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Hand on heart now! How many of you would even consider throwing yourself from the top of a cliff gliding without having read the smallest instruction, without having any lessons and without getting any instructions from someone more experienced? Totally uninformed… just take your glider and go? Not many I guess?
Nevertheless, this is what many people actually do when it comes to cat breeding. Both breeders of pedigree and domestic cats are renowned for initially taking in a female and immediately commencing breeding. It is a very important fact that not all females or males are suitable, regardless of how sweet, tender and nice they are.
Should you choose to glide without experience you are risking your own safety. Commencing breeding without the requisite knowledge can risk your female's health. So much can go wrong during pregnancy and kitten birth, and just like in humans, every pregnancy implies a strain on the female's body and an inherent risk to her life.
What should be considered in healthy breeding?
Well, all the choices you make have far-reaching consequences that spread much wider than one would initially anticipate:
- Make sure the cat that you buy has parents that have been tested for inherited diseases. Testing is specific to the chosen breed and should be done prior to your female becoming pregnant. As a breeder, you can not completely prevent genetic inheritance risks from appearing in the offspring, but by following the recommendations in a proper health programme, you have done everything possible to mitigate the risk and provide assurance to your kitten’s buyer.
- Is your female / male suitable for breeding? Here there are many more criteria to consider than, for example, the cat is pretty and has a nice temperament. The cat must first and foremost have gone through the tests, free from hernia and in males obtained certificates that both testicles are considered normal. Temperament is also a major consideration in choosing breeding cats.
- Does the cat have a good enough standard for the breed? Is the cat considered to have more than adequate characteristics for the pedigree? If you do not have the knowledge yourself, then ask someone for help (with sufficient experience which I consider to be a minimum of 3 years breeding). Learn to see how your breed should look like according to the standard. Do not breed according to your own preferences and aesthetic tastes without studying how the pedigree should really look. Nothing compares to reading and learning and studying yourself. Not all breeders raise cats according to a standard. “Extreme breeding” and "fashion whim breeding" can be often seen in the exhibition world. One year the tail will be extremely long and next the ears will be over-sized. So my advice is research fully on all these points.
- What do you know about the background? Do you know your breed? Is there anything else to consider than just the inbred percentage for five generations? For example, at MCO, there are the clones that we need to take into consideration. NFO has had Pan's Polaris etc. Do not become blind to the numbers but learn how to interpret them. I have seen bad examples where cats have apparently 0% in 5 generations but when looking at the pedigree, one sees that there are siblings mated in near generations and on the other side of the pedigree, there is a female mated with his sister's son. Perhaps not the smartest combination made….
- Something that beginners sometimes do is to buy a male and a female and then mate them several times over and over again. Even BYB's like to redo the same combination several times. This is to be avoided unless there are exceptional mitigating circumstances:
- If no kitten went for breeding for whatever reason, or went to breeding and never had a litter.
- Perhaps you were looking for a female to keep but only got males, or vice versa.
- Maybe there was no "real litter", not more than 1-2 kittens.
But as a general rule to follow, you do not mate the same combination more than once because it does not add variety to the breeding.
- You should not breed in order to produce only pet kittens; a litter should always be made with the aim of adding positives to the breeding. If it does not, there is little point in taking the litter in respect to improving health and genetics. I have heard breeders apologize for making an unusually bad mating match (where the female should not continue in breeding) by selling all the kittens as pets. Such a mating is not breeding, it is “kitten-production” and no better than breeding domestic cats. Of course many litter might end in all kittens being sold as pets, but this should never be the aim, purpose or objective for serious breeders.
I will go deeper into breeding in other documents, such as choosing a kitten, selecting male to a female mating combinations, pregnancy problems that are rarely discussed, and much more.
By: Malin Sundqvist
- Hits: 1630
Going to the male to mate your female often feels like an obvious and easy thing to do. Right up to the day when it’s suddenly time to go.
Many newcomers are often in a hurry, they do not have the experience to read their female, they are worried about missing the "window", even old experienced breeders, who have been doing this for 20 years or more can feel unsafe in this situation if we have a new female we do not know.
Some females got very long heat, ie they will be in heat for many days in a row, these you really have to wait out, I had one that used to be in heat for 21 days with a short dip in the middle, she was in heat only 1-2 times a year but she could not go on day 3 which so often used as a benchmark, she had to wait and go until she was somewhere around 7-9 days into the heat.
Others are in heat for a super short time, their heat lasts only for 2-3 days, if you wait until day 3 the female is on her way out of the heat, here goes the opposite, be quick in the turns.
So when should you go? Well, if you have a new female, it is always a good thing to never go on the first heat, in most cases they will start before all tests are done which means we get the chance to make notes about maybe both 1 and 2 heats before the tests are ready and it's time to mate her. But in some cases, the female may mature later and gets into heat the first time well after the 1st birthday, and since we do not know how often she gets into heat or how quick we may need to be to get her to the male.
Keep an eye on her and when she is in “high heat”, wait and go the second day, then you have time to observe her for a whole day and see she’s really in heat. And then just hope for the best.
Then the question, how can we see that the female is in high heat (not sure if this is the correct translation), well, here we might run into problems. Many are very clear and easy to read, they roll, they scream, roar, eel around the flat on their belly with their back up and tail sideways, they back up to legs, feet, sofas everything that comes in their way.
These lovely ladies are easy, though not so pleasant to deal with as they are in heat. Some give us notice before they get into heat by start with marking territory, in their point of view fantastic places, for us not so fantastic, these ladies announce their upcoming heat very clearly and we can prepare. But then we have these quiet little ladies who do not show any clear signs of being in heat at all. I had such a lady myself, she was so unclear that I had to let one of my own studs meet her when I suspected she was in heat just to be safe if he tried to climb her (which he NEVER did when she was not in heat), Then I knew now was the time. Her only sign of heat was that she walked by the front door once in a while with that typical Maine coon sound not loud at all just a small sound from time to time.
In these ladies cases, one must be aware of changes, though never so small, is she extraordinarily cuddly? Does she talk a little more than usual?
I usually check these by grabbing them by the neck and then scratching them a little on the side at the hind legs if they go down flat on their stomach and put the tail aside and “trampling” with the hind legs, it is a sign that she is in heat.
Many new breeders or pet owners make the mistake thinking that if you scratch her on the back and she pushes her back against your hand then she is in heat. In fact, this has nothing to do with heat, the cat has scent glands on their back if you stroke a cat even if it’s neutered on that spot they will react the same. So the cat should not be up in the air but down to the floor.
At the male:
And then all this with the male, there is a lot to keep in mind regarding the male and the date with the male also.
Not all males/females actually like each other, not even at a heat. Some males are really rough and almost rape all that gets in their way, while others are more of a gentleman and waiting for the female to invite them. Some of them are tricky and will get the female where they want by fooling them :)
Some males and females who are growing up together do not always want to mate with each other when they become adults. But most often they are pretty promiscuous which can make a mess for us when they manage to open doors and mate someone we absolutely not planned for.
Other times they can be the perfect match but they just do not want to mate each other to our great despair, in those cases, it can help to separate them for a longer period of time.
Males that are extremely friendly and timid can be frightened if their first female to mate is a real bitch, and it can be so bad that the male never dares to mate again. So a good idea is to mate a beginner with an older experienced no matter if it’s a male or a female.
If you got a female that is a bit tougher it's often a good idea to mate her to a male that is a bit tough breeding wise and not choose the most cautious boy.
By: Malin Sundqvist
- Hits: 1769
Have you read about health programs and the importance of following these no matter what breed you have? If not, begin there. If you have Maine Coon, read about the clones and what they mean to the breed, if it's hard to understand, something is unclear or if you just have some more questions, please get in touch! Send me an email or a pm on FB. (www.dagdrivarn.se)
Here are some tips when it comes to breeding in general. Some of the experiences I have collected during my 20 years as a breeder.
- When you start looking for your first kitten to start breeding, I have two words for you who should be your constant companion throughout the process ... "patience" and "mentor"! Don't rush it. To learn how to read pedigrees and recognize common lines, etc. Before you even bought your first queen is not realistic, it takes an awful lot of time to learn. But start looking, learn to recognize the names that occur. Be sure to find a good mentor, someone who shares the same values as you do, and try to find someone who follows, for example, current recommendations on health programs, etc.
Choose a mentor with experience! Sure your breeder may be your mentor, even if they only breed for 2-4 years, but then make sure that your breeder has a good mentor or choose another mentor with a few more years on the neck. Your mentor may not necessarily have the same breed as yourself, but it may be an advantage when it comes to breed-specific questions. Let it all take time, and for god's sake do not give in and import your first cat, I've seen too many ”go over the river after water”. An import means far from new lines in many, many cases and it does costs money, a lot of money and many times for nothing if you are new and inexperienced and don't know what to look for.
- And when you are looking for your first cat and you are just about to go into breeding.
Please when you contact breeders having kittens, make sure to do a proper presentation.
Tell the breeder how you think, what your goal is, how you feel about the health program and on MCO the clones. How will you breed, if you have a mentor and so on… just never ever send an e-mail saying just ”Hi I'm a new breeder I want to buy this kitten!” Trust me in a few years you will understand why and see everything from a different angle ;-)
- Always select the best in the litter for breeding, avoid getting caught in the ”longing for a specific color-trap” at least until you have more a bit more experienced, and even then, do this with selection. Our breeding will get us to our goal much faster by always selecting the best kitten from each litter. Read the standard properly, so you do not risk falling for "fashion whims". I often recognize cats with extreme looks and notice many people saying that they are so, so, beautiful, and all I can see are a whole bunch of clean mistakes according to the standard. Please read the document "The Standard in Pictures" and learn to see with your own eyes how a correct cat should look like according to standard. Look at how a correct profile looks like, how a correct ear placement, how a correct pair of eyes look, etc. Trust me, the so-called European Look is a lot of times not even close to looking according to standard.
- Once you get your first litter, evaluate carefully. Do not be afraid to be seated with unsold kittens. This happens very rarely, and frankly if you have a kitten at home for a longer period of time, what does it matter? I never accept bookings from pet buyers before 4 weeks of age, at 4-6 weeks sometime, it's advisable to start releasing the "worst" in the litter for pet purposes if somebody might got a fault like a hernia or a tail fault or simply isn't strong enough in type. Those who are might go into breeding are preferably evaluated until at least 8 weeks of age. You might say that the longer you evaluate the more chance you are to really choose the right to one to move on with. This applies even if you are going to sell the kitten for breeding purposes. Do not forget the temper of the kitten.
- When it's time for them to start moving, do not forget that 12 weeks are definitely the earliest, it does NOT mean they necessarily need to move on the day they are 12 weeks old, some litters are a pain in the ass, to keep at home until they are around 14 weeks or older but it will pay off for you in the end. Learn to find out if your kittens are ready to move, you might have a litter with some more insecure individuals, who are not so social, they may be scared of sounds (all cats might rush off if there is a sudden noise but they will quickly bounce back again, as soon as it's quiet again).
If after being frightened, a kitten lying stays hidden for a longer or shorter time, it's a good idea to give them some more time with their mom. Someone may move at 12 weeks, someone at 13 or later. I usually leave the moving date a little open and explain that it is around 14 weeks, but it may happen that they can move earlier if the kitten is secure and stable. Some litters stay longer regardless.
- When it comes to kittens for breeding, it recommended that you avoid selling too many from each litter for breeding, we usually try to limit it to 2 kittens per litter, but you must always look at the whole. If the female/male has hardly any offspring in a breeding program and this is the last litter, it may not matter if three go to breeding instead of two, etc. It is a constant balance-act. You always have to keep an eye on it and think about it. The same applies if you have a stud you are letting others use (stud service), make clear in the contract what is applicable, max 2 for breeding from each litter and that everything else can be discussed and might be allowed by a written agreement. Nevertheless, never do a mating with the intention that all kittens would become pets, this is nothing but kitten-production and in no way better than breeding on your domestic cat (if we assume that this litter is being tested, vaccinated, chipped, etc.). So always mate with a plan on each a litter you take, even if you can not save a kitten yourself, there will be others who can benefit from it. Never do a mating that you would not like to keep from yourself! Of course, I do not mean that you can not do it only because you cannot keep yourself, maybe because of relatives or because of the number of cats at home. What I mean is that if you think these are going to be only pet for some reason, do not do the mating , if you feel wow what a mating this will be, but I just can’t keep anything myself, then yes, do make the mating and put the best kittens under evaluation for breeding so that someone else can enjoy the combination. There might be several litters where everyone becomes pet anyway, completely unplanned, that's another story, that happens from time to time, but do not do the mating with the intention of the kittens being sold as pets.
- This one might not be suitable for other countries I do not know how the insurance situation looks like for you? Get the kittens their own individual insurances early. It costs a little more but is worth it if something happens, giving your kittens their own individual insurance already at 6 weeks of age may be worth gold. If mom is has breeding insurance, the kittens are covered through her until they move, but they cover far from as much as "real" insurance. (However, for Agria as I have, it may be worth checking out what applies to your particular company). Normally I also takes the extra breeding insurance when the kittens I evaluate for breeding is about 10 weeks old since Agria says that the kitten has to get it before 4 month of age and sometimes I will not sell the kitten before it is about 4,5 to 5 month if I hold it until a good breeder shows up :-)
- When you start up ... I hope that with this document I can reach many new breeders before they startup. When you start your startup and you have bought your first breeding queen, do not fall for the temptation to buy more cats. Two ladies are okay but stop there, one female is fully enough too, keep in mind that you may want to save a kitten to continue with, how would that work out if you already filled your quota at home with 4 purchased females and a stud or maybe even more? I have seen many new breeders, those last few years that bought many, many cats directly. First of all, you are completely new to this and it makes sense to start slowly and to learn on the way. If you have only one female, it’s easier to change direction.
- Having your own male? You might have bought a female or two, maybe you even have your own male already? Or maybe you stumble on this when you've been going for a couple of years and already have your own male and 3-4 females. Anyway, here's some advice when you have your own male. It’s easy to be attracted to the simplicity of simply mating your own male to all your females, maybe not just once. I have been in the position when I had 2 fitting males at home and likewise chosen to borrow another's male because the males I had did not match my female, as well as another male, did. They may not be as interesting enough, or maybe by borrowing a male to one of my females who is completely unrelated to my other cats, I can save a male that I can use on my other females. Avoid painting yourself in a corner, ie. use your own male on all your females, and then save maybe both females and a male from those matings ... after doing this, even if you bought a female or two, who would you then use the male on if everyone is related to everyone? If possible, try to separate your females in two different lines, to get more benefits from those in the future. Try to plan your breeding for the future, well we all know plans do not always work out, but having a plan in your head or even on paper is definitely not wrong anyway, you may need both a plan B plan C and Plan D. But keep in mind how to get the best use of the lines/cats you already have at home. how you keep them unrelated so that you may be able to use what you have in two or three generations instead of just one.
By: Malin Sundqvist
- Hits: 1609
In Sweden, it is very common for both new breeders and long-time breeders to not have their own male.
We often go to each other for what you call stud service, this is a culture among us in Sweden.
But when you want to borrow a male, please make sure to do some background work by your self first.
If you are really new to this, ask your mentor for help, but please do not contact the male owner before you know a little bit more.
Examples I have all to often seen and heard from female-owners asking for a male:
- My female is in heat now, I like your male can I come to you with my female today?
- When asked about the females pedigree: I don't know her pedigree but she is called Sweetie and she is very nice!
- What males do you have? (I think this is rude if you can't even bother to look at the homepage or some other way first find a male you like before you ask)?
There is plenty more from where those statements came from.
So start by looking on facebook or on homepages (I really prefer homepages with all the information easy to be seen), until you find a male you like...
Of course, if the pedigree is not available there is nothing wrong with sending a message or e-mail and ask for it.
When you what to borrow a male:
- Start looking and make connections early, not the same day or week you female will be in heat
- Do test matings before contacting the owner so that you know they are a match
When contacting the owner of the male:
- Do a proper presentation with your cattery name
- Do tell what you plan for the mating is, not only that he is a sweet boy.
- If you feel unsure just tell the breeder that you will be happy to get some help and advice.
- Describe your direction in your breeding, if you work with outcross or show or maybe both
- Send the link to the test mating you did on PawPeds.
If you get a NO, respect that no one says no without good reason, sometimes there I reasons you cant see. You can ask if the breeder would like to tell you the reason, maybe there is a reason you can learn from, but ask in a way where it's possible for the breeder to not answer, sometimes it is hard to give an answer.
Maybe the answer will hurt? Maybe there is something the owner of the male just does not want to talk about right now?
Or whatever reason, sometimes we just have to be content with a no, and that no one is doing this without good reason.
By: Malin Sundqvist