The Siberian is a spectacular cat with a grand heritage. Like all breeds, some genetic diseases are present. Fortunately, in Siberians, genetic disease is still quite limited at this time. SRI was founded to help understand and limit these issues.
In 2002 at 3 years of age, my first queen, Cholchinay (shown above) died two days before giving birth. The necropsy showed hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM). After the grief subsided, I recalled the vet saying HCM was genetic. I began to ask other breeders what they knew, and whether Siberians had this disease.
Most of us had little knowledge of HCM. Some breeders said that it did not exist in Siberians, while others felt it was a nutritional deficiency, and therefore the fault of the owner.
The dilemma: Veterinarians said HCM was hereditary. Other breeds were beginning to research the disease, yet in Siberians most breeders denied it existed. I noted with shock that Maine Coon breeders reported 30% HCM in their lines, and Persians had similar figures for PKD (polycystic kidney disease). Until genetic testing becomes available, reviewing and understanding pedigrees is the best tool for preventing a similar crisis in Siberians.
Like other catteries, I tried to quietly research the lines myself. Only too often breeders are shunned for openly discussing genetic diseases. Tom Lundberg, another Siberian breeder, visited my cattery and saw my preliminary HCM pedigree work. We both felt that research might show why HCM was traveling unchecked in the Siberian.
Five breeders from around the world devoted many hundreds of hours reviewing pedigrees, making phone calls, studying lines and mapping cases. We were amazed at the progress that followed and compiled information from catteries around the world. At the time this article was written, we have reviewed pedigrees from 80 HCM positive cats. Dr. Kathryn Meurs of WSU accepted our work, and started genetic testing in a search for Siberian HCM genes.
During our studies, we uncovered cases of Siberian PKD, an inherited kidney disease and identified four separate points of origin. One single mating is responsible for the vast majority of PKD in our breed.
We also began studying claims of hypoallergenic Siberians, and developed methods for a verifiable laboratory test. Dr. Leslie Lyons is interested in the low allergy quality of the Siberians, and has included the breed in her research of the FEL d1 protein. Dr Lyons plans to publish peer-reviewed papers on PKD and FEL d1 in the foreseeable future.
We would like to see breeders openly share both pedigrees and health data so that all Siberian breeders can make responsible breeding choices. We hold the vision that Siberian cat lines will be spared severe HCM and PKD infiltration, and we hope you will join us in this vision. Siberian Research, Inc was formed as a non-profit research and educational organization - to disseminate information and help breeders understand health issues facing the Siberian cat.
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