So you want to become a cat breeder… now what?
by Carissa Altschul
Disclaimer: Any medical advice given in this article should be referenced with your vet before beginning treatment. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect any official policy or position of the Cat Fanciers' Association or the Persian Breed Council.
Breeding Your Cat
At this stage, you have hopefully gotten some show experience, perhaps a title or two, and also have established at least one mentor/friend relationship with an established breeder. Now it’s finally time to move on the next step – producing your first litter.
If your cats are just about any breed but Persian, this step generally isn’t too much to worry about. Shorthairs, in general, figure things out quickly – and young. Our American Shorthair males sometimes can breed as young as 6 months (not that we want them to!) But Persians, as mentioned earlier, sometimes take a while to figure it out.
Hopefully, you have been able to acquire a proven male. That will go a long way in making this step easier. If not, however, you must learn to have patience. A young Persian male often is eager to try, but the first time the female “slaps” him, he will often back off and hide in a corner (often facing the corner.) A proven male knows better than to immediately “jump” a Persian female and generally will wait and “sweet talk” her. As long as the soon-to-be couple doesn’t immediately begin fighting, this is where you have to give them some privacy. We’ve found that most pairings don’t occur with virgin males while you are watching. The boy will be looking at you, wanting attention, rather than at the girl, especially if she has not be receptive to him. If you leave them alone, checking in every few hours if you must, you are far more likely to have successful breeding.
Additionally, unproven males that live with females are often less likely to breed those girls than males that have been separated from them, only to share time with them when the female is in heat. The boys that are too comfortable being “friends” with the girls seem to lack an understanding of what to do with them when the girls are in heat. Also, you don’t really want your boys running with your girls all the time because this can lead to breedings happening when you aren’t even aware (as covered in the “Housing Your Cats” section.
Assuming all goes well, mark your calendar on the first day you put a girl to live with a boy (note: always bring the girl to the boy, not vice versa.) Leave them together for 3 days or so, then remove the girl. At 21 days from the breeding date, you can check the girls nipples for what we call “pink up.” That is, you look to see if her nipples have gotten larger and very very bright pink. You will need to have a look at the nipples before 21 days so you can tell if they have changed. This isn’t as useful on older females as it is on first-timers (older, proven girls tend to have larger, pinker nipples even when not pregnant). A more reliable method is palpation, but it requires a good deal of teaching and a careful, sensitive hand. If you have a breeder who can teach you this method, do you best to learn it! Palpation can generally be used to detect pregnancy at 2 weeks, 3 days up to about 4 weeks. Before 2 weeks, 3 days, the kittens are too small to palpate. Past 4 weeks, the mother will be too fat to be able to feel anything.
Some breeders will take their cats to the vet for ultrasound to determine pregnancy. I don’t really recommend that for a number of reasons. First, it’s an unnecessary expense. Breeding is expensive as it is; if you can’t palpate and can’t tell by the nipples, assume the female is pregnant and plan accordingly. If she comes in heat again before the due date, then you can know she didn’t take. Second, it’s unnecessary stress to the female, and, by proxy, to her kittens if she is pregnant. A vet’s office is often visited by sick animals, and despite the vet’s best efforts, some types of infection still linger in the air and on surfaces. Why risk your female and your home cats? Finally, the ultrasound can leave you with the wrong count of kittens. A friend of ours some years ago was an ultrasound tech. She ultra sounded every single one of her cats and found that the count was never right. For some reason, some kittens are reabsorbed - in nearly every pregnancy. She’d count 4 kittens on the ultrasound, then panic when the mother only had 3 and rush her to the vet, only to find there were no more kittens. It’s another unnecessary expense and stress to the momcat.