Before breeding your cat, there are many issues you should consider. There are plenty of cats in existence and many are euthanized in shelters every day. If you plan on breeding your cats, you should be sure that you can provide a home for any unwanted kittens and that you can place kittens in good homes if you plan on selling or giving them away. Also, you should try to evaluate your cat before you breed it, especially if it is a purebred cat, since there are many genetic diseases evident in pedigreed bloodlines. If you breed a cat with a genetic disorder or predisposition to disease, this trait will most likely be passed to the kittens.
Younger animals should usually have x-ray screening or blood tests for disorders common to their breed to determine whether or not they will develop these problems as they age. One main goal in breeding is the improvement of a cat breed. For this reason, “back breeding” or “line breeding” in which cats are crossed to relatives are not recommended. This sort of practice can serve to exacerbate genetic problems which may not be physically manifested but which can become evident in litters later on down the line. Also, some people choose to breed cats for certain mutations which may not necessarily be healthy for the cat. Any mutation which appears to impair an animal’s normal functioning or movement should not be selected for breeding.
Breeding cats can be expensive and you must be prepared financially for such a process. Screening for genetic disorders in addition to regular exams during pregnancy or treating possible complications can become expensive. After kittens are born, they will also usually need their first vaccinations in addition to requiring plenty of time and attention.
When selecting a mate for your cat, you should look at it’s faults and try to find a mate who is likely to compensate for, or correct, such faults. For example, if your cat has a smaller body than may be considered perfect for her breed, you may want to mate her with a cat who has a larger body rather than another cat who is also on the smaller end of the scale. Cats who have the same faults should not be bred together. A cat’s temperament is also strongly linked to its genetic inheritance, so if your cat does not have a nice temperament it may not be a good idea to breed it. Also, a male cat who is significantly larger than the female may produce very large kittens, which can cause birthing complications or make it impossible for the female to give birth without having a Caesarian section. Your veterinarian or a local breed organization may also aid in finding a suitable mate. Before breeding a female cat, you should make sure that she is at and ideal weight in order to help avoid fertility, pregnancy, or birthing complications.
The next step in breeding your cat will usually be to determine the length and time of her polyestrous cycles. Although your cat may be cycling at a younger age, it is probably best to wait until she has attained her full adult size at about two years of age before you breed her. A cat will have many estrus cycles throughout the year. Outdoor cats may cycle mainly in the warmer months, though indoor cats may cycle year round. Proestrus is the beginning of the cycle and lasts for one to two days. Some cats do not show symptoms of having reached this stage. Others may fuss with male cats by rubbing up against them and vocalizing. The next part of the cat’s estrus cycle is the time when she should be mated, and it is known as estrus. Some people refer to this as “being in heat”.
During this time, the cat should be bred several times to ensure pregnancy. When introducing her to male cats, you should be sure they have hiding places or escape routes, as even the sweetest female may become aggressive during mating. Directly after copulation the female will probably chase the male cat away and remain solitary and defensive for as long as an hour. Afterward she will again be receptive to mating. Cats may mate with different partners and each kitten in the litter may have a different father. However, each kitten will have only one father. Usually, experienced breeders will mate their female three times, once each day for the first three days of the cycle or once every other day. If your cat is not mated when she is in estrus, she may cycle again in as little as a week. Mating tends to be most successful in areas where the male cat feels comfortable, such as his home; it may be advisable to bring the female to the male. If the cat is mated unsuccessfully, she may not show reproductive activity or cycling for another five to seven weeks.
With successful mating, the cat will become pregnant. A pregnant cat will immediately stop her estrus cycle. Pregnancy is usually fairly easy to detect later in the pregnancy simply by the cat’s physical appearance. Gentle abdominal palpitation a few weeks into the pregnancy may also detect kittens before they begin to show. In addition to such methods, your veterinarian can perform an ultrasound to determine pregnancy. The gestation period in cats is usually approximately 63 days, although this may vary. Pregnant cats should be fed a high-quality kitten chow throughout their pregnancy. If the cat is fed cat chow, you may wish to consult your veterinarian about supplementing her with certain vitamins and minerals like calcium. In the first stages of pregnancy, most cats will undergo a personality change, become either much sweeter and more affectionate or much more stand-offish and irritable. Some may vomit for a few days before beginning to increase their food intake. During pregnancy, a cat usually eats one and a half to two times more than usual.
In order to allow your cat to deliver her kittens successfully, generally, she should be provided with a queening box in a quiet or dark area of the house. Perhaps you will prefer to use a closet for this purpose. The queening box should be in a place where the cat feels quite comfortable and where she may spend six to eight weeks after her kittens are born. It should be large enough that your cat can lay comfortably without crushing any kittens. Although the queening box should usually have sides, they should generally be low enough that the cat may see out of the box. The queening box should be lined with old towels or blankets, or several layers of absorbent material like newspaper, since birthing may be a very messy process. If you have many layers, you may remove the top layers immediately after birthing so the cat and her new kittens have a clean and quiet place to rest.
A few days before she is ready to give birth, your cat may begin hiding often, seeking out dark and quiet spots where she will not be disturbed. You should try to place her queening box in one of her favorite spots to encourage her to use it. Immediately before delivering her kittens, or queening, the cat may become nervous and pant. You should watch her fairly carefully at this time so you may be present when birthing begins. Although most cats are very adept at delivering their kittens with minimal aid from you or without any assistance, some may need help, especially if it is the cat’s first pregnancy. About 24 hours before she is ready to give birth, your cat may stop eating and her temperature will remain consistently below 100 degrees. You should have a warm towel, water bottle, or heating pad ready, along with some cotton gauze, balls, or swabs, or a soft clean cloth. Strong thread and scissors may also be recommended. Delivery times vary between cats. Although some may have given birth to all their kittens within an hour of beginning labor, others may take up to a day.
Generally, the cat may rest for up to an hour between kittens. If the rest time is more than a couple of hours or if the cat appears distressed, it is probably advisable to call your veterinarian. Each kitten will be born in a sac or “bubble”. Although most kittens are born head first, almost half are born in a breach position and this may not be as much of a concern as it is in other animals. A placenta or “afterbirth” will be passed after each kitten. The mother cat will usually eat these for nutritional value. Be sure each placenta is passed after each kitten, and if there is not a placenta following the kitten it should be passed within two days. After this time period or if your cat appears to be having problems, it may be advisable to call your veterinarian. Ten minutes after the kitten first becomes visible it will usually be fully born. Generally, this takes a few contractions. If the kitten appears to be stuck and the mother is in pain without any progress in the birth, you should consult a veterinarian immediately. After it is born, the mother cat will lick the kitten’s face vigorously to remove the membrane around it. She will usually chew the umbilical cord to about an inch from the kitten’s abdominal wall, and then eat the placenta.
You may clean the kitten’s nose and mouth gently with a soft cloth or damp gauze to clear its airways. Gently rub its back to encourage it to breathe. If the kitten does not breathe or if there is a rasping sound, there may be fluid in the newborn’s lungs. Take the kitten firmly in your hand with your first two fingers cradling its head securely. With your hand and the kitten’s face parallel to the floor, swing your arm in a downward motion. When it is perpendicular to the floor, stop; the kitten should gasp as the fluid is cleared from its respiratory system. Look at the kitten’s tongue; if it is pink, the kitten is receiving oxygen. A blue tongue means you may need to repeat the procedure. The umbilical cord can be tied off next to the kitten’s abdominal wall and cut about a half inch from the ligature with sterile scissors. Again, the cat should do this and it will probably not be necessary or advisable for you to interfere.
The room should not be too warm for the mother cat while she gives birth; however, the kittens will need to be kept warm. This can usually be achieved by placing a heating pad next to the mother cat where the kittens will come to rest or perhaps a hot water bottle wrapped in a towel. These items must not be too hot, as the kittens generally cannot move off of them. As the kittens are born, the mother will probably move them up to her teats to suckle. If she does not do this, you will probably need to help. They should begin to feed immediately. When all the kittens are born, you should remove as much soiled material as possible from the queening box. Make the mother cat as comfortable as possible and place food and water bowls in the queening box so she does not have to leave her kittens or deprive herself. She may have vaginal discharge or bleeding for up to a week after the delivery. If this continues for more than a week you should consult a veterinarian. Regardless, the mother and kittens should see a veterinarian within 24 hours of their birth. At this point, if the mother is not producing milk, she may receive a shot to aid her.
Some problems may occur during birth which will require you to immediately take the cat to the veterinarian. These include fresh blood coming from the vagina for ten minutes or more, fever over 103 degrees Fahrenheit, sudden lethargy or depression, 20 minutes of intense labor with no resulting kitten, or ten minutes of labor with a kitten or membrane which does not emerge but is visible in the birth canal. If you need to take the mother to the veterinarian, take the cat in a warm enclosure along with any other kittens that have already been born. Premature kittens may need incubation or syringe feeding in the event that they are too small to feed. Some may even be too small to swallow; consult your veterinarian. It is common to have one or two stillborn kittens in the litter. Some cats may need to have their kittens delivered by Caesarian section, and in this case you may need to pay special attention to the care of the mother as well as the kittens. Kittens may need you to feed them until the mother is well enough to nurse or tend to them.
For their first few weeks of life, the kittens will receive nutrition and antibodies in her milk. The very first milk produced by the mother, known as colostrum, is especially rich. While she is feeding her kittens, a cat will need about triple her normal nutritional requirements. Generally, your veterinarian’s recommendation or a good kitten food will be able to help you achieve this, and you should usually allow the cat to eat as much as she wants. When the kittens begin to explore after they have opened their eyes, you may wish to begin offering them their own bowl of kitten food mixed with kitten formula into a sort of gruel. By the time they are six weeks old, the kittens may have completely stopped nursing from their mother. You should see your veterinarian at about this time in order to get the kittens their first vaccines. By the time they are eight weeks of age, the kittens can be separated from their mother.