Spinal Muscular Atrophy in Maine Coon Cats

This genetically inherited disease in Maine Coon cat needs to be discussed but I don't want to paint an unnecessarily negative picture about this wonderful and popular cat breed.

The best book on cat health problems (Cat Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook) says on page 345 (latest edition at the date of this post) that this is "a genetic defect in Maine Coon cats".

Cute ginger tabby MC sitting on his backside. Image in the public domain (believed).

Spinal nerves die off that control the "skeletal muscles". The disease is evident at 3-4 months of age. The rear end of the cat sways and at about 5 months of age the cat cannot jump.

There appears to be no pain and there is no treatment. The muscles decrease in size.

A DNA test has been developed at the Laboratory of Comparative Medical Genetics at Michigan State University. Maine Coon cat owners send a cheek swab to the testing center to see if they are carriers before being bred.

This is clearly a service for cat breeders to enable them to remove from their breeding lines a foundation cat which carries this inherited condition. It's vital that breeders "cull" those cats that carry the condition otherwise they will go on producing offspring for years to come, all of whom carry this disease

The illness is carried by an autosomal recessive gene. See more at Maine Coon cat health.

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