Feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) is a disease of the heart muscle in which the walls thicken and the heart enlarges. HCM is an inherited disease in many purebred cats, however, it is the average house cat who is most commonly diagnosed with the condition, usually at midlife.
Why am I posting about this disease? Because it affects our beloved siberians. HCM is an extremely unpredictable disease that can hit very unexpectedly. Scientist are trying to discover what genetically happens and what genes are responsible for it.
Since we have no genetic test for it, our only defense against this disease is to have our cats screened annually by a board certified cardiologist. even that is no guarantee, because often it will show up at a later age.
A responsible breeder is someone who screens their cats annually and has no problems providing proof that they do when requested. For our breed, we have a database with breeders that actively participate in HCM screening. You can find it here: http://www.Siberiancatinfo.com
Another thing a responsible breeder does or should do (and this is the main reason for my post) is deal with the problem openly, rather than trying to sweep it under the rug like so many try to do. 2 days ago a dear breeder friend (she can make herself known in the comments if she chooses to) discovered a problem in one of her lines that directly affects the cats of some of her breeder friends where she placed the lines. She immediately notified everyone and spoke with the owner of the affected cat. His DNA is going into research and she discussed the options with the affected breeders on what to do with the cats that are still in breeding programs. With her rapid actions and honesty, she has quickly contained the problem within a day. The lines are not going to spread any further and all owners of the lines have been notified of the possible risk their cats carry with them. That's how it's done, and that is the ONLY way it's done.
Then you have breeders that do the opposite. They built up a reputation and think that honesty about the health problems in their cats is going to destroy that reputation. So what happens? They deny the problems (and it's really hard to deny problems if cats from your lines are dropping dead left and right and necropsy reports show HCM is the cause) and they try to sweep it under the rug, even to the point they are threatening people if they make it public.
The really bad thing about this is that these are usually catteries that sell Lord knows how many cats into breeding programs and the lines are literally everywhere. Over time it becomes very hard to find cats with pedigrees that do not include those lines. This is the main reason I rarely sell breeder cats. If something like this happens and you have placed cats all over the place, there is no way to contain the problem, especially not if the disease doesn't show up until a later age and the lines have spread across the board into just about every pedigree. And because many breeders sweep it under the rug, the lines keep spreading and more and more cats are affected over time. The breed is going to hell in a hand basket, all because some people don't want to "destroy their reputation". If you are one of those breeders, you are not helping the breed, you are actively participating in destroying the breed.
The solution is simple. Screen your breeding cats every single year. Participate in the database and be open and honest about issues with your lines. I think many of us have had issues (including me) but very few come forward with it. Be extremely selective in where you place your breeding cats and make sure that the breeder that gets your cats screens them and participates in the database as well. Make sure they have a history of screening and health testing prior to placing a cat with them. Eliminate the lines unless you only use them in your own cattery and can contain the issues so you can monitor the development, don't place them into breeding programs knowing there is a high risk of problems. Stop sweeping it under the rug. You will gain far more respect if you are honest and take appropriate action when this happens than when you try to deny it and even threaten people.
Money was raised for several cats to be entered in genome sequencing research in hopes of finding some answers when it comes to HCM in siberians. I believe close to 10k was raised and research is underway. Here is the very sad part...most of the donations came from PET OWNERS! That's right, the majority of the money was raised by pet owners who care more about the breed than many breeders do. That is not to say that breeders did not participate, because they did, but the bulk of the money came from pet owners. All breeders will benefit for the result of this research, very few actually helped funding it and that is where part of my frustration is, many breeders simply do not care.
I know I am going to get chastised for this post, mainly by the breeders that are in denial that their lines have this problem. I know this is going across the board and people are going to talk about it and tell others I am crazy. I could not care less. This is a serious threat to our breed and if you are not willing to do what it takes to help contain this problem, you actually ARE the problem and probably should not be a breeder to begin with. Talk about me all you want to, come after me all you want to, I don't care. I am not going to be silent about this as we get more and more information about cats severely affected by this disease. We cannot fight this unless breeders step up to the plate and do their job as a responsible and reputable breeders.