Q&A: What are the healthiest breeds of cat?

Q: What are the healthiest breeds of cats? I’ve heard some breeds inherently have more health problems than others. I do understand all breeds can develop problems also.

A: First, I want to be very upfront about the fact that I do not condone cat breeding. I don’t think most people who breed cats are bad people, but there are enough unethical and uneducated breeders, and so many cats waiting to be adopted, that it’s something I can’t personally recommend.

That said, there are a lot of natural breeds of cat (no human intervention required) that are wonderful and unique. If you want to look for one of the natural breeds in shelters in your area, I think that’s a perfectly good way to look for a cat that is a good fit for your home.

But you also have to be careful because there are breeders who breed natural breeds of cat in an unethical manner to meet demand for these cats. To quote Catster:

Sphynx and the Rex breeds arose due to a spontaneous natural mutation. However, the inbreeding that produced their unique coats and body types has resulted in serious issues. All of these breeds are very prone to heart disease, joint issues, bad teeth and severe digestive issues. Their unusual coats also leave them very susceptible to fungal infections

If you want a healthy cat, you shouldn’t buy a cat from a breeder. Adopt. But if you’re set on buying from a breeder, don’t do so until you have done a TON of research (and don’t rely on information the breeder gives you, do your own research).

What makes any cat healthy is a very large gene pool. The healthiest cats are those who are not “pure breeds.” This is especially true of cats who are bred to have features that themselves cause health issues, which is usually due to inbreeding in order to meet the demand for a specific breed.

According to Purebred Cat Rescue, Persians are “absolutely unfit to live outdoors due to physical makeup.” Their super-flat faces result in misaligned teeth, which can lead to excessive tartar buildup and decay. Many Persians’ noses are so smashed in that their nostrils are too small for them to breathe naturally and they need surgery to correct the problem. Similar problems arise in other breeds.

Now that all that is out of the way, let’s look at some healthy natural breeds:

  1. Egyptian Mau One of the few naturally spotted cat breeds, The Egyptian Mau has very few issues as far as breed is concerned, this cat makes a wonderful pet since it has fewer chances of being diagnosed with something so specific to its breed. Cats 101 video:
    http://www.animalplanet.com/tv-shows/cats-101/videos/egyptian-mau/
  2. Maine Coon While hip dysplasia can be a problem for larger Maine Coons, they are generally hardy cats. If you have a healthy Maine Coon kitten, it will usually remain healthy throughout its life. Cats 101 video:
    http://www.animalplanet.com/tv-shows/cats-101/videos/maine-coon/
  3. Russian Blue This striking breed is very healthy, and absolutely gorgeous. They’re also very smart. Cats 101 video:
    http://www.animalplanet.com/tv-shows/cats-101/videos/russian-blue/
  4. Turkish Van is one of the oldest known domestic breeds on the planet (an ancient breed). They usually love water, and are good swimmers. Cats 101 video:
    http://www.animalplanet.com/tv-shows/cats-101/videos/turkish-van/
  5. Siberian Another ancient breed, this cat has a much lower level of Fel d1, which is the protein that causes some people to have allergic reactions to cats. Cats 101 video:
    http://www.animalplanet.com/tv-shows/cats-101/videos/siberian/
  6. Norwegian Forest Cat I have a Wegie, and she’s the best. She’s 21 years old and still very healthy.The official cat of Norway, also known as the Skogkatt, the Norwegian Forest Cat  was a companion to the Vikings. It is a large, semi-longhaired cat. Smart and discerning, these cats are perfect for those who want a more laid back companion. A few bursts of energy followed by long naps make these kitties easy to exercise. Cats 101 video:

  7. Rescued The healthiest, best cats you can find are mixed breeds, millions of which are awaiting adoption right now. So don’t hesitate to go to your local shelter and check out the cats. Ask if there are cats that maybe aren’t doing their best at the shelter, so you can spend a quiet moment with them. If you’re looking for 2 cats, ask if there are any bonded pairs. Some shelters are forced to break up cats who have bonded, and that can lead to bad outcomes for these cats, so it’s important to ask if you are able to handle 2 cats. Bonded pairs generally transition to new homes more easily. If you aren’t sure, ask about fostering the cat(s) you like to see if it will work out. Many shelters are happy to work with you.

    And NEVER rule out senior cats.

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