Designer cats and natural feline behaviour alterations

By Catnips – Mobile cat groomer, cat care and behaviour services

The cross breeding and selection of extreme mutations within various breeds has led to a line of ‘designer cats’ with anatomical restrictions and health problems taking them away from leading the life of a normal cat. Thanks to Wikipedia for certain breed information.

Here are some examples below:

restrictive movement because of short  legs

restrictive movement because of short legs

1. This is the breed of cat called Munchkin. Having shorter legs than a normal cat means it cannot jump or climb. How sad for a cat whose natural instinct, and evolutional pattern, is to climb trees, enjoy high spaces for safety and security, and to relax whilst looking down on their territory. The breed was ‘developed in the 1980’s in the US, by choosing cats to breed who had a naturally occurring genetic mutation. These cats were chosen specifically for this gene. The Munchkin cat has now been bred with the La Perm cat (curly short haired) to produce the Skookum.

2. The Scottish Fold is known for it’s flattened ears, and seeing as cats communicate by ear positioning and movement, this would give false signals to any approaching cat.

The Scottish Fold came about after a cat called Susie in the US, in 1961, was born with folded ears. When Susie had kittens two of them had folded ears which gave a neighbour, a cat fancier, an idea! William Ross began a breeding program teaming up with geneticist Pat Turner.

Flattened ears can give the wrong signal to a cat as it's ears remain always in a defensive mode. It also has a huge build up of wax in the ears

Flattened ears can give the wrong communication signal to a cat as it’s ears remain always in a defensive mode. It also has a huge build up of wax in the ears.

It was quickly realised that a dominant gene existed that folded the ears in certain bred kittens and these were the ones that were breed again to keep the gene going strong. The kittens that do not develop folded ears are known as Straights.  The original cats only had one fold in their ears, but due to selective breeding, breeders have increased the fold to a double or triple crease that causes the ear to lie totally flat against the head.


3. The Sphynx

Their are companies that specialise in Sphynx clothing only due to their lack of own fur to keep warm

Their are companies that specialise in Sphynx clothing only due to their lack of own fur to keep warm

The Sphynx cat has no natural fur to keep it warm and therefore cannot control it’s body temperature. Because of this, extreme care has to be taken when considering free movement, in fact most have to be confined. Access to the sun can cause skin cancer too. The Sphynx cat cannot have a natural life like that of other felines.

Two different sets of hairless felines discovered in North America in the 1970’s provided the foundation cats for that which was shaped into the existing Sphynx breed.

The Canadian Sphynx breed was started in 1966, in Toronto when a hairless kitten named Prune was born to a black and white domestic shorthair queen (Elizabeth) in Ontario, Canada. The kitten was mated with its mother (backcrossing), which produced one more naked kitten. Together with a few naked kittens found later it founded the first attempt to create a hairless breed.

After purchasing these cats in 1966 and initially referring to them as “Moonstones” and “Canadian Hairless,” Mr. Ridyadh Bawa, a science graduate in Toronto combined efforts with his mother Yania, a long time Siamese breeder, and the Tenhoves (Kees and Rita) to develop a breed of cats which was subsequently renamed as “Sphynx”.


4. Thinner modern Siamese cat

Modern thinner face of The siamese

Modern thinner face of The siamese

In the 1950s–1960s, as the Siamese was increasing in popularity, many breeders and cat show judges began to favor the more slender look. As a result of generations of selective breeding, they created increasingly long, fine-boned, narrow-headed cats; eventually the modern show Siamese was bred to be extremely elongated, with a lean, tubular body, long, slender legs, a very long, very thin tail that tapers gradually into a point and a long, wedge-shaped head topped by extremely large, wide-set ears. The minority of breeders who stayed with the original style found that their cats were no longer competitive in the show ring.

Tradition round face of the Siamese cat

Tradition round face of the Siamese cat

The behaviour changes to the thinner Siamese has resulted in a more restless high energy cat which has resulted in more money being spent hiring animal behaviourists to sort out the problem of confinement.




5. Persians (Peke faced)

The compressed nose and runny eyes make the Peke faced Persian cat less likely to run around and exert itself

The compressed nose and runny eyes make the Peke faced Persian cat less likely to run around and exert itself

With maxillo facial compression and with health problems such as respiratory, pharyngeal and eye diseases this is by far the most extreme one can get in terms of damage to a cat! Such attributes as contorted passageways make the persian cat less likely to exert itself.

The Persian to the left has its forehead, nose and chin in vertical alignment, as called for by CFA’s 2007 breed standard. The shorter the muzzle, the higher the nose tends to be. It has been known for the UK standards to penalize Persians whose nose leather extends above the bottom edge of the eye.

Recognised by the CF since the late 19th century, The Persian was developed first by the English, and then mainly by American breeders after the 2nd world war. In Britain, it is called the Longhair or Persian Longhair. The ”selective breeding’ carried out by breeders has allowed the development of a wide variety of coat colors, which sadly led to the creation of the Peke Faced Persian.

6. American Curl 

An American Curl's ears should be handled carefully because rough handling may damage the cartilage in the ear

An American Curl’s ears should be handled carefully because rough handling may damage the cartilage in the ear

The American Curl has ears that are permanently distorted back which to another cat could be signalling agression.

The breed originated in California as the result of a spontaneous mutation. In June 1981, two stray kittens were found and taken in by the Ruga family. The kittens were both longhaired, one black and the other black and white. The family named them Shulamith and Panda respectively, but Panda disappeared several weeks later, making Shulamith the foundation female of the American Curl breed.

These cats’ ears require frequent cleaning to prevent infections. The more bent the ear the more points made in the cat shows!


7. The Ragdoll.

The first cat to be bred for ‘behaviour’ qualities over body type.

In the 1960s, a regular non-pedigreed white domestic longhaired cat named Josephine, who had produced several litters of typical cats, was injured in an accident involving a car and taken to the veterinary hospital at the University of California. Josephine was of a Persian/Angora  type and had litters sired by several unknown male

The ragdoll cat traditionally goes limp when held.

The ragdoll cat traditionally goes limp when held.

Birman or Burmese-like cats, one of which had the Siamese point coloration. Ann Baker, an american breeder, believed that Josephine was subject to a secret government genetic experiment during treatment at the lab, and claimed that it made Josephine docile, relaxed when picked up, and immune to pain. After Josephine recovered, her next litter produced kittens with similar temperament.

When the subsequent litter produced more of the same, Ann Baker (an established cat breeder) purchased several kittens from the owner, who lived behind her, and believing she had something special, set out to create what is now known as the Ragdoll. The breed was selectively bred over many years for desirable traits, such as large size, gentle demeanor, and a tendency to go limp when picked up, as well as the striking pointed coloration.

This extreme docility might not be in the best interests of the cat, especially to defend itself, and therefore another cat to be endlessly confined.

So there you have it! Natural feline behaviours that have not been considered when cross breeding pedigree cats.

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Catnips – Your one stop feline shop for all things feline


About Anita Kelsey - Cat Behaviour Consultant

Anita Kelsey holds a first class honours degree in Feline Behaviour and Psychology (work based BA Hons) and runs a vet referral service dedicated strictly to the diagnosis and treatment of behaviour problems in cats. She is also a qualified cat groomer and specialises in grooming aggressive or phobic cats. Anita writes for Your Cat Magazine and is on their experts panel answering readers questions on cat grooming. She also advises on feline behaviour for the CFBA (Canine and Feline Behaviour) magazine as well as being a full member. Anita is based in Notting Hill, London but consults all over the UK as well as international requests. She lives with her husband, a music producer, and two Norwegian Forest cats, Kiki and Zaza. Anita's debut book, Claws, Confessions Of A Cat Groomer is published by John Blake Publishers and is out on 7th September 2017 (available for pre-orders on Amazon UK)
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1 Response to Designer cats and natural feline behaviour alterations

  1. Sarah says:

    I find it hard to understand how anybody could want to have one of these ‘pedigree’ animals. I am happy to say that my Siamese, while not completely apple-faced, is nowhere near the modern breed standard. She is an extrovert, like most Siamese – but then, so was my last cat, who was just a moggy. So much character is down to the breeder and owner’s attitude and teaching!


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