The result of selective breeding: Queen Bingles’ story
In many ways, Queen Bingles’ story starts as so many other SPCA animal stories do... she was found wandering as a stray, alone and afraid.
Her fur was badly matted and incredibly dirty, and her finders called SPCA to come and collect her to ensure she got the care she urgently needed.
But unlike most stray cats SPCA sees come through its doors, there was something very different about Queen Bingles: her breed. This girl appears to be a purebred Persian. We don’t know how Queen Bingles came to be in the state she was found in, but we do know that almost all of the welfare issues she was suffering from were a result of selective breeding for exaggerated features. While purebred animals can live happy and healthy lives, without adequate care, some breeds are likely to suffer severe welfare implications.
Knowledge is power: the importance of researching breeds
The squishy face, the thick, soft coat, the big eyes… these are some of the features that people desire in their animals which can lead them to pursue purebreds such as Persians. Sadly, a culture of perceived cuteness has been built up around certain extreme features and breeds, which provides an opportunity for irresponsible breeders to breed animals for exaggerated features with little regard for their health.
The huge demand for certain breeds has created a market for those who value money over (and at the expense of) animal welfare. People may pay upwards of $1,000 just to have an animal because it is that breed, without considering the potential health and welfare harms involved. This demand and attitude encourages irresponsible breeders to pursue harmful breeding practices, producing animals with underlying health issues or extreme features, which all too often go hand-in-hand with significant welfare implications.
In Persians, these include brachycephaly – also known as flat face - which is a facial deformation resulting from selective breeding. It creates a reduction in the face and skull length, developing more rounded head to produce the “squishy” face look people seek out. Brachycephalic animals often suffer from breathing difficulties, dental disease, difficulties in grooming, and irritation and ulceration of the eyes and face. These conditions can cause prolonged, recurring, discomfort and pain (which may be severe) throughout life, and can be made worse if pet owners aren’t educated on how to relieve the symptoms they cause. While all Persians are considered brachycephalic, the extent that a cat is affected by these conditions depends on how exaggerated their features are.
SPCA recommends adopting an animal form a reputable rescue, but if you do choose to buy a purebred animal, it is crucial you do your research.
Research health issues associated with the breed and the associated care requirements and costs to ensure you are able to meet these needs and their welfare is looked after. A good place to start is the Universities Federation of Animals Welfare (UFAW)which lists common health issues associated with specific breeds. You can also discuss potential health issues and available tests for inherited diseases with your vet.
Unfortunately, some irresponsible breeders are in the business of commercial gain at the expense of animals’ welfare. Responsible pet ownership starts with where you source your new pet from, and it is vital to do your research before you view the animal you’re interested in buying. Ask the breeder for references from their vet and owners of animals from previous litters. Visit their facilities to see where the animals are raised, and meet their parents to determine whether your potential new pet will have exaggerated physical features. A reputable breeder should be aware of and screen for any known inherited conditions or physical problems specific to the breed. You can ask to see the results of relevant veterinary health checks or screening tests.
Ultimately, it is important not to buy or breed animals with extreme exaggerated or unusual features that compromise their health and welfare. If you do have an animal with exaggerated features, it is important to consult your vet to ensure your pet is not suffering and manage any symptoms they may suffer. As Queen Bingles proves, purebred animals can live a happy and healthy life if they’re looked after properly.
Queen Bingles’ road to recovery
To date, Queen Bingles has spent over four months under SPCA’s care. The first thing we did when she came to us was shave almost her entire body. Her fur was so badly matted, we were unable to comb out all the knots which were pulling painfully on her skin.
Queen Bingles was a sad sight for a while but we made sure she was kept warm, and her coat soon starting growing slowly back. She also had excess tartar build-up on her teeth and dental disease, both of which she was prone to due to her facial configuration. She has been undergoing daily facial cleans, especially in the folds of skin around her nose, to avoid irritation caused by epiphora (streaming of tears on the face, which traps moistures in the folds).
Queen Bingles is currently under ongoing foster care as she finishes her recovery journey, but she will soon be ready for adoption. When she goes to her new home, her new owners will need to manage her health carefully every day for the rest of her life. Queen Bingles will need daily face cleans, daily grooming, and regular dental check-ups to prevent repeat dental disease and tartar build up. And of course, like all cats from SPCA, she will be desexed to prevent her from passing on these health issues.
When the necessary steps are taken to ensure a purebred animal like Queen Bingles is looked after, these animals can thrive and live a long and happy life. Her breeding may set her apart from many strays we see here at SPCA, but in one area, Queen Bingles is just like the rest: we will ensure she finds her perfect forever home, where she will be both adored and cared for as she deserves.