Cat breeding can be a rewarding experience, but it's not an operation to be undertaken lightly. In order to decide whether you want to breed your cat, it's important to understand the entire process - from mating to the birth of the kittens.
Understanding Cat Breeding and Mating
Cat breeding seems to be slightly less complicated than dog breeding, since you don't need to be as precise about the timing and felines seem to be far more self-sufficient at handling the mating themselves. Let's take a closer look at the process.
Female Heat Cycle
The female cat's heat cycle is the first step in the breeding process. This is the time when she'll be fertile and receptive to a male cat's advances. Cycles usually begin when a female reaches six months old, and only last two days on average, but are repeated approximately every two weeks thereafter unless mating takes place. Once a cat has mated and becomes pregnant, her heat cycles will end.
It's not always easy to detect when the heat cycle begins since the female's vulva is obscured by fur, and there isn't normally a great deal of bloody discharge to leave tell-tale spotting on floors and furniture.
For these reasons, many breeders rely on their female's behavior to let them know when she is coming into breeding condition.
- Flirting: Females become extremely affectionate, and love to rub up against their people and be petted. This behavior can reach nuisance proportions in the amount of attention they demand from you during this time.
- Rump raising: Females in heat will tend to raise their rumps when you stroke them along their backs.
- Tail flagging: Rump raising may be accompanied by a quick back and forth twitching of the tail. This is the way the female advertises her readiness.
- Calling: Females in heat can be extremely vocal, calling constantly in search of male partners. Any capable male within ear shot will do their best to answer that call, although most males are not fertile until at least ten months old.
Cat mating is noisy, and frankly, a bit rough. Cats will even scream while they mate. Once introduced, a pair will engage in behavior that looks more like warfare than romance. Although the breeder should be present in case things truly get out of hand, it's better to resist the urge to intervene and let the cat breeding commence naturally. When the male mounts the female, he will latch onto her with his claws and frequently hold the scruff of her neck with his teeth. The barbs on his penis act as a stimulus to encourage the female's immediate ovulation, thus ensuring the success of most matings.
The gestation period, or length of a cat pregnancy, lasts approximately sixty-five days, although large litters may arrive a day or two sooner, and small litters may be a day or so late. The success of the mating can be confirmed within three to four weeks after mating. During the gestation period, the pregnant female, or queen as she is now referred to, needs increased nutrition to help her provide everything her growing fetuses need without depleting her own resources. Kitten food makes an excellent diet for her since it is higher in protein, minerals and vitamins than adult cat food mixes.
It's also a good idea to begin offering multiple meals throughout the day from about the fifth week of the pregnancy. This will ensure that your cat is able to consume enough food without overloading her stomach, since internal space is at a premium with each advancing week. Additionally, be sure to keep her water dish filled and refresh it several times each day.
Pregnant cats need to be treated with extra care to avoid injury.
- Resist the urge to pick up your pet more than absolutely necessary. Let her come to you instead. This will lower the risk of harming her abdomen.
- Keep her inside. Roaming leads to fighting and other possible accidents. Being outside can also lead to parasitic infestations like fleas and worms that can also infect the unborn kittens.
Preparing for Birth
Toward the end of the pregnancy, a queen will begin looking for a nice warm cubbyhole to deliver her babies. If you don't provide one, the spot may just wind up being your bed.
A sufficiently roomy box lined with newspapers and a soft blanket makes a good spot for the delivery, or queening as it's properly called. Place the box in a quiet place away from traffic a few weeks before the expected birth so the mom-to-be will have time to discover and get used to it.
It is also a wise idea to put an additional litter box in the area at this time so mom will be comfortable using it when she feels reluctant to leave her new babies.
Most queens take care of the delivery quite well on their own, and you may not even realize the event has taken place until you discover mom and kittens cuddled up together. If you do arrive during delivery and all is going well, it's best not to intervene. Just be on hand in case you need to assist with removing a sack from one of the kittens or tie off an umbilical cord with a bit of string if it continues to bleed after severing from the placenta.
Additionally, move mom's food dishes just outside of the box so she won't have to travel far from her babies to get sustenance.
Although every cat is not of sufficient quality to make it worth breeding, there are some worthy specimens that can make a contribution to their breed. Check with your vet to determine your pet's health, and proceed responsibly from that point forward. If you change your mind at any point before breeding, make sure to ensure you follow all the proper steps to stop your cats from mating.