many Persians’ noses are so smashed in that their nostrils are too small for them to breathe naturally and they need surgery to correct the problem.

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Persians’ face shape can cause malformations in the tear ducts, which can lead to dry eyes and even corneal ulcers. Their beautiful fur is so long and fine that even a normal-faced cat would have trouble grooming it, but Persians’ flat faces and bad teeth make the task nearly impossible. They also have a tendency to develop polycystic kidney disease and joint issues like slipping kneecaps and early arthritis.

So, how’s that “improving the breed” thing working out for you?

Like the Munchkin, the Sphynx and the Rex breeds arose due to a spontaneous natural mutation. However, the inbreeding that produced their unique coats and body types has resulted in serious issues. According to Purebred Cat Rescue, all of these breeds are very prone to heart disease, joint issues, bad teeth and severe digestive issues. Their unusual coats also leave them very susceptible to fungal infections. Again — beautiful cats, but overbreeding for type has left a legacy of poor health and suffering.

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Sure, there are highly inbred breeds that so far seem to have dodged the bullet, but how long will their luck hold?

I’ve got an idea: Let’s not find out. Please, for the love of all things cute and furry, stop the madness! I don’t want the cat fancy to become a haven for the kind of sick and mutilated wrecks of once-functional breeds we see at dog shows.

What cat breeds do you think have been “improved” to the point of ridiculousness? Are there some breeds that just make you mad or sad when you see them? What can cat lovers, breeders, show judges and buyers do to ensure that breeders don’t create cats that can’t “cat”? Sound off in the comments.

Photo: portrait of a beautiful fluffy cat closeup by Shutterstock

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This post was written by JaneA Kelley, regular contributor to Catster Magazine.


Carrie-Anne Brown

thanks for sharing :)

Rosemary H.
Rosemary H3 years ago

It's not just cats and dogs. Budgerigars suffer because breeders aim to win prizes with birds that have very large heads. They have an 'ideal' (a grotesque creature) and go on about the 'challenge' of breeding the ideal They actually refer to naturally shaped budgies as 'pet type rubbish'!

How can any right-thinking person refer to a natural bird or animal as 'rubbish'!!!

These men (they always seem to be men) seemed to me to keep birds just to boost their own egos. As soon as they are breeding birds that fit the 'ideal', they change the 'ideal' to a budgie with an even bigger head! Meanwhile the budgies are lethargic creatures who have short life-spans and find it difficult to breed

Rosemary H.
Rosemary H3 years ago

Many thoughts on this, and I'm sorry to have come to it late.

As Steven says, horses can be tortured to make them walk in a special way. Yes, indeed, the suffering of the Tennessee Walking horse is considerable and should be banned! However, it doesn't follow that all other breeds of horses suffer a similar fate. The horse breeds I know are shown with good natural action.

I think the same holds true for other species of animal bred for show. I have a lot to do with breeders of Shire horses. No bad practise there.

Kathy Johnson
Kathy Johnson3 years ago

manx are also pitiful :/

4 years ago

Yes Tammy, it is cruel to breed more cats when so many are euthanized due to overpopulation.

If breeders were heavily taxed, as they should be, then more shelter cats would be adopted instead of killed because there might be fewer greedy breeders.

Too many breeders don't give a damn about what they're doing. They just get their money and don't tell people about the inbreeding and the illness they should expect their cat to die of before it gets old.

Your anger is not justified.

Tammy B.
Tammy B.4 years ago

What the heck do spammers and points have to do with the last article? Is Cat Breeding Animal Cruelty? This is the largest load of crap I have ever read on here ever! First of all All Whites are not Honkies, All Blacks are not the N word and therefore not all breeders are breeding Munchkins and or Persians. I breed Ragdolls. I do not breed to get a deformed cat or look. So either retitle your article more to the point specify Munchkins and Persians or don't write crap like that! I am proud of my not deformed and messed up babies. They aren't even like normal cats in the ways they act. And it's pretty cool. Not at all redicoulous. Don't you know if someone wants the breed I got they will get it? They aren't all of a sudden getting a shelter cat to lessen the shelter population they are getting one of mine or someone els's a lot like it, Why? Because it's the breed they want. Is it animal cruely to choose one breed of cat over another? Why not ask yourself?

Alexander H.
Alexander H4 years ago

Hi Dale, thanks a lot for your explanation .. and meanwhile I realized the problem myself. Back then I didn't really understand and thought, people might be considered as spammers if they do some short postings from time to time for collecting and REDEEMING their points. I didn't really realize that there are so many unredeemed points and I had no notice of spammers til then. Of course in the recent months that changed a bit .. :)

Dale O.

Alexander H states: "Hmm .. maybe not the right place, but time to speak out: some people here are very, very busy and serious about marking 'Spammers'. Maybe I'm stupid and get it wrong (well, for sure) but how can there be Spammers, if this is -somehow- about collecting those points, with which you can do good? .. More or less directly. Or don't you redeem your points? And everything you do to earn 'em even is good. If you did it just to profile yourself or really out of love. Where's the difference to those being helped?

To all those, who are oh so worried about Spammers ... are you sure, you really get what this is about? It's not about you. Not about the 'Spammer'. It's about the points we spend and give each other to do something with it."

End of quote.

Dale O.

Alexander H, concerning the butterfly points that we redeem, the spammers do not redeem any of their points, these points are wasted. 'Everything one does to earn the points' is not good if a person is here by fraudulent means. All they are here for is to spam, which goes against Care2 policy. This is why many of us flag them. They use fake profiles, are fake members, who don't redeem their points. Yes, I really do get 'what this is about', when I see the spammers, I flag them. They are discussed widely by other members even if you don't see our point in doing so. Care2 does have a policy on spammers: "CARE2 TERMS OF SERVICE SUMMARY

Welcome to Care2! These Care2 Rules and Regulations are covered, along with additional rules and regulations in the detailed Care2 Terms of Service below. This is to notify you that by using Care2 services and thereby agreeing to the Care2 Terms of Service, you agree to the following:

You will not use the service for chain letters, junk mail, spamming or any use of distribution lists to any person who has not given specific permission to be included in such a process."

Exactly. Flag the weasels if you have the time and inclination.

4 years ago

As expressed by Eileen Mary P....purebreds can have inbred problems.

We rescued some pure Bengal kittens (it seems momcat had too many behavioural issues and the breeder bred her and dumped/abandoned her when she was pregnant. She fended for herself until delivery day and then a lady who had been feeding her on the patio brought her to the shelter. The kittens were born in a foster home (8yrs ago) and we adopted 2 of them after 5 weeks.

One has hip dysplasia, urinary tract issues and colitis and some emotional problems ....and the other has a couple of fused vertebrae, thyroid problems, serious psychotic issues and very bad teeth due to gingivitis (most of her teeth have been extracted and I've been brushing their teeth since they were 5 weeks old.)

All of our cats have special needs, but those 2 are the only ones with multiple issues that they were born with....and a couple of them will cause us to think very hard when the day comes that their issues are causing them misery. We'll have to make a decision and we dread it but know it's inevitable.

Bad breeders give the good ones a bad rep...but we don't need ANY breeders! What we need are more responsible pet guardians who spay and neuter their pets to curb overpopulation.