BREEDERS’ MANUAL

BREEDING CATS ....... A Practical Guide
revised edition

by

Truda M Straede

published by  Dr T M Straede, 2006
copyright Dr T M Straede, 1997
ISBN  0 646  32668  6

THIS MANUAL CAN BE PURCHASED FROM THE AUTHOR  'EVERGREEN' 15 SOUTHBANK ROAD, BUNYIP, VICTORIA 3815,  AUSTRALIA
PRICE $25 (AUSTRALIAN) in person, SINGLE COPIES INCLUDING POSTAGE $35.

Overseas purchasers may send an International Money Order in Australian Dollars, which can be drawn on an Australian Bank. These can be bought over the counter at your bank, and I can deposit them like a local cheque.

This is a ‘hands on’ manual, covering from buying your first breeding kitten/cat, until your first litter is ready for sale. Details of feeding, rearing, birthing are provided, solving breeding problems, and kitten rearing problems are covered.

 

To whet your appetite, the following is a short extract covering some of the things you might consider right at the start of your breeding career:

SETTING YOUR OBJECTIVES

The vast majority of breeders just drift into breeding - some set out to have a bit of fun with one queen, some are intent on making money (I'd be very surprised if they have ever opened this book, or indeed any other book on animal husbandry!), some have one litter more or less by mistake - and find they like it. Of all those owners who rear one litter of kittens, less than forty percent rear a second, and of all those who join a pedigree cat registering body only about 20% are still breeders after 3 years.

One or Two Litter Breeders

The huge turnover in breeders has a multitude of causes, not least amongst them being 'one litter for the children'; or finding that they love rearing the kittens so much that they can't bear to part with them (instantly their 'cat capacity' is all filled up!).

Failing to achieve instant success on the show bench, sometimes because the breeder from whom they made their initial purchase misled them about the quality of the kitten or because the other exhibitors at their first show were so horrid to them, also cuts short breeding careers.

A disaster with their first litter, through ignorance, lack of assistance, or through having been sold a kitten with a poor health prospect (eg flu, Coronavirus or leukaemia shedding); so that the first litter they attempt to raise has endless expensive and distressing problems is also a sure 'turn off'.

Hitting the Two year Barrier

After 2-3 years, those breeders who have rapidly bred and kept a lot of kittens may be beginning to have real health and management problems in their cattery. This is particularly so when insufficient time, thought and effort has been expended in the establishment of pens, runs etc. These problems cannot be solved without a serious analysis, and honest assessment of the situation, and the expenditure of money on better facilities. Desexing the cats, and finding homes for them is  frequently an answer to this problem, and is really a blessing for the welfare of all those kittens which they subsequently did not breed. If you think you might be approaching this crunch point soon, start assessing your situation now.
*If you don't have even a kitten pen, save up and buy one, or if you are handy, build one.
*If you have started out with kittens of more than one breed, choose.
Desex the members of the breed in which you have the least interest, those  you find hardest to sell, those you have learnt over time, are not of show quality. If possible, find these cats pet homes. Simply try to reduce the population down to a size where you are comfortable caring for it, and learn from your initial over-enthusiasm, that you have limits!
*Ask for some help - not everyone in the Cat Fancy will be mean to you, indeed, many may see you as a potentially sound breeder who just got a bit carried away. There are appalling disasters every couple of years amongst such new breeders - make sure that you don't become one - think of your cats.

Planning to Stay for the Long Term

If you are just setting out as a breeder, try to avoid ever reaching the 'crunch' point, make some ground rules for yourself to govern the growth rate of your cat population. If you have cleaned up your act, as suggested above, you might now consider how to proceed to avoid the same problems recurring. The following are some suggested rules which you might adopt, they may be modified or supplemented to suit your personal situation:
    1 Decide what your maximum number should be, work all your choices within this constraint, less one (in case you breed a kitten so stunning that everyone gets down on their knees and begs you to keep it!)
    2 Don't buy a new kitten on impulse: all new stock purchases to be carefully considered, well planned, and the very best quality you can afford
    3 Don't buy a new breed unless you plan to change your main emphasis to a new area: a new breed almost invariably means that you can see ways that it can be improved, that you can breed a better specimen - this means your population expands at a faster rate
    4 Don't just have litters for the sake of it, plan every one carefully, have a list of objectives that a mating might achieve:

introduces a new colour/pattern/hair length
tests to see whether your cat is carrying a particular recessive, hair length, pattern, colour (or even a defect)
possible upgrade of characteristics eg type, eye colour, ear placement
likely to produce better temperament kittens
test mating with another line, with long term view to buying a stud, or to choose complementary lines to broaden your own line.
correction of breed fault in your queen
hopefully to produce a show winning litter, containing breeding quality kittens

Choices of matings which fulfil more than one objective are obviously most satisfactory, but don't be afraid to occasionally go for the wild card mating - it may be disastrous, but it may also exceed your wildest dreams. This is a good mating to try when kitten sales are good, and you know that the progeny will sell quickly, whatever the show quality.
    5 If you are going to buy a new kitten, reassess your existing population. Is there a kitten at home which you don't need to keep, or a cat which you no longer think good enough? Aim  to replace an existing breeding cat and find the retiring one a good home. This becomes an essential strategy when you are approaching your maximum number
    6 Never buy or breed a new kitten to keep without first deciding where it is going to live. Will it make your queen colony too large? What will you do if she turns out to be a witch that won't live with other cats? Will it mean that you must acquire another kitten pen - and where is it going to go? Even more importantly, if it is a stud-to-be, do you HAVE THE MONEY AND THE SPACE TO PUT UP HIS STUD HOUSE BEFORE HE IS 4 MONTHS OLD?
    7 Never keep a small, specially appealing or runty kitten - particularly one that you have practically hand raised. I have found that these little fur persons are very appealing to the kitten buyers - just pop them in with another full price kitten, just for the cost of their vaccinations - its good PR and ensures they are properly cared for.
    8 Each time your cat population increases for the medium term, buy an extra carry basket - otherwise what will you do if you have to evacuate?
    9 Don't be afraid to run on a couple of promising kittens for a few months - but then choose one or neither - don't keep them both.
   10 Remember to consciously reduce your numbers from time to time by consolidating your line into two or three cats - if the line is worth having you will have sold progeny to other breeders, and the risk of losing what you have achieved is reduced as you can always buy/mate back into your own line.
   11 Tell yourself the truth: be dispassionate about your achievements, if you don't win much at all, it isn't all the judges' bias. Don't kid yourself that the poor brood queen will be OK next time - desex her. Count all the adult cats - don't let your eye skim past the 5 or 6 geriatrics out the back - they still have to be fed and cared for - and feline old age can incur costs - they are still part of the total population count.
    12 Recite this mantra whenever you are tempted to make a rash or unplanned move.

          Quality, not quantity .         Quality, not quantity.

If you want to know more, please email me : ausmist@dcsi.net.au

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