Book Preview: Cat fanciers face ethical questions that never arose for early dog breeders

Is it right to build a breed on genetic disorders?

No? Well, that’s exactly what we did with the dachshund.

Centuries ago, hunters made a breed out of this canine dwarf mutation because they needed a badger dog and there was no concept of animal welfare to stop them.

Everybody accepts dachshunds today. Dog fanciers work around the inevitable spinal and other skeletal/joint problems accompanying this congenital derformity.

But mention a minature cat breed, and you might find yourself hip deep in a controversy producing more heat than light.

This is not the only contentious issue modern cat breeders face.

What are the main problem areas?

Short answer: Inbreeding, breed development based on deformities, and hereditary diseases in some lines.

Details: The gray wolf likely was domesticated around 20,000 years ago, or even earlier. Ever since then, dogs have been selectively bred for hunting, protection, and other human purposes.

Those Paleolithic dog owners knew nothing about genetics, but it was obvious enough that crossing two dogs with a desirable mutation–fierceness, say, or a good sense of smell–gave you more dogs with that same trait.

It required close inbreeding, though, since there was only the animal with the mutation to start with, plus its parent.

Trial-and-error quickly showed Continue reading