Inbred Cats: Signs, Problems, Lifespan & Facts

Cat inbreeding close up portrait of an inbred cat

Inbreeding has been a common practice for cats, whether done naturally or with a breeder facilitating it.

However, the question remains whether this is an acceptable practice, considering all the possible problems it may cause. 

Cat lovers may also question if the advantages of inbreeding far outweigh the disadvantages or if it is the other way around. Further, should they fear for the future of their inbred cats, or is there nothing to worry about?

This guide will dive deeper into the hot topic of the practice of inbreeding in cats. Here, we’ll touch on the appearance and signs, the health issues, and the behaviors and personalities of cats born out of inbreeding.

What Is Inbreeding in Cats?

Inbreeding in cats is the practice of mating close family members in the hopes of improving breed qualities in the resulting litter. Inbreeding aims to produce a more consistent and predictable lineage. This matching could be done between mother and son, father and daughter, or brother and sister.

Breeders engage in inbreeding so that they would have the chance to preserve the characteristics and appearance of cats they prefer. This practice also minimizes the variance between kittens in a litter.

Further, breeders may also do inbreeding to fix undesirable traits in their cats, and they replicate it until the preferred outcome becomes uniform. 

However, it is worth mentioning that this comes with the risk of producing very bad offspring as well, which breeders are equally aware of.

Inbreeding vs. Line Breeding: What’s the Difference?

Inbreeding and linebreeding share the same purpose of improving the lineage or purity of the cat through the mating of family members or relatives. 

However, compared to inbreeding which focuses on direct family members, linebreeding takes a slower route by mating cats through less close relatives.

Line breeding may be done between cousins, uncle and nephew, aunt and niece, and grandparents and grandchildren. A genetic decline may still exist with this practice, but to a lesser degree than inbreeding.

On the other hand, a safe breeding practice is through outcrossing or mating unrelated cats within the same breed.

Improving the bloodlines of cats through outcrossing may not have the same consistency as inbreeding or linebreeding, but selecting top-quality and healthy cats for mating will also improve the line’s vigor.

Then there is crossbreeding, done by mating cats of different breeds, producing what is known as a hybrid. The resulting offspring may not be purebred but are healthier and with stronger immune systems.

Meanwhile, here is a video explaining why it is natural for cats to engage in inbreeding:

Do Cats Mate With Their Brothers And Sisters?

What Does an Inbred Cat Look Like?

Man petting a inbred cat

Without the expertise, it is quite difficult to detect what an inbred cat looks like, especially if it has achieved its goal of line purity.

However, here are some of the unpleasant physical indications of a cat born out of inbreeding:

  • Upon birth, inbred kittens would usually be skinny, tiny, and sluggish.
  • Deformities may exist, such as misaligned jaws, abnormal eye sets, crooked noses or tails, and asymmetric faces.
  • They suffer from stunted growth.

Unsuccessfully inbred cats may look eccentric in a way and could even end up in adoption centers, but they need the same love and even greater care from humans due to their special condition.

Is It Okay for Cats to Be Inbred?

From a health perspective, it can be said that inbreeding is not okay for cats. Many complications come along with this practice, besides the physical deformities that inbred cats may suffer from.

Kittens born out of inbreeding are more prone to develop severe congenital disabilities or medical conditions. They are also more likely to have a decreased lifespan.

Although the parents will not experience any harmful effects from inbreeding, this process can be very painful for the kitten, especially after multiple generations. Hence, inbreeding cats on purpose is far from ideal.

What Happens If Cats Are Inbred?

Inbreeding has its set of advantages and disadvantages. If the genes of top-quality cats are passed on to the litter through inbreeding, expect the kittens to look and behave like their parents, if not better,

Further, this practice will increase the inbreeding coefficient of the resulting offspring compared to their parents, resulting in less variance within the litter.

Consequently, inbreeding can also lead to the production of cats with undesirable characteristics, such as aggression and violent behavior.

Further, gene mutations may also result from breeding closely-knit family members. This may eventually lead to conditions such as immune system imbalances, physical disabilities, birth defects, and other health issues.

What Are the Problems With Inbreeding Cats?

Savannah inbred cat sitting on wooden table

In normal breeding, the offspring is a combination of genes from two unrelated parents, which is both safe and healthy. With inbreeding, this gene combination is taken from the same pool or lineage.

This increases the chances of the offspring having two identical genes. This redundancy or limited genetic pool creates a multitude of physical and behavioral problems in inbred cats. 

These problems are discussed in greater detail in the other parts of this article.

What Are the Signs of Inbred Cats?

The most common signs of inbred cats include growth or developmental problems, a decline in birth weight, physical deformities, reproduction issues, and recurring illnesses such as heart and kidney disease and cancer.

Refer to the list below for a more thorough discussion of the signs of an inbred cat:

  • Developmental Problems: Inbred cats may experience a delay in their growth and maturity both physically and behaviorally. This may result in a below-standard quality of life for the cat.
  • Birthweight Decline: As early as birth, one can identify the defects of inbreeding with kittens that are weak, small, and thin.
  • Physical Deformities: An inbred cat may display physical abnormalities, such as misaligned jaws, abnormal eye symmetries, crooked noses or tails, and asymmetric faces.
  • Reproduction Issues: Though successful inbreeding may result in a more remarkable line, it also creates concerns when it comes to reproduction, such as resistance to mate and partial sterility. For successful pregnancies, this may also lead to a higher litter mortality rate and smaller litter sizes.
  • Illnesses: Health issues in inbred cats may not always be due to their condition, but for those that are related, expect these to be recurring and problematic. This can range from heart and kidney diseases to immune system problems, joint problems, and cancers.

Some of these signs can be detected as soon as they are born, while others may be upon their maturity.

The soonest these are detected, it would be great to work with your vet to determine proper care and sustenance.

Inbred Cat Behavior and Personality

While the temperament of an inbred cat may not necessarily be different from others, a cat resulting from multiple generations of inbreeding will start to show altered behavior.

One of the common behaviors reported in these cats is aggression, which they can show not just toward other cats or pets but also their owners. Further, they may show repulsion to petting, cuddling, and touching.

Inbred cats may also have issues with training due to its effect on their mental abilities. This can lead to all other possible issues, including difficulties in adjusting to new environments.

Inbred Cat Lifespan and Health Issues

Sadly, inbred cats have shorter lifespans compared to their counterparts of the same breed. Aside from this, they are more likely to develop serious and even fatal health issues.

With more generations of inbreeding done, expect the cat’s lifespan to be even shorter and their susceptibility to critical illnesses to be even higher. 

Below are just some of the many health defects that inbred cats may suffer from: 

  • Manx Syndrome (Spina Bifida): The Manx syndrome refers to a group of illnesses genetically seen in Manx cats but may also appear in inbred cats. Spina bifida is the primary condition in this syndrome, which is an abnormality in the spine’s bones. This can also lead to other issues, like hydromyelia, syringomyelia, and myelodysplasia.
  • Heart Disease: Heart disease occurring in inbred cats may be congenital or present at birth. This may be characterized by poor appetite, weight loss, lethargy, difficulty in breathing, stunted growth, and sudden collapse.
  • Kidney Disease: Kidney disease in cats may come in many types. However, they share the same symptoms, including excessive thirst and urination, lack of energy, abdominal enlargement, weight loss, bloody urine, and vomiting.
  • Immune Deficiencies: Inbreeding leads to a loss in genetic diversity, which in turn creates immune deficiencies in the body. When infection strikes, an inbred cat may not have enough antibodies to fight back these foreign bodies, leading to other fatal conditions.
  • Cancers: As much as inbreeding is done to avoid certain cancers; however, it also predisposes inbred cats to other types of cancers. This is especially true for flat-faced inbred cats.

The multitude of health issues that inbred cats may face as a consequence of excessive inbreeding raises the issue of the ethical standards of this practice.

Hence, breeders must exhibit responsibility and proper regulation to ensure that their feline friends’ health is not sacrificed in the process.

Further, securing pet insurance should be a smart move when engaging in any type of breeding practice since the occurrence of illnesses could happen anytime.

Frequently Asked Questions

Close up of a long hair inbred cat

Are Inbred Cats Aggressive?

Aggression in inbred cats may not be present yet at the onset or in the first round of inbreeding. However, this type of behavior may start to show after multiple generations of mating with close family members.

This display of violent behavior can target other cats, pets, and even their owners as well. It may also be difficult to address through training, making these cats undesirable.

Do Cats Know Not to Inbreed?

Cats do not look at their parents or siblings in the same manner as humans because they do not have the same social norms. Hence, cats do not know not to inbreed because mating is instinctive for them.

Do Inbred Cats Have Shorter Lifespans?

Inbred cats will potentially have shorter lifespans compared to other healthier cats of the same breed. Further, the more generations of inbreeding done, the shorter the lifespan of the offspring will be.

What Cat Breeds Are Inbred?

According to studies, the most inbred cat breeds have the highest coefficient of breeding (COI) values, namely the Burmese, Havana Brown, Singapura, and the Sokoke.

Other commonly inbred cats are the Birman, Abyssinian, Russian Blue, Siamese, Egyptian Mau, Turkish Van, Persian, and Exotic Shorthair.

Do Inbred Cats Survive?

One of the consequences of inbreeding is the high mortality rate of the offspring, especially if produced already through multiple generations. Hence, the chance of survival of an inbred cat is below normal.

They also have a lower ability to fight infections and other diseases, so in case they do survive, they are more likely to suffer from a number of genetic defects.

How Do I Stop My Cat From Inbreeding?

Cats instinctively inbreed in their natural habitats, so the best way to prevent your domesticated cats from inbreeding on their own is to have them spayed or neutered

If this is not an option, do not keep the same feline family members within a common household.

What Percentage of Inbreeding Is Acceptable in Cats?

The coefficient of breeding must be maintained below 10% to achieve the desired outcome of inbreeding.

This percentage will permit fixing desirable traits without allowing the undesirable effects to be too apparent.

Final Thoughts

Inbreeding continues to be a sensitive topic within the cat community. Along with the purpose of creating a better version of the cat by purifying its genes, inbreeding also carries a lot of consequences for the offspring.

For breeders, it is best to practice self-regulation and be responsible enough to know when to stop to prevent the detrimental effects of inbreeding.

On the other hand, it will be up to each individual owner to research the history of the cat you are planning to acquire. Remember that successful inbreeding may also result in an otherwise purer and healthier cat.

Do you think inbreeding in cats is worth doing? Let us know through the comments below what you feel about inbred cats.

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