UK could ban partially feral hybrid cats after social media popularity boom | Animal wellbeing

Part-feral hybrid cats could be banned by the UK government, after social media helped make these extreme breeds popular.

With their enormous size, powerful muscles, and spotted coats, hybrid cats are considered by some to be the perfect pet for the social media age. But the growing trade raises concerns about animal welfare and the wildlife black market.

Government sources have said they plan to review the Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (England) Regulations 2018.

A source said: ‘During this review we will consider whether it is necessary to introduce license agreements for cat breeders, including restrictions on the breeding of certain types of cats.’ Current UK legislation does not regulate the hybridization of exotic felines with domestic cats.

Activists have argued that the breeds that are considered feral cats are not suitable for most pet owners due to their complex needs, and are putting pressure on rare felines in the wild as increased demand for these cats means that some breeders resort to the illegal wildlife trade to find feral cats. breed of.

Stryker the cat has 800,000 subscribers Photography: Instagram/strykerthecat

Savannah cats, a cross between a domestic cat and an African serval, have become particularly popular on social media due to their striking looks. One of these cats, Stryker, has over 800,000 followers on Instagram. A “luxury cattery” promoting the breed has 44,000 subscribers.

The Savannah cat breed was only recognized in 2001 and since then its popularity as a pet has grown, with “F1 hybrids” – a cat with a serval as a parent – going as far as at £20,000 per kitten.

According to a study by the Wildheart Trust, 259 small and medium-sized exotic cats are registered as pets in the UK. Many of these cats are used for breeding, producing hybrids like the savannah.

A spokesperson for the animal charity said: “Urgent legislative action to make this form of hybridization illegal will prevent the suffering of individual animals caught in this trade and mitigate future threats to wild populations of exotic big cats. . The Wildheart Animal Sanctuary has over 40 years of experience caring for exotic felines. We see firsthand the physical and psychological damage inflicted on animals by humans. »

Bengals, like the one owned – and beaten – by disgraced footballer Kurt Zouma, were created by breeding pets with the Asian leopard cat. While nowadays the breed is established, most are bred with each other rather than feral cats. Many are found dumped in rescue centers because their high-energy personalities are too much for their owners to handle. Bengals who have a feral cat parent or grandparent could face a ban, but many breeds are now so crossbred that the feral cats are far in their lineage, so experts have said that ‘they could still be allowed.

A spokesperson for Battersea Dogs and Cats Home said it supports a ban on breeding hybrid cats in the UK. They said: “In recent years there has been an increased demand for designer hybrid cats such as Savannah cats, a cross between a domestic cat and an African serval. Unsurprisingly, these cats are not suited to a domestic home environment, due to their wildcat DNA, size, and very strong predatory instincts.

Serval. Photograph: Miki Meller/Alamy

“We have seen so many examples of animals being bred for their appearance rather than their well-being, which has caused many welfare issues. It is vital that we clamp down on this practice and stop that. other animals suffer at the hands of blind breeders.

The RSPCA is also calling for a crackdown on the breeding of these cats, as it implies a demand for dangerous wild animals. This has implications for both human safety and animal welfare.

RSPCA chief science officer Evie Button said: ‘We are concerned about the breeding, trade and keeping of wild – or ‘exotic’ – animals kept as pets, including those classed as wild animals dangerous, such as servals. We believe that animals should only be kept in captivity if good welfare can be assured, which can be very difficult.

“Exotic pets are undomesticated wild animals kept in captivity and therefore their needs are essentially no different from those of the same species living in the wild. Some species – such as servals – are not suitable for keeping as pets because their needs are too complex to be met in a domestic environment.

She said the charity is pushing for a broader review of keeping exotic animals as pets.

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