The charity said the number of ‘purebred’ cats coming into its rescue centres has soared since 2018, citing a 300 per cent surge seen in the Maine Coon breed over the last six years.
It believes this is largely due to the popularity of ‘designer’ cats being used on social media, in film and TV, and in advertising.
The latest figures come as the new spy action comedy Argylle is due to be released on Friday, starring a Scottish Fold cat, who is seen in the trailer being carried around in a bubble backpack.
The most common pedigree cat in RSPCA care is the Persian cat, with the charity seeing a 92 per cent rise since 2018. The second most common is the Ragdoll, with a 61 per cent increase in these cats arriving at the charity’s animal centres and branches. Meanwhile, there has been a 22 per cent surge in Bengal cats over the last six years.
Alice Potter, cat welfare expert at the RSPCA, said: “Over the last few years we have seen an increase in certain cat breeds coming into our care as a result of ‘designer’ breeds becoming more popular with owners.
“Sadly, many of these cat breeds have exaggerated physical features, some of which have become so extreme that they can cause pain and suffering. Some can make cats prone to particular disorders, and some prevent them from behaving normally.”
Last week, leading animal-welfare charities, including the RSPCA, wrote to Universal Pictures, the film studio behind Argylle, urging them “not to glamourise these kinds of cats in future due to the health and welfare issues they suffer from”.
The organisations advised against transporting cats in backpacks, as the pet Chip is in the film. The RSPCA said backpacks are “often small, very restrictive, and interfere with temperature regulation”.
Ms Potter said: “Scottish Fold cats, as featured in the new film Argylle, have a genetic disorder that causes them severe and painful lameness. This is because the cartilage abnormality responsible for their distinctive folded ears also affects joints meaning they can develop painful arthritis, even from a young age.
“Although we have only had seven Scottish Fold cats come into our care since 2018, we fear that this film may glamourise these cats and could be the latest breed to experience a boom in their popularity, without people realising the sometimes severe issues these cats can face.”
The Scottish Government has put in place guidance for breeders of Scottish Fold cats, and other cats who have been bred with exaggerated features, to ensure the health and welfare of the cat is not being compromised. The RSPCA is calling for similar guidance to also be issued in England and Wales.
Ms Potter also urged breeders to “prioritise health, welfare and temperament over appearance”. She said: “We know owners want their pets to be happy and healthy, and people may not realise that cats bred with exaggerated features can struggle with extremely serious health problems. We would like to see breeders doing more to ensure they are producing kittens who are happy and healthy.”