Some cats are more likely to suffer from inherited conditions than others, which is also why veterinarians and pet owners might view a few breeds as generally being more unhealthy when compared to others.
In today’s article, we’re looking at the top hereditary diseases that affect cats. If you’re interested in getting a cat with a pedigree or a specific breed from a cattery, make sure you always ask the breeder for a certificate of health from a veterinarian, according to which the health of the kitten’s parents is not only on par, but they also don’t seem to suffer from any genetic diseases.
7 Common Hereditary Diseases in Cats
- Manx Syndrome
Also known as sacrocaudal dysgenesis, this is a hereditary condition that makes everyday living for the animal (and the pet owner) quite complicated. Cats that are born with this disease can’t control their urinary bladder or their hind legs, not to mention that their bowel movements are also very difficult to manage.
Manx Syndrome is a manifestation of a lack of development of the spine and spinal cord. While some cats with this syndrome have been documented to live for up to a decade or more, they need special care. Cats that are diagnosed with this issue should never be used for reproduction.
- Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy
A variety of breeds, including Maine Coons, for example, are more genetically predisposed to having heart conditions compared to others. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is a condition where the muscle in the organ becomes so thick that it makes pumping blood difficult, if not impossible.
It’s also more common for these cats to develop blood clots, whether in larger blood vessels or smaller ones. And while veterinary medicine has come a long way when it comes to treating heart failure or other heart-related conditions in animals, a patient with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy has a much shorter life span.
- Burmese Head Defect
A recessive gene is responsible for creating this defect in Burmese cats. The appearance itself shouldn’t be so important, but unfortunately, these cats are sometimes born with brachycephaly, incomplete development of the skull, and a double paper jaw.
Any kitten that’s born with this defect cannot survive due to its anatomy, as these features often make normal breathing and feeding impossible, not to mention that the majority of them are born with meningoencephalocele. Testing for Burmese Head Defect exists these days.
Have you ever heard the rumor that white-furred, blue-eyed cats are deaf? This is actually true in most cases (unless the cat isn’t actually completely white or really blue-eyed) because it is a genetic mutation that leads to these pets being born with deafness.
While treatment for deafness in cats doesn’t exist at this time, at least you can get your cat tested so that you know how you should modify your pet’s living environment to make your pet’s lifestyle a comfortable and healthy one.
- Type II Diabetes
While type II diabetes is most likely caused by obesity and a poor diet, it’s also true that some cats can be more likely to get it because of their genetic background. Some of these breeds are the following:
- Norwegian Forest Cat
- Maine Coon
- Russian Blue
So, if you’ve adopted or purchased a kitten of any of these breeds, you should make sure that you pay attention to their diet and don’t allow them to put on weight even after getting them neutered or spayed.
- Progressive Retinal Atrophy
PRA is a genetic condition that affects not just cats but also dogs. Some of the breeds affected by this hereditary disease range from the Ocicat and Abyssinian to Somali and Persian.
As its name suggests, progressive retinal atrophy eventually leads to blindness – and if this is not a health condition that you’re looking forward to managing in your feline friend, definitely ask your breeder to provide a health certificate from a vet that can attest that the kitten’s parents are PRA-free and have been so for the past 12 months.
- Scottish Fold Disease
While the Scottish Fold breed itself is adorable, and there’s no doubt about that, it’s also true that it’s a result of years and years of breeding. Unfortunately, one by-product of that breeding process is a disease that goes by the name of osteochondrodysplasia, and that has some rather severe clinical manifestations, such as joint problems, pain, and arthritis.
Not all Scottish Fold kittens are born with this condition, of course. Unfortunately, those that are born with it can only be treated symptomatically, so at one point, their cartilage and bones will become damaged, and the amount of pain they are in becomes so severe that they will require continuous treatment with pain killers.
What other conditions might cats inherit from their parents?
Two other common hereditary diseases in some cats are polycystic kidney disease (PKD) and feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD). Historically, up to 50% of all Persian cats used to be diagnosed with PKD, which should give you a clue as to how injudicious the breeding of this type of cat was.
Fortunately, these days a test for PKD does exist, making it possible for breeders to avoid using those males and females for reproduction.
As for FLUTD, it tends to affect more than 3% of all cats across the globe. While it can be transmitted genetically, it can also be caused by a complex of other factors ranging from stress, a too-low water intake, depression, and more.