GCCF policy on the use of outcrossing in cat breeding programmes
Outcrossing is the introduction of new genetic material into a breeding line or a breed’s gene pool. It involves the mating together of cats of different varieties, different breeds or of a pedigree cat to a ‘foundation cat’ of unrecorded ancestry as part of a planned and coordinated programme to improve the genetic diversity and genetic health of a breed. It can sometimes also be used to introduce new, desirable traits to a breed. It is one of the most important tools that can be used by breeders to maintain or improve their breed’s genetic health and guard against the negative health consequences of inbreeding and closed gene pools. An outcross programme is a long term undertaking that can require a commitment to breed through several generations.
A breed is defined as a group of animals related by descent from common ancestors that are visibly similar in most characters. Breeds generally refer to a distinct group of domesticated animals that are different from the wild type, are under the influence of man, and are incapable of maintaining their distinctive qualities in nature. Most cat breeds do fit these descriptions, however, a few cat breeds closely mimic their native populations of origin. Genetic tests are available for the cat, which define a majority or their colours, fur types, and morphological traits. Cats can be genetically defined to their breed and to their populations of origin from various regions of the world. Many genetic diseases can now be monitored and tests can prove parentage and percentage of wild felid genetic contributions in hybrid breeds. Therefore, undesired colors, traits, and diseases can be avoided, even when breeding with cats of unknown ancestry. Armed with these genetic tools, cat breeders and registries can now make more informed decisions regarding the propagation of their breeds with the wise selection of appropriate cats. While many cat breeds show high genetic diversity, implying healthy gene pools, other cat breeds clearly have gene pools that are insufficient for maintenance of a healthy genetic population. Because the DNA tests are available, easy to acquire, and relatively low cost, cat breeders and registries can easily consider outcrossing programmes that will not significantly sacrifice the breed standards. Most societies insist that humans have great responsibility to be humane and to treat animals with high regard and value. Animal welfare, which includes an animal’s health, must be at the forefront of ethics for the cat fancy. The proper use of genetic tests and cooperation between the registries and breeders and amongst the breeders can support healthy futures for cats and their breed populations."
Professor Leslie A. Lyons, PhD – University of Missouri, Columbia, MO USA