If you’re a cat lover, the idea of breeding cats and having a houseful of little kittens has probably crossed your mind at one time or another.
However, the actual process of setting up a cattery may be a mystery.
A cattery is simply the feline version of a kennel. It’s a place where breeding, birthing and raising the offspring occurs.
Some professional cat breeders will have rooms filled with cages. Other smaller catteries can be little more than a person’s house where the cats roam free.
Before You Start Breeding Cats
There are many preparations and precautions to take before you begin breeding.
Familiarize yourself with the breed of cat you’ll be using. Take note of their habits and how they act.
Make sure you have the funding to go through with it. Breeding cats is not overly expensive, but there are necessities that can add up quickly.
Regularly visit the veterinarian. Inform them of your intentions to breed. They can provide useful tips for your specific breed.
The Female Heat Cycle
Cats usually start their heat cycle when they are around six months old. Certain breeds can start as young as four months old, while some won’t until ten months. Environmental factors can contribute to this as well.
The heat period lasts an average of 7 days, but it can range from three to 16 days. The queen will go back into heat within two weeks if she isn’t bred.
Your cat will become very affectionate when she is in heat. She’ll roll on the floor, rub against you and furniture, and want endless attention.
Prepare the future mother for the physical drain of the pregnancy. You should allow one or even two cycles to pass before you start the breeding process.
Ideally, you should wait to breed until your cat is 18 months of age. The likelihood of problems during pregnancy or lack of care for the kittens is much lower.
The Male Cat
Don’t forget about the male cat in the process.
The process for them will be more successful if they are familiar with their surroundings.
If the cats aren’t yours, it’s advised to take the female to the male for this process. This is a common practice when breeding as females are less affected by their environment.
Male cats are able to begin fathering kittens once they are six months of age. They become more attracted to female cats in heat nearby.
The reproductive life of the male can continue until they are fourteen years old, or even older. Males usually begin to lose interest when they are seven years old.
The Mating Process
Once the male and female are together, the process will not take long. It usually lasts between 30 seconds and five minutes.
Intervals between mating can be anywhere from five minutes to half an hour. A female may allow as many as 30 matings. According to studies, only 50 percent of matings result in the female getting pregnant with only one mating.
The female may mate with various males as they aren’t too particular. This can result in multiple fathers for the same litter. This means each kitten would only have one father, but each kitten may have a different father.
The male will bite the neck of the female and mount her. He’ll thrust his pelvis until he penetrates her, which lasts no more than 4 seconds usually.
After the mating is complete, the female will have an “after-reaction”. She’ll clean herself and roll around for about ten minutes or less.
The Ovulation Process When Breeding Cats
Cats are induced ovulators, meaning the ovaries are stimulated by the act of breeding and release eggs. This means timing the breeding isn’t a critical factor.
Before the sperm are deposited, you should make sure the female’s eggs are present for it to be successful. Speak with a veterinarian and they can help you determine this.
For ovulation to occur, most females will need to be bred three or four times within the first 24 hours.
The female will go into heat after ovulation occurred, which will happen within a couple of days.
Expenses of Breeding Cats
Cat reproduction can be costly. Starting up a cattery and obtaining breeding females, the queens, and the stud males can be a very expensive endeavor. Depending on the breed of cat, you might spend thousands of dollars just on the queen alone.
Other associated expenses are vet visits to make sure the cat or cats are in excellent health and are vaccinated and dewormed. Then there is quality cat food to buy.
Cheap food is never a good idea to give mother cats. They will need the extra high quality nutrition during pregnancy and continuing on through the lactation (milk production and nursing) period. Pregnancy takes a lot out of a cat, so she needs good food, clean water and exercise every day.
Protect The Breeding Cats
It’s also a good idea not to let the queen outside where she could pick up disease, fleas, ticks or get into fights with other cats.
You will need to prepare a ‘kittening’ or nesting box for the queen a few weeks before she’s ready to have the kittens. Keep some soft blankets or towels in the box.
Cats like to have a private, quiet and dark area to have their kittens, although some won’t care and might even have the kittens on their bed.
Pregnancy and Gestation
Keeping track of the day she mated is important so you’ll know approximately when to expect the kittens.
For the duration of the pregnancy, you should feed your queen a kitten formula of food. Continue this through the nursing period. Pet stores and veterinary hospitals usually have what you need.
As you would expect, kittens need a lot of nutrients. Calcium, vitamins, and all mineral supplements come from these diets.
The length of a cat’s pregnancy, also referred to as the gestation period, is about 65 days on average. It can start around 63 days. While it can go as long as 70 days, this is rare.
Make sure you show the nesting box to your queen so she will be familiar with it. This will make her more comfortable and help the process go smoother.
It’s Almost Time
Once the queen is ready to give birth, she’ll become friendly and follow you around, or might become more aloof. You’ll know she’s getting ready when she goes to the nesting box. She will inspect it or digs around in the blankets.
There are other signs of the time to deliver the newborns nearing. Your cat may lost interest in eating during the final 24 hours. She will likely become agitated or nervous, and her temperature will drop slightly.
How Long Can Deliveries Take?
The time it takes for the delivery to complete varies.
Litters of cats with narrow heads should be delivered within an hour or two. These are often Siamese cats and other short-haired breeds.
Large-headed breeds will generally take longer. These are the typical domestic cats.
Persian kittens are large at birth, so expect the queen to rest for an hour or longer between each kitten.
Birth of the Kittens
When she’s in labor, you can watch for contractions, just like in a human, and know when they are close together that she’s about to give birth. Keep noise down and if she doesn’t mind you around, sit with her and keep her calm.
If she doesn’t want you around, leave her alone. Watch from a doorway just in case she needs help, but give her space.
It’s always best to let the queen handle things on her own. Instinct kicks in and she’ll know what to do. When the first kitten comes out, she’ll cut the umbilical cord by chewing on it and will most likely eat the placenta.
Let her. There are important nutrients in the placenta that give her strength and help to heal the uterus.
What to Watch For During Birth
Although she might now want it, your queen may need help during birth. There are a few signs to watch for where you may need to interfere. Remember to reach out to your veterinarian if you are ever in doubt.
You will see the head or tail of the kitten, or a fluid-filled sac during birth. If nothing is happening, you need to help her.
- Using a thin wash cloth or dampened gauze sponge, break open the sac. It will be slippery, although it’s easily torn.
- Gently grasp the exposed part of the kitten. During the next contraction, steadily pull away from the tail.
- Don’t force the kitten if it doesn’t budge. Call your vet for advice.
The queen may not lick the sac away from the kitten’s head or do normal mother things. If this is her first litter, she just needs time to figure out what to do.
To prevent suffocation, you need to remove the sac from the kitten’s head.
- Rub the kitten vigorously with a soft towel if the cat isn’t showing interest. This will stimulate breathing and dry the kitten.
- Tie off the umbilical cord with a piece of dental floss if the mother hasn’t cut it herself. Tie it off half an inch from the kitten’s body.
- The kitten should be placed in a warm place until the entire litter has been delivered. Be mindful of the heat level so you don’t overheat the kittens.
The kitten might inhale fluid during birth, which can cause raspy-sounding breathing. Clear the fluid from its lungs.
- Set the kitten in your palm, cradling the face between your index and middle fingers.
- Grip the head firmly but gently, using your other hand to hold the body.
- In a swift downward motion, swing the kitten with your hands around it. This will make the kitten gasp and inhale oxygen.
- Repeat this until the breathing stabilizes and the tongue is a nice, bright pink.
These are a few situations in which you should call your veterinarian immediately.
- Intense contractions without producing a kitten for 20 minutes
- Bright red trickles of blood coming from the vagina after 10 minutes
- Sudden depression or laziness from lack of energy
- A fever exceeding 103 degrees Fahrenheit
One or two kittens may be stillborn, which is relatively common. They die during delivery or shortly before. They are sometimes delivered normally.
Other times they can hinder the birth process. You’ll need to remove it before proceeding. Keep the stillborn kittens for post-mortem examination.
If you have several stillborn kittens in the litter, contact your veterinarian to help in determining the cause.
So, once you have all the kittens and make sure they are nursing, you can relax. The queen will likely stay very close to her babies for a few days. Make sure you have fresh water and food nearby, and of course, a litter pan.
It is important to make sure you have a safe home for the little ones. Anything that can endanger them should be out of reach.
The Risks of Breeding Cats
Like in human pregnancies and deliveries, there are risks to be aware of when breeding cats.
There is a possibility of complications where you may lose the queen. It’s possible the kittens may not survive. It will be traumatizing for the surviving cats if this unfortunate event does happen.
Even if you aren’t breeding your cats, you can eliminate potential problems by spaying or neutering them. For example, spayed females can’t develop uterine cancer or infections. They also are not as likely to get breast cancer.
Likewise, neutered males are not as likely to urinate in the house or seek trouble with other males.
Although there are risks, don’t let that stop you from breeding. Be aware of potential problems and know what to do if they occur.
Running a cattery is a labor of love and should never, ever be done just to make money. With all of the related expenses, it’s hard to turn a profit.
We’ve all heard of the ‘puppy mills’ where people over-breed dogs just to make a buck. This is wrong. Go into breeding cats for the right reasons.
Love the breed and love the animals.