Fashion for breeding ‘grumpy’ cats fuelling rise in feline fights

The trend of breeding cats to look "grumpy" is making them have more fights with fellow felines, a study has suggested.

Pedigree flat-faced (brachycephalic) cats with exaggerated big eyes or "grumpy" features are often known to have breathing difficulties, problems with their eyes, and other health conditions.

Despite this, these breeds have increased in popularity in recent years, with celebrities such as Taylor Swift fuelling the trend with her three specially bred, flat-faced cats.

But a study, published in the journal Frontiers In Veterinary Science, has stated that, aside from health issues, this breeding may also be impacting a cat’s ability to effectively communicate through facial expressions.

The study also suggests that this lack of communication might lead to increased conflicts with other cats, even those from the same household.

Lead researcher Dr Lauren Finka, a feline behaviour and welfare specialist at Nottingham Trent University, said: "Our work suggests that breed-related issues may not only affect cats’ physical health, but also their communicative abilities.

"During the course of the cat’s domestication, we have vastly altered their physical appearance, creating a diverse range of modern cat breeds.

"Our preference for them to have features that we find cute or similar to expressions we recognise in humans – such as a frowning grumpy appearance – may have unintentionally disrupted their ability to clearly express themselves and communicate.

"Cats may also struggle to communicate with one another – which might lead to increased conflict in multi-cat homes."

“Grumpy Cat”, a mixed-breed cat in Arizona, USA, had millions of online followers before it died in 2019

Credit: Getty Images

The study found many flat-faced breeds appeared to display more 'pain-like' expressions 

The study analysed pictures of nearly 2,000 cat faces, including popular breeds such as Persian, Bengal, Egyptian Mau, Devon Rex, and Scottish Fold.

They found many flat-faced breeds appeared to display more "pain-like" expressions – even though they were not considered to be in distress – when compared with those with more proportioned features and elongated faces.

Dr Finka added: "Many cat owners will be aware of the different facial expressions their cats display and, that these expressions may change depending on what the cat needs or how they are feeling.

“However, if certain breeds have been selected to look grumpy or in pain, we might be motivated to care for or give these cats more attention than they would prefer, or conversely be unable to tell when they might actually be in pain and need our help.”

A mixed-breed cat in Arizona, USA, helped bolster the trend, becoming known as “Grumpy Cat” among its millions of online followers, owing to its “grumpy” facial expression caused by a form of feline dwarfism.

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