Banning wild cat/domestic cat hybrids
Recently the USA state of Iowa banned the keeping of Bengal cats. This ban included all cats with a wild ancestry meaning wild cat/domestic cat hybrids. These cats are the Bengal, Chausie, Savannah and Safaris for example. The Cat Fanciers Association (CFA) refuses to register domestic cats with “wild blood” in them. Fourth generation Bengal cats have about 12% Asian Leopard in them. The CFA is the most conservative registry. The International Cat Registry is more adventurous and registers more breeds including the Bengal. There is divided opinion about wild/domestic cat hybrids. The Bengal though is a very popular cat demonstrating the desire of the public to keep wild cat substitutes.
There is a continuing desire by the cat lovers to “own” (I prefer keep or adopt) uncommon and valuable “objects” and that includes animals and one of the most popular animals to keep are cats. How do cat breeders keep up with the need for the exotic and uncommon while maintaining a moral code and high standards of animal welfare?
The moral issue is whether it is good for wildlife to create designer and exotic cat breeds by mating wild and domestic cats. The idea is that in keeping such a hybrid cat the keeper is reminded of the plight of the dwindling number of wild cats in the world.
The counter argument is that this form of breeding damages the wild cat in that the increased interest is fed by the breeding program which encourages malpractice by importers of wild cats into the West and increases the importation of wild cat breeds into Western countries. The biggest market for exotic pets and cats by far is the USA.
Not only are there questions about exotic cats the same moral dilemma exists in relation to the breeding of cats that suffer from genetic defects (mutations). These cats such as dwarf cats, tailless cats and cats with malformed ears are interesting and scarce. Once again the uncommon catches the eye of the public consumer and cat lover and breeders feel an obligation to create more of these scarce cats. But is it right to create more cats that have a major defect/disorder which sometimes (rarely with careful breeding) has fatal consequences and secondary conditions that harm the cat (e.g. flat chest kitten in dwarf cats). You can see links to articles about a number of mutated breeds at the Different Breeds Page of my website. Examples are the Bobtailed cats and the Dwarf cats.
There is then commercial pressure to copy more cats and it could be argued cats of the wrong kind. The public’s desires are being checked and controlled by the authorities (see the Iowa ban above).
It is not possible to make a cattery highly commercial and prioritize the cats welfare in my opinion. Catteries should be small and one litter should ideally be bred at one time. The exception appears to be the Allerca cat, a wild/domestic hybrid being bred by a company and which sells at high prices (up to $30,000 per cat or so). The company treats these cats as a product. I find this to be an incorrect moral attitude.
As to the exotics and mutated breeds; I can accept the exotic designer breeds provided the breeders observe high standards and can see the wider issues (effect on wildlife). I cannot, however, agree that creating more cats with disorders is permissible and in that regard I agree with the CFA who don’t register for example Dwarf cats for that reason.