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Hairless Cats: Exposed

Savannah Svorec, Staff Writer

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Genetically modified organisms exist in many different forms. Scientists can use selective breeding to create benefits such as a redder strawberry, meatier chicken, or a hybrid Golden-Doodle. According to Berkeley.edu,Long before Darwin and Wallace, farmers and breeders were using the idea of selection to cause major changes in the features of their plants and animals over the course of decades.” Over periods of time, humans control what organisms reproduce rather than naturally. This may not seem bad, but many question if this practice is ethical, healthy, or environmentally safe because it goes against natural selection. An interesting example of genetically modifying an animal is the hairless cat.

Sphynx cats are genetically modified in order to be hairless and hypoallergenic. In the article Evolution:  Illustrating Natural Selection Using Artificial Selection, Michael McDarby explains how artificial selection is used to create a cat with desired genes. To do this, a breeder will test a large population of cats to see which cats cause the least allergens (MacDarby). A smaller breeding group is isolated and then breed again to make kittens more and more hypoallergenic. “Cats should grow as cats grow,” said wise sophomore, Sydney Jonker. When breeding pools get to small and breeders want to know how the cat will look, inbreeding tends to occur causing health risks.

A 100% hairless cat can be prone to inbreeding when a careless breeder wants to make money. According to cat expert, Sarah Hartwell, “The limited gene-pool caused by continued inbreeding means that deleterious genes become widespread and the breed loses vigour. Laboratory animal suppliers depend on this to create uniform strains of animal which are immuno-depressed or breed true for a particular disorder e.g. epilepsy.” To have a healthy cat, a breeder has to choose cats that are out of the gene pool. A Sphynx cat that has been breed within bloodline can have many health problems, and is obviously unethical.

Breeder and author Phyllis Lauder wrote in 1981: “Favoured varieties of today have been bred sire to daughter and cousin to cousin until their breeds are ruined […] man’s insistence on upon breeding in order to perpetuate features approved in the show ring has produced animals of weak constitution, prone to such conditions as skin troubles, lacking in intelligence, no longer mentally alert, eventually stupid; and at last breeding with difficulty: a state of affairs leading in the end to the sterility and death of the breed.” Being a scientist is not required to understand that live animals should breed on their own. Playing with genetics is not man’s place in this world.

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Hairless Cats: Exposed