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Genetic Health Issues in Cats

The presentation of genetic health issues in cats is not as well known as with other species. For example, in dogs even a novice owner is likely aware of hip dysplasia. Many in horses are aware of the “lethal white” gene in paint horses, even if they don’t have paint horses. Cattle can have a few genetic health issues as well but when it comes to cats even similar issues are not viewed in a common way.

However, when you take the steps to begin breeding it should be done as an informed person producing the best cats possible, not just for show but for health. One issue that affects cats is dwarfism.

Dwarfism is beyond just being a runt of the litter. This is an animal that genetically is changed through a gene for achondroplasia .
  • Physically these animals have short limbs, a large prominent forehead and ear infections, among other problems. 
  • There is also a form, pseudoachondroplasia that appears with the shortened legs but the head is normal. 
  • Kittens with dwarfism can suffer as they grow when the spine shifts down around the shoulders, causing the spine to misalign. 
  • This in turn presses on the lungs, heart and trachea causing additional problems. 
  • This can trigger problems from infections in mild cases to premature death in more serious ones. There is some disagreement if “officially” dwarf cats have more health issues than others.

Pancreatitis in cats tends to be combined with other health issues. 

  • In dogs some breeds have a higher incidence than others, leading some to believe it is genetic. 
  • This is a cause for questions in cats – with acute signs of pain, depression, appetite affected and sometimes vomiting or diarrhea. Loss of weight and low body temperature are also signs in cats. 
  • When the pancreas doesn’t work properly in producing insulin diabetes occurs. 
  • However, overweight animals are more prone to pancreatitis.
Persians can be affected by polycystic kidney disease and heart issues can happen in any species. 
  • Some lines have hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a genetically caused heart disease. 
  • Hip dysplasia and night blindness can both be genetic. 
These things can be tested for and animals showing a tested ability to produce kittens with them shouldn’t be used for breeding. Heart issues, for example are incurable and fatal.
  • Spinal muscular atrophy is another disease that can affect cats and can carry it without showing signs, but the kittens will inherit the defects.

Because such animals are expensive to maintain while they are alive most pet owners won’t take them on knowing this is lurking. The kittens affected that do have signs later may be abandoned or euthanized, preventing vet bills and suffering but eliminating a life that if healthy would have many more years.

Research your breed and ask questions about genetic problems in the breed. Choose matings that consider these things as well as show qualities for a perfect and healthy litter! It is much cheaper and in breeding it pays to produce quality in all aspects including health!

Need any advice now? Ask a vet online! 
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This is a helpful site on cat health

Cat Health Guide - Information on the symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of common cat health problems.


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