Pedigree cats bred to have flat faces are more likely to suffer from breathing difficulties, according to a study.

The research led by the University of Edinburgh found flat-faced cat breeds were more likely to have breathing problems after exercise and while asleep.

Researchers say owners of breeds with flat faces - such as the Persian and Exotic - should be aware of the risks and seek veterinary care if they suspect their pet is in difficulty.

The study - published in the journal PLOS One - saw hundreds of owners submitting photographs of their cats so researchers could measure the faces of the animals.

Owners were asked to complete a detailed health survey about their pets, including questions about lifestyle and breathing patterns.

Impaired breathing is a hallmark condition called brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome (BOAS), which can lead to health problems throughout an animal's life.

The difficulties are well-reported in dogs but breathing problems in flat-faced cats have not been fully investigated.

Professor Danielle Gunn-Moore, of the University of Edinburgh's Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, said: "This study demonstrates the need to further understand the genetic basis of brachycephalia in cats.

"Owners worried about their cat's breathing should consult a vet immediately."

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