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The Governing Council of the Cat Fancy

The UK's Premier Registration body

Basic Cat Genetics

All domestic cats are descended from a wild ancestor (probably either Felis silvestris or Felis lybica) a mackerel tabby patterned animal, and thus all domestic cats are of an underlying genetic tabby pattern.  All cats have 19 pairs of chromosomes upon which there are many thousands of genes that govern the eventual shape, size, sex, colour, pattern and hair length of the individual animal.  Over the generations a number of mutations have occurred and selective breeding has been used to isolate these to produce the various pedigree breeds we see today. The mapping of the feline genome has indentified the genes that control coat, colour and pattern in cats along with those that control body size, shape and conformation and those which control diseases and structural abnormalities. 

See also the Genetic Testing page on this website 

Inbreeding Co-efficient  

For a century or more the costs and benefits of inbreeding have been recognized, even if the mechanisms weren't fully understood, breeders knew from experience that there were trade-offs.  The Inbreeding Coefficient was formulated specifically to serve as a tool to quantify these risks and benefits in a way that could be used in making breeding decisions.

Inbreeding increases homozygosity.  The inbreeding coefficient is the probability of inheriting two copies of the same allele from an ancestor that occurs on both sides of the pedigree.  These alleles are identical by descent.  The coefficient is also the fraction of all the genes of an animal that are homozygous (two copies of the same allele), so for a mating that would result in offspring with an inbreeding coefficient of 10%, there is a one in 10 chance all the genes in an animal will be homozygous.  

The original purpose of the coefficient was to give breeders a number that would indicate both the amount of benefit to be gained from inbreeding as well as the magnitude of the deleterious effects they could expect.  The trick for the breeder is to weigh the benefits and risks of a particular mating and judge what is an acceptable balance.  A low coefficient will have a low risk but will also only have a modest benefit; a high coefficient would produce more consistency and prepotency (predominance) in the offspring, but there will also be increased risk of a significant loss of vigour and health. 

The GCCF is very concerned about close matings and thus requires any kittens bred from these matings to be placed on the non-active register in order to prevent the inheritance of any detrimental genetic traits by subsequent generations, unless there is a specific purpose which has been advised by veterinary or genetic counselling and is supported by the relevant BAC and/or approved by Genetics Committee:

i) Mother to son; ii) Father to daughter; iii) Full siblings.

Levels of Coefficients of Inbreeding (COIs)




0 to 10%


COIs which fall within this low banding are ideal

10 to 20%


COIs which fall within this banding are reasonable and acceptable

20 to 25%


COIs which fall within this banding represent close matings approaching the higher end of what breeders should normally consider.

25 to 40%


Matings producing higher COIs than the first degree matings should only be undertaken by experienced breeders for very specific reasons. If offspring are retained for breeding they should only be used for matings producing low COIs.


Not advised

The welfare and health of cats with such high levels of inbreeding is highly likely to be compromised and such matings should not be undertaken.