International Cat Care, the International Society of Feline Medicine (ISFM), the British Small Animal Veterinary Association and a further eight cat charities and welfare groups have contacted Universal Pictures to express their disapproval of the starring role given to a Scottish Fold cat in the studio's forthcoming blockbuster, Argylle, which is coming out on 2nd February.

The Scottish Fold is bred for a cartilage abnormality which gives them their distinctive folded ears.

However, that same cartilage abnormality affects their joints, meaning that they go on to develop painful arthritis, even from a young age.

The charities say the impact of using this breed in a Hollywood film cannot be overstated and is likely to significantly increase their popularity with potential cat owners. 

Nathalie Dowgray, Head of ISFM, said: “International Cat Care (iCatCare) and its veterinary division, the International Society of Feline Medicine (ISFM), believe that it is simply unethical to continue to breed cats with a genetic mutation that is known to cause significant painful disease – the rationale for breeding these cats was purely for traits considered attractive to humans, as some people believe the folded ears look appealing.

"This is an unnatural appearance for a cat, and the underlying genetic defect has far-reaching and severe consequences for the health of the cat.

"Health should always be more important than looks.”

The trailer for the film also shows a cat travelling in a backpack and subjected to rough handling, including being picked up by the scruff and thrown from a building.

ISFM says that although these scenes have been created using digital animation, the organisations share concerns that suggesting these interactions with cats are acceptable or entertaining may have a negative impact on the welfare of cats. 

Sarah Ellis, Head of Cat Mental Wellbeing and Behaviour at International Cat Care, said: “Scruffing a cat is an unacceptable form of restraint that can cause a cat considerable discomfort, fear and even pain, as the weight of its body is completely unsupported, and the cat cannot escape the pressure from its skin being grasped.

"Backpacks are not a cat friendly way to transport a cat; they can leave a cat cramped, without enough ventilation, struggling to control body temperature, and uncomfortable due to the unpredictable movement from being worn on a person’s back.

"Backpacks are simply not cat friendly - they do not respect the cat as a species and run the risk of psychological and physical suffering to the cat.”

The organisations have contacted Universal Pictures, asking them to adopt Cat Friendly Principles in future, and not to promote cat breeds with extreme features in future.

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