8 popular cat breeds and their common health problems

We all love our cats, but some breeds are predisposed to health issuesPets4Homes experts shed some light on what cat owners need to know

In 2020, searches for cats and kittens increased by 281% compared to 2019. For those considering adopting old and young cats alike, or looking to rehome a pedigree kitten, it’s important to be aware of the health conditions cats are predisposed to, based on their breed.

To guide us, the experts at Pets4Homes the UK’s largest online pet marketplace, have shed light on some of the most popular cat breeds, and their common health problems. 

Ragdoll

Ragdoll Kitten sitting next to tennis sized ball

It’s hard to not fall for the blue eyes and silky, long grey coat of Ragdolls. With their friendly countenance and cuddly personalities, these cats can make an excellent addition to any family, small or large. Ragdolls are, however, predisposed to a handful of conditions that owners must be aware of, centered around the heart, bladder and kidneys.

Notably, Ragdolls are predisposed to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), a heart condition characterised by a thickening of the heart muscle, which decreases the volume of blood that the heart can pump. HCM is the most common form of heart disease in cats and can cause heart failure, thromboembolism, and occasionally sudden death.

Luckily, Ragdolls can be tested for this condition: if you’re rehoming a new kitten, be sure to ask your breeder if the litter has been tested for HCM, and for each kitten’s test result. Long-time owners can also ask their vet to test their Ragdoll for this condition. As a breed, Ragdolls also tend to experience kidney stones, which may require surgery, as well as kidney problems, like polycystic kidney disease (PKD)

"Ragdolls tend to experience kidney stones"

Maine Coon

Adult Maine coon cat
 

Another beautiful cat breed, Maine Coons have long fur and are exceptionally large in size, with tall ears, large paws and a long body. As one of the largest cat breeds, Maine Coons are prone to heart problems, elbow and hip dysplasia, and spinal muscular atrophy.

The breed's enormous size puts extra strain on their elbows and hips, which can cause deformities. Vets can x-ray a Maine Coon’s hips and elbows to see if there is cause for concern. Like the Ragdoll, Maine Coons can also suffer from HCM, so be sure to ask breeders and vets for test results when rehoming this breed.

"Their enormous size puts extra strain on their elbows and hips"

Siamese

Siamese cat outside in long grass
 

Siamese cats are a very popular, distinct breed, characterised by unique markings, short coats, blue eyes, and specific colouring (called “points”) on their face, tail, ears and legs. Whilst Siamese cats are a fairly healthy breed, they can suffer from heart, respiratory, eye, and dentistry problems, as well as different types of cancers. Alongside Ragdolls and Maine Coons, Siamese cats can suffer from HCM. They may also experience dental problems because their teeth, specifically their canines, are generally more prominent or large than those of other cat breeds.

Siamese cats can also suffer from mental health issues, as they have a tendency to experience obsessive-compulsive behaviour. This means that Siamese cat owners typically need to provide their cat with ample attention, patience and love.

"Siamese cats can experience obsessive-compulsive disorder"

Himalayan

Himalayan cat

This cat breed is characterised by flat faces, long, silky coats, and points on the ears, face, tail and legs. Like Pugs or French Bulldogs, Himalayan cats have brachycephalic skulls. While their flat face might be cute, cat and dog breeds with brachycephalic skulls are prone to respiratory problems, because their skull shape reduces the space in their head, which constricts respiratory tubes like the trachea. This can cause breathing problems, and difficulty coping with hot weather and environments. Like Ragdolls, Himalayan cats are prone to kidney problems, and PKD, which can lead to kidney failure.

Persian

Persian cat
 

Like Himalayans, Persian cats also have a flat face, with a nose that dips downwards. Persian’s can have coats of various colours, although all healthy Persian cats will showcase a glossy, well-kept coat. As Persian’s have brachycephalic skulls, many cats of this breed will be prone to both respiratory problems, and digestive issues. Persian cats might also experience kidney, vision, cardiac, and liver problems, as well as urinary diseases and bladder stones. It’s important that owners understand that Persian cats are a commitment that must be taken seriously: beyond health issues, Persians also need to be groomed daily, as they are unable to groom their undercoat alone.

Norwegian Forest cat

Norweigian Forest Cat
 

Norwegian Forest Cats are similar to Main Coons in that they are a large breed with long coats, fluffy tails, and tufted ears. Norwegian Forest Cats tend to suffer from cardiac issues like HCM, joint problems like hip dysplasia, and Glycogen storage disease, which affects the glycogen storage in a cat’s body. Thankfully, Glycogen storage disease is quite rare, although it is fatal, and must be tested for early in a cat's life. If you’re rehoming a Norwegian Forest Cat, be sure to ask the breeder about familial dispositions regarding this disease, and as for records showing the litter’s test results, too.

Bengal

Bengal cat perched on a branch stump

Bengals are a stunning cat breed with distinctive coats that are thick and silky, featuring marbled or spotted markings. Bengals are extremely intelligent, get bored easily, and are very vocal, so they’ll be sure to let you know if playtime needs refreshing. Bengals most commonly suffer from cardiac, vision and musculoskeletal problems. Degenerative eye conditions such as progressive retinal atrophy are common amongst this breed, as is knee dislocation and hip dysplasia. Bengals are sometimes referred to orthopaedic practices for surgery, so be sure to discuss any health concerns you have with your vet regarding your Bengal’s health early on.

Birmans

Birman cat

Birmans are a beautiful cat breed, characterised by their semi-longhair, creamy pale fur, and contrasting dark face, legs and ears. Birmans are very affectionate ‘lap cats’ that will only be active when you play with them. Birmans are fairly healthy as a breed, aside from kidney disease, which is a recurring issue. Be sure to ask your breeder and vet early on if a litter’s blood has been tested for problematic kidney function, and ask for the family’s tendency results, too.

If you’re looking to rehome a kitten, Cats Protection offers extensive advice on doing so during the pandemic, and PAAG also has extensive insight on what to consider when rehoming a new cat.

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