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Breeding for Beginners

Breeding from your cat

Practical considerations

Before deciding to breed from your female (queen) ask yourself the following questions :

  • Why do I want to breed?
  • Have I the time, patience and understanding?
  • Can I afford it – equipment, stud fees, vet bills, extra food – to name just a few of the extras?
  • Have I researched the subject thoroughly?
  • Have I discussed this with the experts (other breeders)?
  • How will my human family feel about the idea, will they agree?
  • Will I be able to sell my kittens? (Perhaps there are already many established breeders in the area).

If you answer NO to any of these questions then make an appointment with your vet and have her spayed.

See also Advice for Breeders and GCCF Guide to Veterinary Defects

If you think you will only need just a little more food and a cardboard box with newspaper for her to kitten in and then all will be simple – forget it again.

You only get out of breeding what you put in. Your first requirement is a healthy female with no outstanding faults and typical of the breed, with a good temperament. Try to ensure that her sire and dam are healthy with a problem free breeding history. Next you will need a suitable stud cat within reasonable travelling distance. Taking a queen to a stud will entail two visits – one to take your queen and the other to collect her. A maiden queen may possibly require a repeat visit as she may not settle and mate, or conceive after mating, the first time.

Your queen will need special feeding, not only throughout her pregnancy, but indeed every day of the year, in order to produce good quality kittens.

When your queen is to produce her kittens she will need 24 hour surveillance from a day or so before their expected arrival until the kittens are born, which may be several days after the expected date. The normal gestation period is about 65 days. Many queens do not know how to cope with their first or subsequent litters, so that your absence at this crucial time could cost you the litter and possibly the life of your cat. Local breeders with experience are usually on hand to give advice, as are many stud owners.

It is important that the kittens are kept warm – winter litters may mean vastly increased heating bills. Good food for your weaned litter is essential fresh chicken, fish, special kitten food, raw good quality minced beef (all of which have to be paid for at the time of purchase).

Your household will revolve around kittens’ feeding times, changing litter trays, providing litter etc. Food cannot be left down at breakfast time to be renewed when you return from work in the evening – the mother may eat it all or in the summer flies may lay eggs on it, which means the kittens get nothing, or infected food.

Sit down beforehand and work out your expenses. You will need to think of special bedding, leukaemia testing, stud fees, travelling expenses to the stud and the vet, special food, extra heating, lost holiday time for kittening if you are working, inoculation for kittens and registration fees. Breeding means a big commitment. Finally, can you part with your kittens? They are only yours on loan for three months and then they have to go to new homes. It is up to you to find the right kind of home and owners and you will probably have to devote a lot of time to prospective new owners. However, kittens may not sell well, so you my have to keep (and feed!) them until they are 6 months old or more, or may have to take back an older cat that you have bred if the owner’s circumstances change.

If, after considering all these points, you still wish to breed – good luck!

How to go about cat breeding

Firstly, you must ensure your girl is on the Active Register. Cats are registered on the Non-Active Register when their breeder does not wish them to be used for breeding; this will have been the decision of her breeder so you should be honest about your intentions to breed at the time of purchase. Make plans well in advance of when you want her to be mated. She will kitten nine weeks after mating and there will be three months in which the kittens need to be reared and cared for – this makes a minimum of five months in all and could be a longer period if your queen does not come into season when expected, or if you have problems with the litter and they are not ready to leave you at three months.

Your female should be adult and well grown at the time of her first litter, and many stud owners are reluctant to take a queen on her first call. You should ensure that she was transferred to your ownership when a kitten and that she has been recently re-vaccinated against flu and enteritis. A stud owner will probably wish to see her certificates.

Having selected a suitable stud (the breeder of your kitten, your breed club, or other breeders in the district should be able to assist you on this) you should contact the stud owner to see if he/she will accept your queen to stud. Ask for confirmation that the stud cat has a GCCF Certificate of Entirety and ascertain the requirements on Leukaemia testing – some require a test on the queen taken within the last 24 hours, others, certification that the whole household has a negative status. Do not be afraid to ask to see the documents relating to such information about the stud. It is important to choose a stud not too far away, if possible, so that you can inspect the queen’s accommodation in advance.

As soon as your queen commences to call (signs of being on call vary between breeds, so it would be sensible to discuss what to expect with your breeder) contact the stud owner and check that the stud is available and when to take your queen. It is sensible to have a reserve in mind in case the stud already has another queen with him.

When you bring your cat home again she may still be calling. Make sure she has no opportunity to escape and be mated again by the local tom who will be waiting. A litter can be sired by more than one male and you can give no pedigree if the parentage is uncertain and all the kittens would have to be registered with ‘sire unknown’.

The stud owner will require the stud fee to be paid before the queen leaves and should provide a copy of the stud’s pedigree and details of the terms of any repeat mating. Do not offer a kitten in payment. ‘Breeding terms’ always lead to problems.

Make sure that you obtain a Mating Certificate from the stud owner. You will need to show the stud owner your queen’s registration or transfer slip in order for this to be completed. If you do not get this mating certificate the kittens cannot be registered.

Whilst you wait for the pregnancy of about 65 days to pass, read as many books as possible on cat breeding. Several will be obtainable at your local library. Keep in contact with your breeder, Breed Club and, if you have any worries, your vet. It’s a good ideal to let him/her know when your kittens are due because all the problems that beset human pregnancies can happen with cats, including the need for a caesarean. Make sure you know exactly what to expect at the birth, and that you have everything ready. If anything happens that worries or concerns you don’t hesitate to seek advice as quickly as possible. The care you have taken of your queen during her pregnancy by careful feeding, worming at the correct time (taking veterinary advice if necessary), choosing the stud cat carefully and making all the correct preparations will now prove their worth and greatly increase the chances of a healthy litter.

Breeders and pet insurance

The GCCF takes very seriously its responsibility to support the breeding of healthy cats.

But more than ever the spotlight falls on breeders to demonstrate a commitment to help ensure kittens are fit and healthy – both at the time of sale and throughout their lives. GCCF cat insurance can help with some of the challenges breeders face.

Find out more about free kitten insurance for the cats you sell, and also for your own cats – including breeding risks

Statement regarding the interval between litters

GCCF advise a minimum of 26 weeks between litters, but this period must be applied within the overall guidance that a queen should not have more than three litters in a 24-month period.

Breeders should also take into account factors such as previous litter size, amount of condition a queen loses during lactation and the rate at which she regains it before deciding when to mate her again.  When continuing to breed with older queens, who have had 3 or more litters, one litter a year is preferred.

If there are extenuating circumstances on health grounds such as, for example, the need to mate a girl immediately after treatment for a pyometra, or because she is calling continuously and losing condition, but can’t for a medical reason be given an oestrus suppressant, breeders should obtain a letter from their vet to support this exception.