If you own several cats that come from the same litter and have not been neutered, there is a high chance they will mate with each other, resulting in inbred pregnancies.
Breeding is a natural behavior in any animal, and they will inbreed because they do not recognize family ties. When a cat enters her heat cycle, she will mate with any cat in the area, regardless of whether it is her father, brother, or half-sibling.
Although inbreeding generally results in perfectly normal and healthy litters, excessive inbreeding may not. Cats produced from multiple generations of inbreeding may suffer consequences such as physical deformities or fatal health conditions. More details are explained in this post, so keep reading to learn more.
What does inbreeding mean?
Inbreeding is the mating of animals that are closely related to each other, such as mother and son, father and daughter, or brother and sister. For breeders, the purpose of this practice is to fix certain traits in a breed by retaining the desirable genes and eliminating the unwanted ones. The pairing of closely related cats that have superb characteristics can achieve genetically uniform traits over time, helping breeders predict how their kittens will look.
Cat fanciers looking for specific traits can also benefit from the practice, because it increases the chance of passing the parents’ desired genes to the offspring. There is also a reduced variation among the littermates, as they all share similar alleles.
Aside from being a recognized practice, inbreeding is also a natural behavior among felines because they do not recognize parents and siblings. Hence, cats that belong to the same litter are likely to mate with each other once they reach sexual maturity. This includes wild and feral cats, as well as sibling pets that are not neutered or spayed.
While inbreeding might seem wrong, it is quite common, not just among cats but also other animal species. Despite the potential benefits, however, it does tend to cause certain life-threatening diseases, birth defects, and behavioral problems in the offspring.
Is it normal for cats to inbreed?
In the wild, cats naturally practice inbreeding. Cats, especially those that are isolated in feral colonies, tend to mate with each other regardless of their relationship.
Domesticated kittens that belong to the same litter are also likely to practice inbreeding once they become sexually mature, unless they are spayed or neutered. Once they become sexually mature, it is natural for them to develop the urge to mate, and they will vocalize, spray, and roam around in their attempt to attract a potential mate.
So, if you have unneutered sibling cats of different genders living under your roof, they can freely mate with one another – as mentioned before, they will not recognize their mates as kin.
Can you breed half-sibling cats?
Yes, breeding half-sibling cats is perfectly okay, and is more beneficial than breeding closer relatives.
Breeding of half-sibling cats, commonly known as line breeding, is a common practice among breeders to achieve or retain specific breed traits. Half-siblings or second-degree relatives are purposely paired to reduce the risk of inheriting gene-related disorders while maintaining most of the desired traits.
Professional breeders choose to pair half-sibling cats over first-degree relatives because the practice guarantees a litter that conforms to a breed’s standards and expected physical traits.
Why do cats inbreed?
Cats mate with their close relatives for several reasons, described in detail below:
1. Cats do not recognize siblings and parents
Mating is an instinctual behavior in cats, and they do not necessarily recognize their parents or siblings the same way we do. Feral cats who live in the same colony or intact cats living in the same household will likely mate because they have easy access to one another. Hence, if you fail to neuter or spay your cats before they become sexually mature, there is a high chance of the female being impregnated by her male sibling.
2. Living in the same isolated area
Cats living in an isolated area have a higher chance of mating with a parent or littermate because they have limited mating options. The males will not travel to find a female partner if there is one already nearby. Although females can be selective about their male partners when they enter the estrus cycle (heat), it is still likely that they will mate with a cat living nearby.
3. Living intact in the same home
If you have multiple cats of different genders at home, you must get them spayed or neutered before they reach sexual maturity. Intact cats have a strong urge to mate and it is almost impossible to keep this under control if they live under the same roof. If you do not neuter them, you will have to deal with unwanted pregnancies in the future.
4. Cats do not understand the dangers of inbreeding
As mentioned before, mating is purely instinctual for cats. When they are in heat, they will try to mate with any cat of the opposite gender, whether they have familial ties or not. Our feline friends also do not have social norms as we do. And, most importantly, they cannot comprehend certain genetic conditions that can be passed on as a result of inbreeding.
Our furry friends rely on their human caretakers for safety and security, so it is your responsibility to protect your pet from potential harm, including the health risks associated with inbreeding. If you have male and female cats at home and you do not want kittens, make sure that they are spayed or neutered before they reach their reproductive years.
Additionally, spaying or neutering your cats will also make them calmer because their territorial behavior will be reduced. Fixed cats also tend to live longer, healthier lives than intact cats, making the procedure extremely beneficial for both you and your pets.
Common inbred cat behaviors
Most people think that inbred cats are prone to behavioral problems, but this is not always the case. Some inbred kittens are perfectly healthy and have no personality issues.
That said, there is a higher chance of behavioral issues if the inbreeding is allowed to continue for several generations. Inbred cats can display aggressive tendencies toward other pets or their human owners. Feral behavior will likely become apparent: overly inbred cats will display defensive or fearful behavior and never enjoy socializing or interacting with humans.
Overly inbred cats are also difficult to tame and train compared with normal cats. Hence, they become less desirable to keep as pets.
Common inbreeding problems in cats
Inbreeding increases a cat’s chance of genetic-related disorders because it limits genetic variation, causing harmful gene mutations that can lead to life-threatening disorders and physical deformities.
Some of the common health issues linked with inbreeding are detailed below:
1. Compromised immune system
The lack of genetic diversity that results from inbreeding can lead to immune deficiencies. This simply means that the cat’s immune system might lack some alleles that can only be acquired through genetic variation. Hence, the cat will not develop a strong immune system that can fight different types of infections, making her vulnerable to several diseases.
2. Physical deformities
While inbreeding can increase the chance of passing on desirable traits, it can also double the chance of genetic-related abnormalities. This includes misaligned jaws, stumpy tails, crooked noses, short legs, abnormal eye symmetry, and many others.
3. Inherited medical problems
Inbred cats of particular breeds tend to have a higher risk of developing certain medical conditions. For instance, breeds with smushed faces and small legs are prone to developing cancer, joint problems, and kidney diseases.
4. Congenital abnormalities
Overly inbred cats have a higher chance of becoming infertile – especially deeply inbred male cats. Unhealthy litters with physical deformities are also evident as a result of excessive inbreeding.
5. Decline in birth weight
Kittens that result from inbreeding tend to have thinner and smaller bodies than other cats of the same breed. Signs of gradually worsening lethargy as well as poor health are also evident.
Are most cats inbred?
In reality, most cats are a result of inbreeding, whether they belong to a feral colony or a cat breeder.
Cats, like most animals, have the instinct to mate – they are designed that way by nature so that they ensure the continuation of their species. That is why inbreeding is a common behavior, especially in colonies of unspayed or unneutered feral cats.
Breeders also practice inbreeding to achieve desirable traits and thus a better price for their kittens. However, responsible breeders follow a safer method of inbreeding to ensure offspring without genetic defects. So, if you must purchase a purebred kitten, make sure that it comes from a reputable breeder.
Are white cats inbred?
Inbreeding allows precise control of a specific desired trait, and this can include a pure white coat. It is likely that most white cats are a result of inbreeding, especially since the gene that hides other coat colors is quite rare.
Do inbred cats live long?
The lifespan of an inbred cat is hugely influenced by the number of generations of inbreeding.
Some cats that are not deeply inbred can enjoy long and healthy lives. However, cats that are victims of excessive inbreeding can suffer serious health conditions that shorten their lifespan.
As mentioned above, overly inbred cats can suffer from genetic defects, heart disease, cancer, kidney issues, and weak immune systems which all dictate the number of years they can survive. Unfortunately, a lot of these cats will not live very long compared with normally-bred cats.
What are the signs of an inbred cat?
There are obvious signs that can help you tell if a kitten is a result of excessive inbreeding, including the following:
- Poor growth and several health issues
- Smaller than the expected size
- Physical deformities such as a crooked nose, misaligned jaws, and abnormal eye symmetry
How to prevent your cats from inbreeding
Mating is an instinctual behavior, and there is almost nothing you can do to stop your cats’ natural urges other than to spay or neuter them. You can speak to your vet to learn more about this procedure, such as preparations, costs, and expectations after the surgery.
Should I worry about a kitten that is the result of inbreeding?
As long as your furry companion is not a result of excessive inbreeding, there should be nothing to worry about. First-generation inbreeding does not usually cause a lot of problems, and these kittens generally live healthier lives and are freer of genetic disorders than overly inbred cats. Before bringing home a kitten, make sure she is not a product of multi-generational inbreeding.
Cats naturally inbreed because mating is part of their instinctual behavior. Inbreeding is also a common practice among professional breeders, to help them control the desired traits in a specific breed while eliminating the negative ones. As long as the kittens are a product of first-generation inbreeding, they should grow up in perfect health.
However, cats that come from excessive inbreeding will likely develop genetic abnormalities and fatal diseases that shorten their lifespan. Hence, you need to make sure your cat is not a result of this practice.
It is hugely beneficial to spay or neuter your household cats to prevent unwanted pregnancies and to avoid inbreeding behavior among cats that belong to the same litter.
Image: istockphoto.com / oksana_nazarchuk