URBANA — The shape of your cat’s face may indicate more than you realize.
University of Illinois researchers are asking cat owners to participate in on online survey to determine whether cats’ face shapes are associated with certain health and wellness characteristics.
In particular, are brachycephalic cats — the breeds with flat, squishy faces — experiencing breathing issues similar to those of squishy-faced dogs?
Squashed or flat-faced dogs and cats have become popular because they’re considered cute, according to Dr. Hadley Gleason, a veterinary resident and co-investigator of the study.
It’s already known that popular brachycephalic dog breeds, such as bulldogs and pugs, have health issues, Gleason said.
But what about flat-faced cats?
“This is to investigate how feline face shape affects how cats are breathing, what their activity levels are like and how they go about their lives,” she said.
Among the brachycephalic cat breeds are Persian, Himalayan and exotic short-hair cats.
Some people may dismiss certain lifestyle habits of their pets — such as a low activity level — as just common for the breeds when the reality may well be breathing issues, according to Gleason.
Among the questions on the survey:
— How often does your cat sneeze?
— How often does your cat breathe with its mouth open?
— Does your cat have bad breath?
— Does it drool a lot or have trouble eating or drinking?
— How active is your cat?
— How often does your cat purr?
— What position does your cat sleep in most often?
Gleason said the study involves all types of cats and cat face shapes because researchers will need to make comparisons before drawing conclusions.
Hundreds of people with non-brachycephalic cats have participated so far, she said, but more responses are needed from owners of brachycephalic cats.
Participants have the option of including photos of their cats, which are being shared by the UI College of Veterinary Medicine via website and social media.
Find the online survey at go.illinois.edu/Felinesurvey.