RSPCA highlights the ‘horror’ flat-faced cats can experience with every breath

Shocking 92% increase in flat-faced cats coming into the charity’s care

Not being able to breathe is scary – this is the message from the RSPCA this Halloween as the charity highlights the issues ‘flat-faced’ cats suffer from every day.

New figures reveal that there has been a whopping 92% increase in Persian cats coming into the charity’s care from 2018 to 2022, as the popularity of these ‘flat-faced’ cats booms.

They are now the most common pedigree breed found in RSPCA care, likely due to their popularity on social media and their use in advertising.

Brachycephaly can affect Persians, British Shorthairs, Himalayan cats, Exotic Shorthairs and to a lesser extent Birmans. This means that they can struggle to breathe, suffer from eye problems, have difficulty sleeping and grooming themselves, and even suffer complications when giving birth.

Figures from the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF) suggest that British Shorthair breeds are also on the rise with a 66% increase in registrations over the last 10 years.

Persians also represented around 2% of the UK cat population in 2021 which equals around 216,000 cats.

Alice Potter, RSPCA cat welfare expert, said: “Unfortunately, Persians and other flat-faced cats have become increasingly popular as people think the physical attributes which in reality cause them to suffer are ‘cute’. While we know many people love these cats and are very caring owners, breeding for features which compromise basic health and welfare is wrong.

“These cats can suffer from eye problems and other issues, and they often struggle to do the most crucial thing we all need to do to survive – breathe. This can be scary and debilitating and in some instances can make eating, climbing, playing, and all the things our cats naturally love to do, a daily struggle.

“We want to see breeders prioritise the health and welfare of the animals and not breed them for traits which sadly can cause them to suffer. We also need to raise awareness of the physical attributes which compromise their welfare to the wider public too.”

Amid the rise in brachycephalic coming into their care, the RSPCA has launched the next stage of its Save Our Breath campaign which aims to raise awareness of the struggles these cats experience.



Darius was brought into the care of the RSPCA in June this year after he was abandoned in Cambridgeshire by his previous owners. His fur was extremely matted, he was very underweight and was struggling to breathe. He was taken to a vet to see if he had a nasal infection but on assessment it soon became clear that Darius was simply struggling to breathe because his nostrils were so tiny.

He came into the care of the RSPCA Cambridge and District Branch where he was de-matted and assessed for BOAS (Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome) surgery – commonly carried out on brachycephalic dogs such as French Bulldogs and Pugs – to widen his nostrils and help him to breathe more easily. Unfortunately, as cats’ noses are so much smaller than dogs, the surgery could not be carried out as it was deemed too risky.

Janine Barber, rehoming co-ordinator at the branch, said: “Darius went into foster care where the fosterer noticed that he had some issues with a build-up of mucus in his nostrils, discharge from his eyes, and he wasn’t eating much or putting on weight because he struggled to breathe when eating. He was put on medication to clear-up the mucus which saw some improvements but sadly he still gets out of breath easily when playing and gets food stuck in his airway after enjoying his breakfast or dinner. He seems to cope quite well so long as he isn’t too active which means he is a lot less active than an average cat.

“However, despite his health challenges, Darius is a confident, cheeky and friendly cat who enjoys fuss from his carers and will even wrap himself around their neck so that he can be as close as absolutely possible!”

Molly and Heathcliff

Molly and Heathcliff are two Persian cats who recently came into the care of RSPCA Gonsal Farm Animal Centre in Shrewsbury.

Seven-year-old Molly was sadly given up by her owner who could no longer cope with caring for her. Her breathing is incredibly raspy and she has a history of repeated eye problems. The shape of her face also means she finds it difficult to eat at times. However, Molly is a sweet natured girl who is quietly affectionate and enjoys a forehead tickle.

She is currently looking for a home and will need owners who are experienced with either Persians or long-haired brachycephalic cats and especially coat care as she needs regular grooming. Thankfully, Molly enjoys being groomed and so this will make life easier as it will need to be done regularly and is a great way to bond with her. She could live with children aged 13 or older, who can respect her independent nature. She would also like to be the only pet in the home. Molly would like the option to explore outside, and needs an owner willing to give her all the care she needs, and deserves.

Heathcliff is a 12-year-old boy who came into the charity’s care as his elderly owner could no longer care for him. He also has to have daily eye cleaning and struggles to eat. Although he is an older chap, Heathcliff doesn’t let that stop him having some fun. He enjoys new toys and particularly loves catnip. Like Molly he has some specific needs when it comes to eating but other than that he copes well and is a happy go lucky type of guy. He will be looking for a home very soon.

Darius, Molly and Heathcliff’s stories are just a few of many and highlight the impact breeding for looks can have on the health and welfare of the cats we love.

The RSPCA is now urging the public to contact their MP to raise awareness of this issue and start critical conversations to help protect these breeds. For more information, or to contact your local MP, visit:

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