Cats can suffer from many inherited diseases, but they are more common amongst pedigree pets because of their smaller gene pools. However, it is important to remember that even a mongrel could develop them. Here are five that a prospective cat parent needs to know:
Polycystic Kidney Disease
The numbers of cats diagnosed with PKD has been falling in recent years thanks to DNA screening programs in the most affected breeds, particularly Persians. Affected cats are born with cysts on their kidneys. The problem doesn't usually become known until they are middle-aged, when these cysts, which have been putting pressure on kidney function since birth, finally start to cause the organ to malfunction. This often occurs after they had been bred from, hence the introduction of a testing program.
Affected cats can be treated but there is no cure.
Larger breeds of cat such as Maine Coons and Ragdolls are vulnerable to developing enlarged hearts. The muscle walls of some chambers of the heart become thickened, but others become flabby and increase in size because of the changes in internal pressures. Affected cats can develop life-threatening blood clots, increased blood pressure, and heart failure, which is often a fatal condition.
Genetic testing is available to ensure that cats that carry affected genes are not mated. It is also possible to scan the heart prior to breeding to ensure that there are no abnormalities.
Amyloidosis is a condition in which amyloid (a kind of protein) is produced in abnormal amounts by the body. This leads to it accumulating in the organs and affecting their function, particularly the liver and the kidneys.
It is especially common in Siamese and Abyssinian cats, and although genetic investigations are ongoing, there is currently no test to see if a cat carries the gene that trigger the condition. Therefore, any affected cat and their offspring, should be removed from breeding programs as soon as the condition becomes known.
Orofacial Pain Syndrome
This distressing condition is seen almost exclusively in pedigree Burmese cats, but can occur in other Oriental breeds. Orofacial pain syndrome causes a cat to develop very painful and swollen gums. Although treatments such as dental work, painkillers, and even neurological medications can be tried, many affected cats have to be euthanized simply because their pain cannot be controlled.
Some pedigree cats are vulnerable to diseases because of their genetics, however, in a small number of breeds, every individual will suffer simply because of how they have been bred.
For example, Scottish Folds have their distinctive ears due to abnormal cartilage production. Cartilage is also present in every joint in the body, and these cats will develop painful and debilitating arthritis early in life. For this reason, they are not recognized by the UK's General Council of Cat Fancy.
Munchkin cats have a very distinctive body shape with extremely short legs because they suffer from a feline form of Dwarfism, which often leads to painful joint abnormalities. The breed is not recognized by the Cat Fancier's Association in America or the General Council of Cat Fancy in the UK.
If you are planning to purchase a pedigree cat, you should always research the breed carefully and ensure that the breeder has performed any recommended pre-breeding tests.