‘Argylle’: Leading animal charities and welfare organisations share concerns for cat wellbeing in new Hollywood movie

25 January 2024

UK animal charities and welfare groups including BSAVA, International Cat Care, ISFM, Cats Protection, Battersea, PDSA, Blue Cross, RSPCA, Woodgreen, Animal Behaviour & Training Council (ABTC) and the Pet Industry Federation (PIF) are expressing their joint concerns over popularising Scottish Fold cats and potentially harmful behaviours shown towards cats in the trailer for the upcoming film Argylle.

With the movie due to be released by Universal Pictures on 2nd February 2024, the charities and groups hope their shared concerns will lead to more open conversations with the media industry and further education on the health and wellbeing of cats, and their depiction in films.

The choice to feature a cat that resembles a Scottish Fold is disappointing due to the serious health and welfare issues associated with the breed, which are of such concern that breeding them is prohibited in some countries. The cartilage abnormality responsible for their distinctive folded ears affects their joints, meaning these cats go on to develop painful arthritis, even from a young age. The impact of using this breed in a Hollywood film cannot be overstated and is likely to significantly increase their popularity with potential cat owners.

Nathalie Dowgray, Head of ISFM, said:

“International Cat Care (iCatCare) and its veterinary division, the International Society of Feline Medicine (ISFM), believe that it is simply unethical to continue to breed cats with a genetic mutation that is known to cause significant painful disease – the rationale for breeding these cats was purely for traits considered attractive to humans, as some people believe the folded ears look appealing. This is an unnatural appearance for a cat, and the underlying genetic defect has far-reaching and severe consequences for the health of the cat. Health should always be more important than looks.”

The trailer for the film also includes the portrayal of a cat that travels in a backpack and is subjected to rough handling, including being picked up by the scruff and thrown from a building. Though these scenes have been created using digital animation, the organisations share concerns that suggesting these interactions with cats are acceptable or entertaining may have a negative impact on the welfare of cats.

Sarah Ellis, Head of Cat Mental Wellbeing and Behaviour at International Cat Care, said:

“Scruffing a cat is an unacceptable form of restraint that can cause a cat considerable discomfort, fear and even pain, as the weight of its body is completely unsupported, and the cat cannot escape the pressure from its skin being grasped. Backpacks are not a cat friendly way to transport a cat; they can leave a cat cramped, without enough ventilation, struggling to control body temperature, and uncomfortable due to the unpredictable movement from being worn on a person’s back. Backpacks are simply not cat friendly – they do not respect the cat as a species and run the risk of psychological and physical suffering to the cat.”

Universal Pictures has been contacted by the organisations, outlining their concerns and urging them to consider and adopt Cat Friendly Principles in future – including avoiding promotion of cat breeds with extreme features.

Promotion of pet breeds with extreme features (such as flat faces or folded ears) in the media encourages irresponsible breeding and is a critical issue European veterinary groups, of which iCatCare’s veterinary division, the International Society of Feline Medicine (ISFM) and BSAVA are members, are currently tackling to improve animal welfare and have firm positions on the issue.