The Maine Coon is a natural breed of cats, and normally not more at risk for health issues than most other cat breeds. Serious Maine Coon breeders are however concerned by those health issues we find are too common in the breed, and have developed health programmes to keep the breed healthy in the future as well.
It is impossible to guarantee the health of a cat throughout his or her life. By testing according to the health programmes and focusing on lower inbreeding, we hope to have minimized risk of illness for our kittens, and to keep the lines healthy.
Maine Coon er en naturrase, og vanligvis ikke mer utsatt for helserisiko enn andre katteraser. En del Maine Coon-oppdrettere er likevel opptatt av de helseproblemene som forekommer oftere i rasen, og har utviklet helseprogram for å holde rasen frisk i fremtiden.
Det er umulig å gi noen garanti for helsen til en katt hele livet. Ved å teste etter helseprogrammene og fokusere på lavere totalinnavl, håper vi å minimere risiko for våre kattunger, og å holde linjene friske framover.
The two most important genetic health issues for the Maine Coon breed are HCM and HD, and we follow the PawPeds health programmes for these.
HCM is a heart disease that can be found in all cats, also housecats. We can test for one important factor that can cause HCM, the MyBPC3 DNA test (A31P mutation). Cats who have “double” of the affected gene (homozygous positive) have a very high risk of getting ill, and a slightly higher risk is also seen in those with one gene (heterozygous positive), but these cats will typically stay healthy until at least 4-5 years old and those who get ill might not be as seriously affected.
Ultrasound screening (echocardiogram) of all breeding cats is strongly recommended, several times in the cat’s life.
- Around 25-40 % of Maine Coon carry a mutation that increases risk of getting HCM (HCM1-A31P)
- Around 5-15 % of Maine Coons will develop HCM during their life
- Offspring of tested lines have much lower risk than offspring of non-tested lines
We DNA-test and scan (ultrasound) all our breeding animals according to the PawPeds health programme.
HD is a hereditary disease causing problems with the hip joint. All large breeds of cats and dogs are at risk for Hip Dysplasia (HD).
Several cats have it in a mild form that the animal can live well with, but it should not be used for breeding. In severe form HD is a very painful and disabling disease, and in the worst cases lead to euthanasia.
What is known is that the risk of getting a cat with HD is much smaller if both parents have normal hips. This is no guarantee, but it betters the chances. HD is most probably recessive and polygenetic.
- 25-30 % of all Maine Coons have HD of some degree
- approximately 10 % have moderate or severe HD and should not be used for breeding
- offspring from Normal-Normal combinations have much lower risk for serious HD
PK-deficiency (Pyruvat Kinase deficiency) is quite recently discovered in Maine Coons as well as a lot of other breeds. It seems around 5-15 % of all Maine Coons carry this mutation.
Testing for it is very easy, and only animals with “the double gene” (homozygous positive) are affected and will likely get ill. As long as breeders do not breed carrier to carrier, the animals will stay healthy. All our breeding animals are tested for this gene.
SMA, Spinal Muscular Atrophy, is a very rare disease among Maine Coons. Possibly only 1 in about 7000 cats get it. It is however quite serious for those animals who are affected, so to be on the safe side, our breeding animals are tested for the gene. Only cats with the double gene (homozygous positive) will get ill.
Most Maine Coon have blood type (blood group) A. Blood type B also exists, and it is a recessive trait. It means some cats with blood type A are carriers of B. Around 3 % of Maine Coons are B, whereas around 15 % are carriers of B and can produce B kittens if mated.
Blood type B is not a disease, but breeding queens with blood type B can create huge problems for her kittens, so we do not wish to use B cats in our breeding.
All our breeding cats have their blood type DNA tested, and if we are uncertain, we also do a serological test for actual blood type.
Inbreeding in general can lead to several health problems for a breed. We will try to keep complete inbreeding below average for Maine Coons, and have focus on genetic variation. We focus a lot on percentages for complete inbreeding and keep inbreeding to zero for the first 5 generations.
Most Maine Coons in Europe today get over 70 % of their genes from only 5 Maine Coon foundation cats. This is a serious concern for long term health. See the Maine Coon history for more information on genetic variety in Maine Coon. It is important to work with genetic variation in the breed.
Inbreeding in general might also lead to a weakened immune system and thus perceptibility to diseases like FIP, cancer and tooth and gum problems. It is known through population genetics that the immune system is weakened (Lorimer 1998) by having a small gene pool, and avoiding a large degree of inbreeding is the best way to avoid these kinds of problems.
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