The BVA has joined forces with International Cat Care to highlight the welfare issues faced by brachycephalic cats and to urge cat-lovers to avoid choosing pedigree breeds of cat designed to have extreme or unusual features, such as flat faces or folded ears.

The association has released figures from its Voice of the Veterinary Profession survey in which 86% of 671 veterinary surgeons polled in May/June last year had treated conformation-related health problems in brachycephalic cats, such as Persians and Exotic Shorthairs.

The most common conformation-related treatments carried out by these vets were for:

  • Eye problems (69%)

  • Breathing/respiratory problems (60%)

  • Dental issues (45%) and

  • Skin problems (32%).

The survey also found that on average, 28% of the flat-faced cats vets see in their practices have had or would benefit from having treatment for conformation-related health or welfare problems.

Respondents also said that only a quarter of brachycephalic cat owners were already aware of the potential health issues and just one in twenty were aware of the additional costs associated with the breeds before choosing their pet.

BVA Senior Vice President Gudrun Ravetz said: "Everyone knows that the internet loves cat photos and videos. But as time passes we’ve noticed a growing appetite for novelty creeping in - with quirky and unusual cat breeds proving increasingly popular on social media.

"Currently the UK population of pure breed cats is very small as most cat owners opt for regular non-pedigree ‘moggies’. However, we are worried that the popularity on the internet of breeds with extreme conformation, such as the very flat-faced Persians and Exotic Shorthairs, or gene abnormalities such as cause the ears to bend forward in the Scottish Fold breed, may prompt increased demand among consumers who are unaware of the potential serious health and welfare issues associated with such breeding.

"These figures show that many, many owners are choosing pets without understanding either the possible welfare implications of their extreme features or the potential cost of treating them." 

The BVA, which has been campaigning to curb the growing popularity of brachycephalic breeds of dog for some time, says it is keen to emphasise that health and welfare issues relating to extreme conformation are not limited to dogs or to brachycephaly. To that end, it will be launching a wider position statement on extreme conformation in animals later this summer.

For BVA #BreedtoBreathe campaign materials, including infographics and videos which draw attention to the serious health issues experienced by brachycephalic animals, visit: www.bva.co.uk/brachys.

Photo: Shutterstock/Piyato