By Sheelagh Le Cocq
Last time we discussed various frequently asked questions by novice breeders on mating a queen and selling kittens. This time I intend to answer questions on the actual birth and also about keeping studs.
- How can I first tell that my queen is pregnant?
- After about three weeks you should notice that her nipples have become enlarged and pink. This the only real sign until 5-6 weeks, when the pregnancy starts to become obviously noticeable. It is possible for the vet to do an ultra sound scan, but this usual and is quite expensive.
- Once I am sure that she is pregnant, should I give her ore to eat? Take extra care of her? Give her extra vitamins?
- Extra Good quality food should be given after the 5th week. If you normally feed her twice a day, give a mid-day meal of meat or fish, cheese, eggs or dilute evaporated milk. If you don't want to give the milk or she doesn't like it, start giving multi vitamins now. After the 6th week introduce another meal, usually late in the evening. With the size of the developing kittens her stomach is unable to hold a vast amount at a time. Small, frequent meals are better than two large ones.
- Do I need to prepare somewhere for her to have her kittens or will she make her own choice?
- It is not a good idea to allow her to roam free in the latter stages of pregnancy. Confine her to one room about a week before she is due to give birth. A large cardboard box is deal. Most cats like to feel enclosed, when giving birth. Make sure it is lined with old towels or sheets, with plenty of newspaper underneath.
- How can I tell when she has started labor?
- You may notice that she has gone off her food, and she will probably be very restless. She may also have a clear vaginal discharge. One very obvious sign is that she will start to prepare her "nest", shredding newspaper and kneading. This first stage of labor can go on for several hours. You should then notice that she is having regular contractions, which come closer and closer together until she is having one every thirty seconds.
- Should I take an active role or should I let her get on with it?
- If you are a novice, it is far wiser to let your queen get on with it. Interference will probably do more harm than good. Keep a eye on her progress and be prepared to call the vet if there are any problems.
- How can I tell if all is not right?
- After more than an hour of heavy contractions (i.e. every thirty seconds with no kitten appearing), if your queen is straining and becoming exhausted, and if a placenta (after birth) is not passed for each kitten is born. Do keep an eye on this as the queen may eat them.
She may have her kittens close together or there may be a gap of 1/2 or even an hour between births. She should, however, break open each sac and wash the kitten to get it to breath. If she doesn't, gently break the sac and rub the kitten gently. Do not pull or try to lift it away, if it is still attached by the umbilical cord.
Sometimes a queen will go many hours in between kittens, 8/12 hours is not unusual, though she should not be having contractions during this time. Only if she is contracting with no kitten appearing should you worry.
- Should I give the mother and kittens any extra heat?
- If it is in Spring or Summer, it should not be necessary to give any additional heat source. In Winter a heated pad or covered hot water bottle should be used to keep the kittens warm.
- Should I leave her quiet or clean up the bed?
- Some queens resent interference. Others are happy for you to remove the debris and put the whole family in a clean bed. Make sure that she has plenty of clean water. Try offering a light meal, after the birth is over, but often she won't take anything for at least 24 hours. Keep her quiet and don't keep disturbing her once you are satisfied that all is well. Some queens may kill their kittens if continually disturbed.
- Should I keep my own stud?
- Unless you are really going into breeding in a big way, the answer must be an emphatic NO.
- I intend to keep several queens and would find it more convenient to have my own stud. Do you still advise me not to keep one?
- It is still not advisable to keep a stud unless you have at least 3-4 queens and can ensure that he will get outside work.
- What size quarters should I keep him in, or will I be able to keep him in the house?
- It will be impossible to keep a stud in the house due to his anti-social habit of spraying. You will need to provide a large stud house with room for a separate queens' pen. This should be large enough for her bed and litter tray, food and water. She should be secure but still able to see, smell and hear the stud. There should also be a large secure outside run, preferably with grass and tree trunks, as large as your garden allows.
An un-neutered male would normally roam over a territory of approximately five miles. In keeping him caged, we are going against his natural roaming instincts, and should therefore aim to make his life, artificial though it is, as pleasant and interesting as possible.
- Where should I site my stud quarters?
- This is a very difficult question to answer without seeing your property. When they do not have a queen, many studs become very vocal and can annoy the neighbors. This can partially be minimized by ensuring that your stud is shut in his house at night, if he shows signs of being a "caller". Some breeders shut their stud in every night. If you have no close neighbors, let him have his freedom. Although you need to keep the run as far away from neighbors as possible, this does not mean that you should site the run at the far end of your garden out of sight and sound. The stud house should be in close proximity to the house, where your cat can see everything going on, if he is not to become lonely and neurotic.
- Does he have to live on his own or can I let him have company?
- Many breeders do keep a spayed queen with a stud, when he has no other female company. Often this is one of their breeding queens, who has gone past breeding age and been neutered. Some studs are happy with this, others won't tolerate another cat sharing their quarters on a permanent basis.
- I lead a busy life. Should I keep a stud?
- No. You will need to spend a considerable amount of time every day with your stud, not just cleaning and feeding, but talking to him and grooming him.
Will you feel like spending time with him when it is raining, or in the depth of Winter? It isn't fair to leave him on his own, while you sit around the fire with your queens and neuters. While your own queens may be quite relaxed with him, visiting queens may not be. Are you prepared to spend many hours sitting there, maybe late into the night to observe a mating? More importantly are your husband and children prepared to let you spend the amount of time required with your stud?
- How many queens will I need to keep him happy?
- All studs vary. Some require a queen only every two or three months. Others need an average of two a month. Ask yourself if you can provide the amount of work he needs from the Siamese in your area.
- If it doesn't work out, will I be able to neuter him and keep him as a pet?
- It is very difficult to rehabilitate neutered studs, especially those who have been frustrated due to insufficient queens, or who have been kept short of human company. They may find it very hard to adapt to a domestic household and many never entirely lose their habit of spraying.
This may all sound rather negative, especially as some of you already keep your own studs. However, it cannot be emphasized enough that keeping a stud is not for novices.
Take your queens to established studs. You will see good and bad practices. Learn from them what to do and what not to do. Only when you have considerable knowledge and experience under your belt should you consider keeping a stud of your own.