Berlin tomcat Willi should be neutered for not having whiskers, a German court has ruled. Allowing the animal to breed and sire more whisker-less kittens would breach animal cruelty rules, according to the judges.
The 4-year old Willi is a Canadian Sphynx, and considered a "family member" by his owner (pictured above), Jacqueline L. The Berlin breeder also owns four females.
"The issue is not whether people find hairless cats to be pretty or not," judge Christian Oestmann said before the Wednesday verdict.
Instead, the court had to decide whether or not breeding cats with no whiskers constitutes animal cruelty under German law.
Ordinary cats use whiskers to enhance their sense of touch, communicate moods and squeeze through narrow passages. The long, sensitive hairs are especially helpful in the dark. Not all Canadian Sphynx cats lack whiskers entirely, others can have either broken or complete ones.
The judges cited the law which forbids rearing of animals that lack "species-specific organs," in the first ruling on the subject since the legislature was adopted in 2013.
'Drawn to humans'
The five-member panel of judges sided with the local veterinary authority, who first decided that Willi should be neutered. The decision also follows a recommendation against breeding hairless cats by German association of cat-breeders DEKZV.
"I would consider the lack of a sensory organ to be harmful," animal expert Thomas Göbel said before court. The veterinarian also said that hairless cats were good-natured, but often suffered skin trouble.
Still, many cat lovers claim that the lack of fur causes no suffering for the cats.
"Hairless cats are drawn to humans and very intelligent," Willi's owner Jacqueline stated.
Breeding of Sphynxes is also a lucrative business, especially with a cat like Willi, who has already won awards for his good looks. Canadian Sphynx kittens can bring in hundreds of euros per animal.
The latest ruling can be appealed, and Jacqueline has already announced she would keep fighting the castration order.
Time is running out for Willi, however, as he would soon be too old to breed.
dj/msh (AFP, AP, dpa)