Cat Ultra-Typing - A Breed Too Far?

by Sarah Hartwell
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When Ann Baker's Ragdoll cats appeared on TV, animal welfare groups were concerned that people would be encouraged to toss cats around like cushions. Her Ragdolls are bred for extreme placidity, a trait not found in the wild where a lack of defensive behavior would be disadvantageous.

The dachshund-like Munchkin caused uproar among people concerned that breeders had gone too far for novelty's sake. In the wild, short-legged cats would not survive unless the mutation proved advantageous e.g. for following prey down burrows, or at least did not hinder the cats' ability to escape danger.

The wrinkly, bald Sphynx is now accepted in many countries despite initial opposition. The Peke-Faced Persian recently arrived in the U.K.; maybe the Munchkin, already rumored to suffer from back problems, will arrive too. As an ordinary pet-owner, I just have to ask "What on earth are cat-fanciers doing to cats?"

In human-controlled conditions, mutations or traits can be perpetuated for aesthetic or curiosity reasons rather than in the best interests of the cat. This can lead to curious but healthy breeds such as the Japanese Bobtail or to curious breeds with drawbacks if there are lethal genes or other abnormalities e.g. the Manx.

"In the cat fancy, mutation is often spelt NEW BREED" (A Cat of Your Own, 2nd Ed. 1993).

Responsible breeders try to eliminate abnormalities although others are willing to perpetuate them for their novelty value. There is a temptation to turn almost any mutation into a breed for the sake of novelty and although cats have not (yet) been bred to such extremes as dogs, some breeds have changed greatly over the years and are still changing.

What the Papers Say

The December 11 edition of the British "Sunday Express" newspaper printed the following:

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