Many a cat lover has the ide of buying a pedigree kitten and becoming a breeder, but has little knowledge of what is involved. In the first place the kitten whether male or female should be chosen with breeding in mind, not bought first before breeding decided on, although with luck this may be successful. If bought purely as a pet, it is quite possible that the kitten might have bad faults, such as a kink in the tail or small eyes.
If the intention is to begin breeding seriously, take time over the choice of your kitten. The best way is to visit one or two cat shows and pay particular attention to the prize-winners and their appearance. Breeders should be consulted and, if possible, arrangements made to visit them and to see the kittens in their home surroundings. It is far better to be frank with the breeder and to say that you want the cat for breeding.
A novice should buy the best female kitten he can afford, as close to the recognized standard as possible, and - most important - with a good pedigree, because in the most popular varieties, such as the Siamese, the competition is strong. As males and females usually reach the adult stage at different ages, it is not feasible to buy a breeding pair and expect kittens to arrive to order. In any case, a male cat needs more than one female to keep it happy and its owner will have to decide whether to keep at least five or six females or to advertise the male at public stud. So for the beginner it is better to buy a female kitten, sending her away to stud when she is sufficiently mature. The majority of female cats live quite happily in the house as pets, whereas with a male it will prove practically impossible to allow it the freedom of the home due to his habit of spraying. A few never spray, although this is most unusual.
Stud work requires time and a great deal of patience and it is certainly not a quick way to make money, as some queens can be very difficult. The stud should not be overworked, and while young should only be allowed to mate one or two females. Its first mating should always be with an older and experienced queen.
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A female may start "calling" (come into season ready for mating) when only about 6 months old but this varies from breed to breed. She should never be mated at this early age, the best time being when she is about 10 to 11 months old, and by then she should be fully grown and well developed. She should not, in any case, be sent to a stud at the first "call,", the second or third being preferable.
As soon as she comes into season and starts rolling around, the stud owner should be informed and arrangements made for her to be sent or taken to the owner rather than sent. She will probably stay at the stud for 3 to 4 days; it is usual to allow the male to mate her twice. In the even of her not having kittens, the stud owner may agree to have her back for a further mating, free of charge, except for the cost of the food, but this is not compulsory. The stud fee is payable in advance.
The period of gestation for a cat is approximately 63 to 65 days but it does vary by a day or two. The female should not be allowed out for at least a week after she has been mated, as a dual conception is possible and she may meet a mongrel male in the garden and have mongrel and pedigree kittens at the same time.
The female should be provided with a good varied diet on her return from stud. She should be restrained from tree climbing during the last week, as the additional weight may cause her to lose her balance. A week or two before she is expected to give birth, a low box should be placed in a dark corner where the kittens may be born without interference.
Towards the end of the pregnancy, hard brushing of the female should be avoided, although she should have some grooming. Care should be taken that she does not strike out with her claws when her sides are touched. If she is a long-haired variety, it will be easier and cleaner for her kittens if the fur around the nipples is clipped very short.
It may be difficult for a novice breeder to know when the birth of the kittens is imminent. Usually, a few days before the kittens arrive, the cat begins to wander restlessly around from room to room, and this may be taken as a warning sign. If she has complete freedom, it is wise to keep an eye on her for the last two days in case she strays from home to have kittens in some secret hiding place.
Most cats have their kittens with no trouble at all but, if after an hour or more the cat is still straining and no kittens have appeared, it is well to ask the veterinary surgeon to see all is well.
Whenever the event occurs, certain items should be kept close at hand. Have ready some cotton wool, a mild non-toxic disinfectant, a small clean towel, a hot water bottle and a pair of sterilized scissors in case it is necessary to cut the umbilical cord connecting the kitten to the afterbirth (known as placenta). An hour or two before the kittens are born, the cat's figure may change slightly in appearance, as the kittens drop in preparation for the birth.
Once the contractions have started, the queen will probably settle down quite happily in the kittening box, often purring loudly, stopping only as the contractions occur. At first, this usually takes place every half-hour, the intervals between becoming shorter and shorter until the contractions may occur almost once a minute. It is impossible to predict how long the kittening will take, as this depends on the number of kittens and their size.