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Escalating concerns about ‘designer cats’
Scottish fold
Scottish folds are bred to have ears that fold over, giving them a ‘baby-face’ look but the gene that affects cartilage in the ears also affects other joints.
Genetic defects likely to cause long-term suffering
 
International Cat Care has added its voice to concerns about the trend for ‘designer cats’ including munchkins, Manx and Scottish fold cats, which are bred to have genetic defects.

News reports over the past week highlighted growing demand for these cats, fuelled by celebrity owners and online videos, after a vet spoke out against the trend, branding it “cruel”. The Mail on Sunday said it had seen munchkin cats being sold for up to £900 online.

Munchkin cats have a defective gene that causes their legs to be short and stunted. It can also lead to joint problems and pain, abnormal curvature of the spine and flattening of the ribcage.

Manx cats suffer from a genetic deformity that prevents the tail and spine from forming properly. The malformed spine can lead to other problems including constipation, rectal prolapse, a hopping gait caused by skeletal and nerve problems and arthritis in the joints. Manx cats are actually used as a model for the human condition spina bifida.

Scottish fold cats are also used as a human model for human disease - in this case arthritis - as they can suffer from crippling arthritis from a very early age. Scottish folds are bred to have ears that fold over, giving them a ‘baby-face’ look but the gene that affects cartilage in the ears also affects other joints.

For some ‘designer’ breeds, if two cats with the deformity are bred together, a percentage of kittens will get a potentially fatal ‘double dose’ of the gene, which can result in resorption, mummification, abortions or stillbirths. Survivors with the deformity are likely to suffer long-term.

iCatCare says that, despite a lack of scientific data, the potential for fatality coupled with the obvious deformity of the cats, suggests that many - if not all - suffer pain and compromised welfare.  

Gatehouse Veterinary Centre rescued two munchkin cats that proved difficult to rehome as they needed a house with no stairs and cannot go outdoors due to their arthritis and lack of mobility.

Veterinary nurse Kelly Eyre said: “They are both on long term pain relief and have joint supplements. We have also just started them on supplements to improve their fur as Bonnie is struggling to maintain her coat condition now. They can have days where they appear grumpy and unsociable, and sometimes Clyde doesn't get out of his bed until the afternoon. That's when we know he's not feeling too good.

“It must be exhausting to be in chronic pain. If they didn't live with us at the practice, who knows what their lifestyle would be like elsewhere. Here we can monitor their pain, monitor their bloods where money isn't an issue and have professionals keeping a close eye on them.”

Claire Bessant, chief executive at iCatCare, believes more awareness is needed among the general public.

“Our position on breeding cats is that first no harm should be done,” she explained. “If there is even the smallest chance that having a particular ‘look’ causes problems, then we should simply not be accepting of the breed and all of us should be encouraging cat lovers everywhere to speak out against such breeding, and strongly urging people not to buy these cats.

“Unfortunately, many people are unaware of the suffering which can accompany a certain look – most cat lovers would be appalled if they realised that their lovely cat was suffering. Cats are very good at hiding pain and can suffer in silence throughout their lives.”

 

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Stephen Fry lends voice to frog conservation film

News Story 1
 Comedian and author Stephen Fry has lent his voice to a new animation that hopes to raise awareness of deadly ranavirus, which is threatening the UK’s frogs.

Research by ZSL, who created the short film, suggests that at least 20 per cent of ranavirus cases over the past three decades, could be attributed to human introductions. This includes pond owners introducing fish, frog spawn and plants from other environments.

Amphibian disease expert Dr Stephen Price said: “People can help stop the spread by avoiding moving potentially infected material such as spawn, tadpoles, pond water and plants into their own pond. Disinfecting footwear or pond nets before using them elsewhere will also help.” 

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Scotland to fund OV training

The Scottish Government has revealed it will fund training for new Official Veterinarians (OVs), covering the Essential Skills, Statutory Surveillance and TB Testing.

Funding will also be provided for the revalidation of Essential Skills, as well as TB Testing for existing OVs. This is the second round of financial support from the Scottish Government for OVs.

BVA president Simon Doherty said he is “delighted” with the announcement.

“Official Veterinarians’ work in safeguarding animal health and welfare and ensuring food safety is invaluable,” he added. “This announcement has come at a crucial time, with Brexit and an uncertain future ahead, the role of OVs will be more important than ever in enabling the UK’s trade in animal products.