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Genetic Health

We have mentioned the potential problems, and mentioned that Somalis Breeders (as a whole) 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 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 bodies' red blood cells. Closely related to this are inherited erythrocyte disorders such as pyruvate kinase (PK) deficiency and osmotic fragility.

A disease which has just been discovered in the cat was found in a litter of Somalis..... 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, no cat is known to have survived, despite extensive treatment.

How does this affect you, the potential (or current) Somali owner? Breeders 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. Many breeders offer a genetic guarantee on their cats and kittens, first because they 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. Copied with permission.