Some cats require more time and effort, both physically and mentally, to look after than others due to their varying needs.
Here we look at some cat breeds that are hard to take care of, based on their grooming requirements, health concerns as well as personality and energy levels.
Persians are prone to a host of health issues, from kidney and heart conditions to others such as brachycephalic airway syndrome.
“Because of their short, flatter face, Persian cats struggle to breathe properly. Many get short of breath quickly and suffer from inflammation and swelling in their airways,” explains the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA), the U.K. veterinary charity.
They are also very susceptible to ringworm as well as feline infectious peritonitis, which can be fatal. “Persian cats are more likely to develop this than non-pedigree cats,” PDSA says.
The long, flowing coats of Persians require an indoor, protected environment. “Proper maintenance requires a daily run-through with a metal comb” to prevent tangles, according to The Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA), the registry of pedigreed cats.
Similar in build to Persians, exotic cats are also prone to brachycephalic airway syndrome. Exotics are also susceptible to polycystic kidney disease.
“Cats that have been bred with extremely short, flat faces (called brachycephalic) undergo substantial and significant changes to the shape of the whole skull and the associated structures,” International Cat Care explains.
“There will be jaw deformities, which can lead to dental disease and potential problems with eating and drinking; there are usually small nostrils and a soft palate which is too long, which can lead to severe breathing problems.
“The flat nature of face also increases the chances of eye disease, and the jaw abnormalities will make grooming much more difficult,” it adds.
As flat-faced cats, Himalayans are also prone to brachycephalic airway syndrome, which can cause severe breathing problems.
“The flat nature of the face also increases the chances of eye disease, and the jaw abnormalities will make grooming much more difficult,” International Cat Care says.
“The tear ducts cannot follow their natural path and drain properly into the nose, so the eyes run constantly and cause tear-staining on the face and sometimes secondary sores,” it adds.
Himalayan cats may also have a predisposition for hip dysplasia, which is an abnormality of the hip joints causing lameness in the hind legs.
Siamese cats are an “agile and athletic breed that require stimulation or a lot of toys to keep them occupied,” according to The International Cat Association (TICA).
Adult Siamese cats need to be fed at least twice a day but kittens need more frequent feeding, at least three or four times per day, as they burn off calories more quickly, TICA says.
Siamese are also prone to several health problems including asthma, mediastinal lymphoma (a type of cancer causing fluid to accumulate around the lungs) and systemic amyloidosis, which can lead to liver or kidney failure, according to the PDSA.
These deceivingly delicate cats have a high metabolism and “hearty appetites,” with a higher daily calorie intake then the average coated cat, according to TICA.
“Being so food driven, it is important to always keep an eye on their weight, but keep in mind this breed is not a dainty or delicate one,” it adds.
They have “abundant energy and are mischievous” and because they lack hair that would normally absorb body oils, the sphynx breed also requires regular bathing as well as ear and nail cleaning, CFA advises.
Progressive retinal atrophy (a degenerative disease causing blindness) and pyruvate kinase deficiency (a genetic blood disorder) are among the health issues that have been identified in the breed, according to the U.K.’s Governing Council of the Cat Fancy.
Considered a “powerhouse,” owners should not “mistake this small breed for being meek…they are always looking for places to explore and things to do. They are not couch potatoes and thrive from high interaction,” TICA describes.
Also thriving on attention and affection, “The Balinese is a vocal cat that enjoys talking with his family. They demand a lot of attention and get into mischief so should not be left alone for long periods of time,” TICA warns.
Balinese are also prone to progressive retinal atrophy, asthma, mediastinal lymphoma as well as systemic amyloidosis.
The U.K. breed is prone to several birth defects, including urinary tract and digestive problems, that often develop before a kitten reaches four months of age. They are also susceptible to corneal dystrophy (a cloudiness of the eyes), which can develop from when they are four-months-old, PDSA says.
Manx cats are known for their short tails, which causes spine and nerve issues. “This results in a form of spina bifida–a developmental abnormality of the spine that can result in problems with control of urination and defecation, and sometimes also with control of the back legs (causing partial paralysis),” International Cat Care explains.
American bobtails have shortened tails, which can have health implications. “There is always a strong worry that the lack of or shortened tail is caused by an inherited deformity of the end of the spine–similar to the Manx cat,” International Cat Care says.
“There are various different breeds with short tails (stumpy tails), which may be caused by different genetic mutations.
“The defective gene responsible for the loss of the tail also affects other parts of the spine and may cause severe spinal and/or neurological problems,” the charity adds.
Japanese bobtails come with the same health implications as the American bobtail breed due to their shortened tails.
These highly energetic and interactive cats are very people-oriented and may be not the easiest breed for owners who may want to read, watch television or write emails on their own, according to CFA.
“Masters of the pounce, these cats love to play tag with their cat friends…they are naturals at feline agility. They love to jump hurdles and leap through hoops and are speedy and proficient at this sport. They have been known to run the course in less than 10 seconds,” CFA says.
The LaPerm breed is known for their wiry, wavy coat and may require enhanced skin care because of it.
International Cat Care explains: “Cats with a ‘rex’ or wire coat have hairs which are crimped, hooked or bent. This crimping usually also affects the whiskers. Often the hair is fragile and breaks easily, even with gentle brushing. There are various different breeds with such hair (probably caused by different genetic mutations), which may be very sparse in some cases.”
The oil needed to maintain healthy skin is spread along the shaft of hairs in cats with normal coats. But when there is a lack of hair, such as with the LaPerm breed, “the oil collects on the skin and can make it feel greasy, mark furniture or collect in nail beds,” the charity says.
Due to also having a thick wiry coat, the selkirk rex breed may require more skin care maintenance.
“The skin may be sensitive and itchy and it may be prone to yeast infections. Cats may need regular bathing and the coat and skin need special care. Ears too may be prone to waxy deposits and require regular cleaning. Cats with paler coat colours may require sunblock on the ears in the summer months,” International Cat Care says.
Cornish rex cats also come with the same skin health risks as the LaPerm and selkirk rex breeds.
This highly social, lively breed loves attention and “can be demanding at times,” TICA says. “They do not like to be alone for long periods so it is a good idea for them to have a companion if the family works long hours.”
They are also prone to develop polycystic kidney disease as well as progressive retinal atrophy, PDSA advises. Their ears and toes tend to get greasy, which requires frequent cleaning.
In addition to the skin health implications that come with wire coat cats, CFA warns: “A person must be prepared to be owned by a Devon. A Devon will eat with you, sleep with you, and perch cozily on your shoulder while you are on the computer or reading. They will follow you around the house, sit at your feet, or jump on your lap the minute you sit down.
“The social nature of the Devon makes them unsuited to spending long periods of time without companionship,” it says.
They are also known to be food hounds and are not picky about what they eat. So owners should be prepared to “guard your dinner plate from the fast and crafty Devon in the house. They never turn down a meal and would be happy to assist you with yours,” CFA adds.
Devon rexes are also susceptible to hip dysplasia and patella luxation (a condition where the kneecap moves out of its normal location, which may require surgery to correct).
“Cats with hip dysplasia and patella luxation are more likely to develop osteoarthritis,” according to the PDSA.
The Tonkinese breed can also be “stubborn in their quest to get their own way,” according TICA.
Tonkinese are prone to gingivitis and can also become obese. They should only be fed an appropriate balanced diet combined with exercise.
These playful cats prefer not to be ignored or left alone. “Two Tonkinese will keep each other company and also lessen the amount of mischief that just one bored Tonk can get into,” CFA says.
This very athletic, alert and very active breed is “intensely curious with all that surrounds them,” TICA says, so they are definitely not lap cats.
They are also susceptible to several health problems including pyruvate kinase deficiency, progressive retinal atrophy, patella luxation and renal amyloidosis (a disease where an amyloid substance accumulates in the kidney and possibly other organs), according to TICA.
Maine coons have a high prevalence of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (a heart condition) as well as hip dysplasia. Patellar luxation, pyruvate kinase deficiency as well as spinal muscular atrophy have also been identified in the breed, according to International Cat Care, the U.K.-based charity.
As they are a long-haired breed, Maine coons shed quite a bit and require frequent grooming. TICA says: “Some have cottony, high maintenance coats that need daily combing and regular grooming…regular combing for all coat textures should be started from a kitten age and continued throughout their lives.”
Burmese are the most common cat breed to develop diabetes, according to PDSA. The disease can cause weakness, blindness, excessive appetite and thirst and may require daily insulin injections to control it.
Burmese cats are also prone to hypokalaemic polymyopathy, a condition of “low blood potassium which can cause skeletal muscle weakness, episodic in nature,” PDSA says.
Some Burmese may carry the “Burmese head defect” gene that causes “meningoencephalocele and craniofacial deformity in Burmese cats,” International Cat Care advises.
“The gene responsible is important in normal facial development. It appears that cats with one copy of the mutated gene may have some evidence of brachycephalia, but if two copies of the defective gene are present the full syndrome can develop with duplication of the upper jaw and incomplete formation of the skull. The defect is incompatible with life,” the charity notes.
International Cat Care says: “Some young Birman cats show evidence of impaired kidney function on blood tests–the significance is not certain but some may go on to develop kidney disease.
“Recently, an autosomal recessive inherited congenital syndrome of hypotrichosis (lack of hair) and short life-span (kittens typically dying by 8 months of age) has been identified as a deletion of the FOXN1 gene in the breed,” while polycystic kidney disease has also been reported among birmans, the charity notes.
Scottish folds are known for their distinctive small round ears, which are folded forward. “Folds are said not to be an active breed, and this may be because of pain involved in movement,” due to this genetic mutation, International Cat Care says.
“The genetic defect that causes abnormality of the ear cartilage also causes severe abnormalities of the cartilage of bones–there will be defective bone development and severe bone and cartilage abnormalities in all cats with folded ears.
“This is known as osteochondrodysplasia–a general term for a disorder of the development of bone and cartilage. These bone and cartilage abnormalities lead to severe and painful arthritis,” it explains.
American curl cats are also known for the unique shape of their ears, which curl backwards. Some breeders have commented that “these cats that the ears are fragile and may be easily damaged when handled and there is anecdotal mention of narrowed ear canals,” according to International Cat Care.
“Folded or curled ears can also make it difficult for the cat to clean its ears, so owners may need to remove any wax or dirt accumulation from the ear to help prevent discomfort and infection,” it adds.
A susceptibility to progressive retinal atrophy has been identified in the breed.
The Korat breed is known to suffer from “gangliosidosis, an inherited enzyme deficiency that affects the nervous system causing paralysis,” according to International Cat Care.
TICA adds: “Korats need your companionship and do not like to be left alone for long periods or ignored when you are home. If they are ignored, they are likely to become withdrawn.”
Progressive retinal atrophy and flat chested kitten syndrome (a flattening of the rib cage) have also been seen in Oriental shorthairs.
“Kittens with flat chests have a thoracic deformity that begins cranially around the forelimbs, and is characterised by sharp angulation at the costo-chondral junction causing marked dorso-ventral (top to bottom) flattening of the rib cage. There may be cranial thoracic vertebral kyphosis (ventral deviation of the spine towards the ground) and dorsal deviation of the sternum,” International Cat Care says.
“Although most Oriental shorthairs live long and healthy lives, there are a number of disorders that seem to be associated with the Oriental family–those similar to the Siamese as they are closely related,” it adds.
The W gene responsible for their white coat and blue eyes can cause problems with deafness in Turkish angora cats. “There are reports of kittens suffering from hereditary ataxia, and hypertrophic cardiomyopathy has also been found,” International Cat Care notes.
TICA advises: “The Turkish Angora is a very active breed that requires high-quality calories to maintain their energy levels and overall health. Premium foods where the main ingredients are real meats without fillers are recommended.”
This intense breed wants to be “the center of your world,” TICA says. A typical Egyptian mau will “command your attention,” not allowing owners to push it away, “as it craves the touch of the special person(s) that are his and his alone,” it adds.
CFA says: “Most Egyptian Maus have very distinct ideas about who can handle them and when. They are sensitive, people-oriented cats, but they like things on their terms and dote on their people.”
A pyruvate kinase deficiency has been identified in Egyptian mau cats, according to International Cat Care.