Research into brachycephalic cats has found flatter-faced breeds have more severe respiratory problems and are likely to be less active.

Persian cat
PROVED: the flatter the face, the more severe the respiratory problems. Image: blackday / fotolia.

Danielle Gunn-Moore, feline medicine professor at The University of Edinburgh Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, led a multicentre team in a novel, two-year, online international study where owners of flat-faced cats were asked to complete a questionnaire about their animals, and provide both full and side-on images of their pet’s face.

By comparing owner information with the photographs, Prof Gunn-Moore and her team – Rowena Packer from the RVC, Mark Farnworth from the University of Plymouth, Sarah Caney of Vet Professionals and master’s student Ruoning Chen – were able to demonstrate the flatter the face, the more severe the respiratory problems, as has been previously shown in dogs.

Distinct degrees

Prof Gunn-Moore said distinct degrees of brachycephaly exist.

Danielle Gunn-Moore
Professor Danielle Gunn-Moore.

She said: “When you look at old pictures of Persian cats from 100 years ago, they were clearly brachycephalic, but didn’t have the problems. When we look at some of the cats in this study, they are clearly brachycephalic, but only mildly to moderately so, and there wasn’t a problem.

“It’s once you start getting the nostrils up close to the eyes you start having severe problems – so it’s really to do with extremes. We need to get that message through to people.”

‘Disabled’

She added: “We’ve got to get people not to see scrunched-up faces and think ’cute’. We should be saying ‘malformed’ instead. I know it sounds strong, but they’re certainly disabled and this study shows severely brachycephalic cats cannot function like healthy ones.

“Some short-nosed breeds can be very attractive – I get that – but the cat has got to be a functional animal. So, if we can just back off the extreme typing, we’re not going to have such severe respiratory problems.”

  • Read the full story in the 24 October issue of Veterinary Times.
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