A Little Bit of Mischief....Lots of Love
We have mentioned the potential problems, and mentioned that we at Tadofa Somalis do very careful research into bloodlines and genetics before any breedings take place to ensure that we do not run into them.....but what are they?
Genetic problems are problems which are associated with certain bloodlines and can be passed to offspring, with potentially disastrous results. One of our first Somalis died of one of these genetic problems -- a disease called renal amyloidosis. "RA" as it is often called is really a misnomer, since the disease can affect any organ; not just the kidneys. In a nutshell, and very simply put, the disease causes fibrinous build-up on internal organs, effectively shutting them down. There is currently no known cure in cats, and diagnosis can be tricky, involving a special stain and examination of the organs with a microscope during autopsy. RA does not only affect Abyssinian and Somali cats -- it is found in several breeds of large and small cats, and even found in humans.
A disease which has been found in certain bloodlines of Abyssinian and Somali cats affect the blood and the immune systems. Auto Immune Hemolytic Anemia (AIHA) can cause anemia and suppress the immune system. The immune system becomes defective and produces antibodies which destroy the body's red blood cells. Closely related to this are inherited erythrocyte disorders such as pyruvate kinase (PK) deficiency and osmotic fragility. All of our breeding cats have been tested for PK deficiency. We are pleased that all foundation cats have tested negative for the gene which causes the disease. One male who was given to us as a gift for our program tested as an affected cat and died from complications of the disease before he sired any kittens for us. Two other cats obtained from a different cattery for our program tested as carriers. In order to suffer from this disease, a cat must have two mutant genes. Carriers are asymptomatic, and have one mutant gene which may or may not be passed to offspring. To prevent the spread of the disease, our carrier cats were bred to negative cats and only negative kittens were kept for breeding purposes, then the carrier cats were altered and placed. This has helped us maintain a PK deficiency negative breeding program. Any cat new to our program undergoes a minimum 30-day quarantine period as well as full testing, including blood typing and PK Deficiency testing.
A disease which has recently been discovered in the cat was found in two different litters of Somalis in two different areas of the country..... Myelodysplasia is known to affect humans and can be treated with transfusions, but has not been previously found in the cat until this time. Not much is known yet about its effect in the cat, but studies are currently underway. Like AIHA, one of the first symptoms is an anemia of unknown origin. Costly bone marrow biopsies reveal the anemia is caused by myelodysplasia. To date, only one cat is known to have survived thanks to a complete transfusion.
How does this affect you, the potential (or current) Somali owner? We at Tadofa Somalis have done very, very careful research into the potential health problems by studying the diseases and the pedigrees behind the cats, working closely with veterinarians and researchers studying the diseases. We believe these problems should not be perpetuated, and have done our best to ensure that our bloodlines are free of these potential problems by taking a very conservative approach and avoiding working with bloodlines with these potential problems. We offer a genetic guarantee on our cats and kittens, first because we want you to enjoy your Somali for years to come, and second because we need to know if despite our best efforts, something has cropped up and caused problems. In the event that something were to crop up, we need to know so the parents and other offspring can be pulled from the breeding program, in order to prevent the disease from being perpetuated in our cats.
Article © 1993 by Bethany T. Tod, Tadofa Somalis. No part of this web page or our brochure may be reproduced without the prior written permission of the author and this copyright notice.
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