Fears film could lead to 'unscrupulous' breeding of Scottish Fold cats

A Scottish Fold cat called Alfie stars in the upcoming Hollywood movie.

The inclusion of a Scottish Fold cat in an upcoming Hollywood film could lead to “unscrupulous breeding”, an animal charity has warned.

The Scottish SPCA has echoed a warning from the RSPCA about the representation of certain breeds of pedigree cats in film and TV.

Upcoming Hollywood movie Argylle starring Henry Cavill and Bryce Dallas Howard includes Scottish Fold cat Alfie who is carried around in a bubble backpack.

Scottish Folds face a number of issues including curled or folded ears which give them their unique look.

The breed can also suffer from cartilage deformity throughout the body, joint and mobility problems, arthritis and being unable to display normal cat body language, according to the SSPCA.

Conformational extremes, inherited diseases and negative behavioural traits can all cause significant health and welfare issues for the cats.

A SSPCA spokesperson said: “The Scottish SPCA does not support the breeding of Scottish Folds or indeed of any other cat species where there has been failure to protect against conformational extremes, inherited diseases or negative behavioural traits that lead to significant health and welfare concerns for those individual animals.

“It is hoped that by having the Scottish Fold included in the guidance for cat breeders as part of The Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (Scotland) Regulations 2021 and the knowledge that breeding Scottish Folds would likely see a breeder breach the condition and therefore not be compliant to a licence we will eventually not see this species as a pet that is kept in Scotland.

“Including breeds of animals which have conformational extremes, inherited diseases or negative behavioural traits that cause significant animal health and welfare issues in the film and TV industry sadly draws attention to those species and encourages the public to think that these animals are a good choice of pet to have.

“This could then lead to a greater demand for that particular breed and subsequently some unscrupulous breeders will seize the opportunity to put profit over animal welfare.

“We have certainly seen this occur when tackling the illicit puppy trade.

“The only way we can tackle the pet industry where often profit is put over animal welfare is by tackling the public demand for pets, encouraging good choices when it comes to the type of pet people look to own, responsible breeding and importantly the health and welfare of an animal always being put first.”

Scottish Folds have been included in Scottish Government licensing regulations that breeding the specific type would breach conditions.

Breeding is also not supported by cat welfare organisations and the veterinary profession nor accepted by the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF) for registration.

The Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) Regulations from 2021 sets out guidance for cat breeders.

Local authorities in Scotland have the power to refuse to grant a licence if it is not entirely satisfied that the conditions can be met by the applicant.

The regulations state: “No cat may be kept for breeding if it can reasonably be expected, on the basis of its genotype, conformation, behaviour or state of health, that breeding from it could have a detrimental effect on its health or welfare or the health or welfare of its offspring.”

A letter signed by leading animal welfare charities, including the RSPCA, wrote to film studio Universal Pictures last week asking for the breed not to be “glamourised” in Argylle.

Alice Potter, cat welfare expert at the RSPCA said: “Scottish Fold cats, as featured in the new film Argylle, have a genetic disorder that causes them severe and painful lameness.

“This is because the cartilage abnormality responsible for their distinctive folded ears also affects joints meaning they can develop painful arthritis, even from a young age.

“Although we have only had seven Scottish Fold cats come into our care since 2018, we fear that this film may glamourise these cats and could be the latest breed to experience a boom in their popularity, without people realising the sometimes severe issues these cats can face.”

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