By Kay Hill
If I were asked, "What is the greatest mistake one can make with a stud?" I
would answer, "To hurry things."
I have had ample time, living as I have done for many years in a remote
countryside, to study the behavior of semi-wild farm cats. Courtship is a
ritual with meticulously observed rules, and one of these is the right of the
female to accept or reject the amorous male exactly when it pleases her. There
is a period, sometimes long , sometimes short, of extreme provocation, flight,
coyness, and flaring rage, which suddenly subsides into acceptance.
I am convinced that kittens born of a happy natural courtship are better
kittens than those from unhappy queens who fall into the hands of commercial
breeders intent only on money. I have been told of a young Siamese stud with
seven queens on the premises in a queue to be mater.
I allow a visiting queen several hours, often twelve, of complete quiet
with time to eat, drink, use her tray, become used to my voice and presence
and to the sounds and scents of new surroundings before I introduce her to the
male. If she shows signs of invitation before that time, then the introduction
takes place earlier.
Upon introduction, I judge the whole process by the behavior of my stud. He
knows better than I do the state of the queen's mind, and, by the unmistakable
tones of his voice, and working in complete harmony with him, I know what to
Often a queen seemingly reluctant and apparently quite nasty will respond
to one's voice, or to a single caress. One can visit the stud house at 11:00
p.m. and meet with failure. At midnight there is instant success.
I have made it a rule over the twenty years or so I have owned males to
never exceed two queens a week. On rare occasions I have allowed three, when
the queens have been old hands, who have mated immediately. This gives each
queen the matings to which she is entitled on one of the great occasions of
her life. She goes home relaxed and happy, usually reluctant to leave.
When a young stud starts work, I refuse all maiden queens for a year, until
he has gained confidence in his ability to master the female and protect
One gets the odd queen, usually mishandled elsewhere, who presents a real
problem, if not a danger, to both stud and owner. These above all need
patience and i have found that one trick that works is to remove the stud at
each sign o temper, until surprise brings the queen to her senses. I remember
one queen, who launched herself, screaming, at my eyes every time I opened the
door. She calmed in time, until she saw me put on a pair of gloves and went
berserk. It was easy to guess what her previous experience had been! She
eventually became a placid matron and produced lovely litters until extreme
We hear distressing stories of stud kep in terrible conditions, overworked,
lacking exercise, light and fresh air, but owners of queens should be warned
that they c grossly mishandled in perfect surroundings, upset for days or
weeks and made reluctant to repeat the process.
There is a price to pay for everything and I fervently believe that a
faulty start to life, followed by the failure to neuter perfect looking
kittens of faulty strain or stamina; raising weaklings on antibiotics; the
fanatical pursuit of show awards (to benefit the owners not the cats), the
exaggeration of the standard of points to the verge of insanity have resulted
in the heartbreak of many purchasers of kittens and disaster to many breeders.
The last stud I will ever own is now ten years old. During his remaining
years he will enjoy the visits of his old flames. I can therefore say now,
without fear of being accused of self-advertising, that during my entire
career I have never had a fading kitten or litter, and if there has ever been
one among all the queens I have had on my premises, I have never been told of
Novices, now mature breeders, have followed my advice with success and are
determined to put the health and stamina and happiness of their cats before
fame or monetary gain.
The odd thing is that the wheel is beginning to turn. People are asking for
kittens that are not of exaggerated show type. They say they cannot stand
another heartbreak. I have been overwhelmed with inquiries. I have had to turn
down orders. Commercial breeders would do well to heed this advice in the
light of so many breeding troubles.
The cat "walks by itself" only to the extent that it has never become
subject to man. It does not walk by itself where its own species is concerned,
but constantly demands and enjoys physical contact, and an change of grooming,
as distinct from sex. I had, however, a Siamese male, a most potent sire of
large litters, who would drop any queen he was mating and let her squirm on
the floor, if he saw food approaching - presumable on Kipling's principle that
,"a woman is only a woman, but a good cigar is a smoke".
I do not believe that anyone with imagination will deny a stud cat every
opportunity to feel that he is part of a household, human and animal. He
should be able to see from his premises the comings and goings in both garden
and house, and feel that he is the lord of his territory. The owner should
snatch every opportunity to talk to him, caress him, make him feel important
and loved. How ease it is, when preparing a meal, to hand over the tasty
scraps to the queens and neuters, and how difficult to put on gumboots and a
raincoat and go out in filthy weather to take a few scraps of chicken, a
sliver of cooked fish, or a few prawns, to the gentleman in the garden. Yet
how rewarding that deep, rumbling purr can be, putting one to shame for even
It5 is the unexpected visit, the sound of a voice, a quick caress, the
making of an excuse to go out when it is not technically necessary, that I
think should be part of our debt and our conscience.
I am the last person to want to humanize my cats. To turn them into "pussies',
to feel maternal towards them. I want them feline and beautiful, burning
bright, like Blake's vision of a tiger. There is a subtler relationship
between man and cat, described by David Garnett in "A Man in the Zoo", that i
feel can, and should, exist between stud owner and stud cat.
"They were equals in everything, and there was in
their love none of that fawning servility on the
]one side and domineering ownership on the other
that makes nearly all the dealings of man and animals so degrading to each
of the parties...
both were in their nature gay and sportive with
pleasant manners, which admirably concealed the
untamed wildness of their tawny hearts.