In breeding cats for specific mutations we tend to forget about the ‘normal’ by-products of these breeding experiments that contribute to our nation-wide cat overpopulation crises. The genetics of Lykoi’s is still not understood but from what it looks like the gene is recessive. To better understand the Lykoi’s genetics they are currently breeding phenotypically domestic short black hair cat with each others to find which ones are heterozygous for the Lykoi genotype to the create phenotype (physical appearance) of a Lykoi. Which means each offspring from this match has either a 0% or 25% chance of being homozygous recessive (a Lykoi), depending if one or both parents hold one of the ‘Lykoi’ genes. Phenotype means that the cats ‘look’ like a domestic short haired black cat, but could hold one or none of the ‘Lykoi genes’ but there is no way of knowing without breeding, because they still have not located the DNA sequence that creates this mutation (their mutation has been proven un-related the sphynx, or devon genetic mutation). Basically there is a 100%-75% chance that these breeding experiments will produce regular shorthaired black cats. Or more simply put by Dr. Breedsalot “When those cats with one Lykoi gene are bred, some of their offspring will also carry one version of the Lykoi gene, while some will have none—and there’s no way to tell which cats are which, since they both look like normal cats”(Source). The only way to find out if these offspring are even carrying the recessive gene is by more breeding. “The soonest Gobble expects any more Lykoi kittens is two years from now, when the Lykoi will have been bred to black domestics for five generations, hopefully resulting in enough standard Lykois to begin displaying the breed in shows”(Source). In other words, that’s a whole lot of ‘normal looking’ black cats to find homes for. Lets not forget, the original ‘Lykoi’ was once also a number in our statistics of abandoned cats living outdoors, now thanks to veterinarian Dr. Breedsalot, he has created an exponential strain on our North American cat overpopulation by taking an abandoned cat and breeding an abundance of domestic short haired (black) cats. The last time I check the local shelter; there was no shortage of ‘normal looking’ black cats, because generally they take forever (1-2 years) to place if they don’t die from shelter diseases, or stress anorexia before they find a home. My peeve with this breeding, is that each home these Lykoi by-products end up in, steals the potential home of a identical looking shelter cat that will now be euthanized to free more ‘cage space’ for the abundance of incoming cats. Unfortunately, due to the novelty of purebreds people are paying thousands of dollars to purchase the non-Lykoi (normal looking) offspring that may or may not even carry a mutation. Which means there is a good chance that they just paid whole lot of money to purchase a cat that is 100% genetically identical to the black cat still looking for a home in their alley or local shelter.
Genetics and stress on over-population a–side, let’s talk about the ethics of breeding mutations in general. As Dr. Breedsalot himself says “They’ve been reported for years, but no one has tried to breed them because there were concerns about their health”(Source). The drive to develop new breeds has never really been based on health, or in the best interest of the animals themselves; as expressed on the distressed pugs face on an average summers day while its struggles to breath through its brachycephalic snout that creates a tracheal obstruction with its soft palate. Unfortunately that soft palate obstruction creates a daily struggle to breathe because that is how we breed them to be. Or the English bulldog that’s shoulders are too broad, which has created a entire breed that is no longer able to reproduce without the surgical removal of the puppies (a cesarean). Or the King Charles Spaniel, that having a heart conditions has almost become a breed standard. As part of The Kennel Club of UK’s progressive campaign ‘Fit for Function: Fit for Life’:
From now on, judges at dog shows will have to mark down any features, which, like those in the bulldog, hamper the health and wellbeing of dogs. “Breed standards…will not include anything that could in any way be interpreted as encouraging features that might prevent a dog from breathing, walking and seeing freely”, say the new rules (Coghlan, 2009).
Seems like common sense, but unfortunately hundreds of years of breeding for aesthetics, has proven otherwise. In a society where we have become aware of the negative implications of genetically modifying our food, it is time to become even more sensitive to the inhumane effects of tinkering with our animal’s genes through selective breeding. Although often treated as a commodity, animals are more than a produce to be sold and consumed or ‘championed’. As proclaimed by Brittney Gobble on the breeds Facebook page “My husband will continue to work hard to establish the Lykoi as a full Championship breed….We now just have to increase the number of Lykoi born so that we can reach the next step in becoming a Championship show breed.” Each life has as much value as the next. Creating life is an immense responsibility, which should be taken extremely seriously; once they are earth bound from our breeding practices and their mother’s womb their life has value because they are alive. Everything before the creation is within our control to prevent the impending cruelty associated with pet abandonment and the health hazards of insensitive breeding practices.
To anyone interested in purchasing a purebred cat I encourage you to go to your local shelter and find the cat that fits the physical appearance you wish (or better yet the ideal temperament for a better chance at a more successful adoption), and then proclaim it to be whatever one-of-a-kind mystical creature you desire. As shown in the Lykoi cats – a doctor who picked a genetically mutated cat out of a stray population – all pure-breeds come from a lineage of one or multiple naturally occurring genetic mutations. Which means, any purebred physical appearance of your desire, you could find the naturally occurring genetic mutation in a population of stray cats or the condensed population of local shelter cats. Even more so, the statistics of abandoned pure-breeds (including Bengals) are so high that Montreal has a shelter dedicated to purebred cats alone (Chatopia). What’s more of a novelty than having an original mutation or ‘one of a kind’, picked right off the streets, or more aptly – rescued (and then spayed/neutered). Statistics for cats across shelters in North America tend towards a 90% kill rate, which means healthy, cute, purebred, cats are dying because people are going to breeders and pet-stores instead of shelters. As Nathan Winograd more aptly puts it, shelters are the leading cause of death in America for healthy animals. To put it even more in perspective, as pictured below, with a 10% survival rate out of the 20 cats below, only 2 ‘survived’ after being abandoned. Please play your part; adopt, spay/neuter, microchip, and love your pets until death do you part.
Caroline Ross, CAHT
Through adoption, sterilization, identification, and education, we hope to one day live in a community where homeless animals do not exist.