Our primary concern is the health and welfare of our cats. Though health issues can occur with any living being and no breeder can guarantee with 100% certainty that no health issues will arise, we are committed to doing our best to rigorously screen for potential health issues and and strive to improve the genetic diversity, overall vigor and health of our cats.
All cats participating in our breeding program have been tested and cleared for genetic diseases using Optimal Selection. Moving forward, we have chosen to test with UC Davis. This enables us to screen for a number of potential genetic health issues such as Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD), Pyruvate Kinase Disorder (PKDef), Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA), and one identifiable genetic marker for Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM).
Since genetic testing only identifies one genetic marker for HCM, we also screen our cats for HCM using yearly ultrasounds performed by a board-certified veterinary cardiologist. Any cats that test positive for HCM and/or other genetic diseases will be removed from our breeding program and retired to a life of luxury.
We are a FeLV/FIV-free cattery. All cats are tested for FeLV/FIV prior to breeding. In addition, any new cats/kittens that come to our cattery are tested for FeLV/FIV prior to introduction to our other cats. In addition to other health testing mentioned, all cats participating in our breeding program receive yearly wellness checks, PCR respiratory panels prior to breeding, appropriate vaccinations and fecal testing prior to breeding.
What are the main health issues in Maine Coons? How do breeders work with this?
Two prevalent issues with Maine Coons are Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy and Hip Dysplasia (Rosemary Kendall, 2014). There are other significant health issues that can occur in Maine Coons as well such as Pyruvate Kinate Deficiency (PKDef) and Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA). These are considered the main issues that can affect Maine Coons, given the frequency of occurrence and detrimental effects of HCM, HD, PKD, and SMA in Maine Coons. PKDef and SMA can be tested for using genetic testing. If cats test positive, they should be removed from breeding programs. Breeders work with HCM by genetically testing their cats (this only identifies one copy of the genetic marker responsible for HCM though), having all breeding cats receive yearly screenings for HCM, by board certified veterinary cardiologists, and removing affected cats from breeding programs. X-Rays are used to identify Hip Dysplasia in cats. Affected cats should be removed from breeding programs.
Will health testing prevent all health issues in cats?
Unfortunately, no. However, when breeders use health testing to inform their decisions, it can significantly reduce the occurrence of problematic health issues. When selecting cats for our breeding program, we are evaluating all of the test information we have and making selections based on who we believe will produce healthy, robust kittens who will help us work towards meeting the Maine Coon breed standards in conformation. Breeders should seek to improve the genetic diversity of the cats they are working with to improve the overall health and vigor of their cats. Genetic health testing gives breeders some information that is worth considering along with calculating inbreeding coefficients (COI) from pedigrees.
Rigorous health testing of breeding cats is very expensive and time-consuming. However, we want our cats and kittens to be healthy and recognize that we need this information to make the best decisions possible for the health and welfare of our cats and our breeding program.