A Little History and Why Is Testing Important?
The Maine Coon is a landrace breed of cat that developed via natural selection over the last 200 or more years in the northeastern area of the United States. They are believed to have been brought over aboard merchant and passenger ships that traveled the cold Atlantic Ocean during the late 1600 -1700's. These ships enlisted the help of mouser cats with now verified genetic origins being traced to the Norwegian Forest Cat. Interesting, because it is also coming to a greater conclusion that the Vikings predated European landings in the upper northeast of North American continent by some 500 years. It is well documented that the Vikings traveled with large, shaggy seagoing cats. The Vikings most likely acquired their cats from those brought back by the Crusaders to Scandinavia.
Large and robust. as a breed they normally do not have more health issues than most cats.
However due to a limited genetic population early on when first recognized as a distinct breed. This led to inbreeding and created some issues. Most of which are greatly eliminated with good breeding practices.
Dedicated Maine Coon breeders will still test for health issues that are found in the breed and have developed testing programs to ensure healthy cats are produced for generations to come.
It is impossible to guarantee the health of a cat throughout his or her life. However, by testing and working with unrelated European lines, we strive to minimize the risk of genetic disorders for our kittens, and cats.
There are 5 genetic potential issues we test for.
HCM – Heart Disease
HCM is a heart disease that can be found in all cats, also house cats. We can DNA test for one important factor that can cause HCM, (A31P mutation in the MyBPC3 gene). Cats who have “double” of the affected gene (1 positive gene from each parent) have a very high risk of getting ill, and a slightly higher risk is also seen in those with one gene 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.
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.
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.
Blood type B is not a disease, but breeding queens with blood type B males can create huge problems for her kittens, so we do not wish to use B cats in our breeding.
All of our breeding cats have their blood type DNA tested.
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.