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EDITORIAL

By Sheelagh Le Cocq

I get many letters and phone calls from people new to breeding who ask the same questions so I decided to put the answers in the Newsletter and hope that they will be of use. I would like to thank various breeders, past and present, and veterinary surgeons, who have helped me with compiling the answers. These answers are based on the welfare of the cat and though I do know of people who are going against these recommendations, and getting away with it, they provide a fair Code of Conduct for novices and experienced breeders alike.

  1. I have a female kitten. What age should I mate her?
  1. Although she may start calling at 6 months old or even less, under no circumstances should she be mated before a year old. 15-18 months is recommended.
  1. How long can I go on breeding from her?
  1. Vets generally recommend that a queen stops breeding at around 7/8 years old. If you do carry on breeding to the upper age limit, you should ensure that the cat is in good health and has not been overbred.
  1. how many litters should I expect to get?
  1. Caring breeders will normally have one litter a year, at most 3 litters in two years. NOT 2 or 3 litters a year. This is unfair and detrimental to the health of both mum and kittens.

Q. What should I look for in choosing a stud to take my queen to? What do I do? How much should I expect to pay for the mating?

A. There are problems choosing a Traditional stud in that there are very few of them . If you have a "Classic" queen you will need to go to a "Traditional" stud. If you have a "Traditional" queen, you can afford to be more choosy. There are many good "Classic" studs. Look for good, old lines not too far back. Apply for our stud list and look carefully at the stud's pedigree. Inclusion in the list does not guarantee that they will throw "Traditionals", only that there is a good possibility that they will.

When you have a stud in mind, try to go to see him before your queen calls. He should have a large, clean run with separate quarters for the queen, look bright, alert and interested in visitors. If he is lethargic or disinterested, he could be sick or overworked. He should also be friendly and not timid or aggressive.

Arrange details with the stud owner before taking your queen to mate.

The stud owner should ask you a lot of questions, please don't be offended. They must safeguard their stud and prevent the spread of infection. Your queen should be fully vaccinated and you may also be asked for a current leukemia (FELV) negative certificate. You are entitled to ask that the stud has an up to date leukemia certificate too. You should be asked if your queen is a maiden, i.e. has never been mated. These can cause problems for a young inexperienced stud.. The general rule is that you should take an inexperienced queen to an experienced stud and vice versa.

Ask if the mating will be supervised. Any good stud owner will supervise the proceedings, and only after several matings will the queen be left in overnight with the male, providing that they are getting on well together.

Ask how long your queen will be left with the stud. Most breeders allow two or three days, allowing mating over the maximum amount of the time. Others will allow you to take your queen home the same day as long as there has been at least one witnessed mating.

Ask what the stud owner will do if your queen should prove not to be pregnant.

Do they offer a free mating? Although not obliged to, most stud owners do as a gesture of good faith. Others offer a reduction in price or charge simply for the queen's food while she is there.

Expect to pay anywhere between L50.00 or L100.00. Most studs should be in the lower end of the price bracket. The higher price range is for well known, popular or champion studs.

When your queen has been mated and you hand over the stud fee, the owner should give you a certificate of mating, a copy of the stud's pedigree and a receipt. Make sure that you have these valuable documents before you leave.

Even if the stud's quarters are clean and well cared for, there will always be a smell of tom cat's urine, that is inevitable, but it should not stink either of urine or disinfectant. Check that the queen has her own separate quareters within the stud run. She should initially be put in there within sight, sound and smell of the stud until she has settled. Only the should she be released with him. Be very wary of leaving your queen with a male if there are no queen's quarters. She could be badly injured or injure the stud and a bad fight at such a crucial time could put her off mating for life.

There should also be a shelf for the stud to take refuge on after mating. You con't want the stud owner sueing you for damage to the stud!

  1. How long will the queen be pregnant?
  1. Assuming that the mating was successful, expect your girl to five birth in 65 days. In fact, her gestation can last anything from 63 to 68 days. Do not let her go too long over her time. If kittens do not appear within 3 to 4 days after the expected date, pleases consult your veterinary surgeon.

The subject of birth, breeding problems and kitten rearing is too involved to go into in this article and will be treated as a separate subject in a future issue. We will assume that your kittens have been form and are thriving.

Most of the following questions come from would be purchasers.

  1. How do I go about choosing a kitten?
  1. Always buy a kitten direct from a breeder. Ask to see the mother with the kittens and the father, if possible. Ask to see a copy of the pedigree. Some breeders are willing to let you view the kittens from 6 weeks old, others prefer that you do not visit until they are ready to go.

The kittens must be at least 12 weeks old before they leave home. Do not be tempted to take them earlier eve if the breeder is prepared to let them go.

Make sure that the kittens are healthy and alert...No runny eyes or noses or sneezing. They should be plump, bright eyed and playful. Expect mum to look thin, that's only natural. But she should be in a reasonable condition.

Be wary if mum or kittens are very nervous or timid. They may not grow out of it. The kittens should have been raised in the home with plenty of contact with humans, other animals and household appliances, not an outside run. Choose a bold, friendly kitten and even though you may be very tempted, please don't take the runt of the litter.

Look around at the environment that they are in. Is it clean? Are there any fleas? Are the litter trays clean? Is the water and food fresh? There should be no stale food lying around and no flies.

If you want a "Traditional" type kitten, look for a stocky body, short dumpy legs and a round face. Even in the same litter, kittens vary enormously, so check each one carefully. A good breeder should be able to advise you on type, but remember that not all breeders can be relied on. Some just want to make a sale.

  1. What will the breeder ask me?
  1. Experienced breeders have a sixth sense where purchasers are concerned and will refuse to sell if they are not happy with you as a would be purchaser. Expect to answer a lot of searching questions. Some breeders won't sell where there are very young children. Others want someone at home at least part of the day. In England, many breeders will only sell to people with gardens. In the U.S.A. a huge number specify "indoor" only. You will also be asked if the cat is for breeding or as a pet only.

Once the breeder is happy with you and you with him/her and you have chosen your kitten, you then prepare to collect it.

  1. How much should I expect to pay for a "Traditional" Kitten?
  1. Most Traditional and Classic Kittens go for between L125/L150. This should include all vaccinations and kitten cover insurance.
  1. What age does the kitten get vaccinated? What do I need to do?
  1. Your kitten will have been vaccinated at 9 weeks for cat flu/enteritis. It should have received the second vaccination at 12 weeks before leaving the breeder. Some breeders will try to save money by letting the kittens go before the second vaccination. Do not be taken in by this. Insist that the kitten has its jab before you collect it. In the rare event that this is not possible, ask the breeder to reduce the purchase price by the cost of the vaccination (around L15.00) and make sure that you have it done at 12 weeks old. Do not forget about it. Some breeders will have a litter vaccinated for leukemia and chlamydia, but you will pay for this in the purchase price.

These conscientious breeders know that many people forget to have them done, or try to save money. Ask your breeder what vaccinations have been given, if they are incomplete, see your vet as soon as possible.

  1. What should the breeder give me to go with the kitten?
  1. You should have a diet sheet showing what your kitten has been fed and at what times. If you want to change it, only do so gradually.

You should also have a copy of the kitten's pedigree and signed transfer for which you will need to send to the G.C.C.F. to register the transfer of ownership.

Make sure you have the veterinary vaccination book so that your vet can see what type of vaccine the kitten has had.

It is advisable to have a kitten insurance cover note. Most breeders give it free, others make a small charge. It will insure your kitten for the first 4 to 6 weeks and is very worthwhile.

Finally, make sure that you have a receipt for the purchase price signed by the breeder. This should state whether the kitten is intended for breeding or as a pet only. Failure to obtain this can result in legal action later on when you want to breed your kitten and find that the breeder has only registered him/her on the non-active register.

It should be noted here that only a breeder can specify whether you can breed from your kitten or not.

If you want to breed at a later date, ask the breeder when you phone to arrange to view the kittens, not all breeders will sell for breeding. You may get an outright, "No.", in which case there is no point in wasting your time seeing the kittens. If the answer is "possibly" it may be that the breeder wants to see and talk to you about your reasons for wanting to breed. This is usually the sign of a good caring breeder. If a breeder automatically puts all his/her kittens on the active register, beware, it may mean that they are more interested in money than the welfare of the cat, since many charge extra for a kitten for breeding. In Traditional Siamese this shouldn't happen, but it does.

Check if the breeder has a different price structure for "pet' and "breeding" quality before buying. It's too late after handing over your money.

If the breeder insists that the kitten is "pet" quality and endorses the pedigree that it must not be bred from, ask why. It may be that they genuinely do not want indiscriminate breeding or it may mean that there is a genetic fault, which they do not want passed on. If the latter is the reason, demand details and a hefty reduction in the purchase price. Even if you do not want to breed and only want the kitten as a neutered pet, there is no reason why you should pay full price for a kitten that has a genetic fault, even though it may never show or cause health problems.

Your cat/kitten can be moved from the inactive to the active register at any age on the authority of the breeder, so if you change your mind, it may be worth contacting them to see if they will agree to do it. There will inevitably be a charge levied for doing this.