Have you read about health programs and the importance of following these no matter what breed you have? If not, begin there. If you have Maine Coon, read about the clones and what they mean to the breed, if it's hard to understand, something is unclear or if you just have some more questions, please get in touch! Send me an email or a pm on FB. (www.dagdrivarn.se)
Here are some tips when it comes to breeding in general. Some of the experiences I have collected during my 20 years as a breeder.
- When you start looking for your first kitten to start breeding, I have two words for you who should be your constant companion throughout the process ... "patience" and "mentor"! Don't rush it. To learn how to read pedigrees and recognize common lines, etc. Before you even bought your first queen is not realistic, it takes an awful lot of time to learn. But start looking, learn to recognize the names that occur. Be sure to find a good mentor, someone who shares the same values as you do, and try to find someone who follows, for example, current recommendations on health programs, etc.
Choose a mentor with experience! Sure your breeder may be your mentor, even if they only breed for 2-4 years, but then make sure that your breeder has a good mentor or choose another mentor with a few more years on the neck. Your mentor may not necessarily have the same breed as yourself, but it may be an advantage when it comes to breed-specific questions. Let it all take time, and for god's sake do not give in and import your first cat, I've seen too many ”go over the river after water”. An import means far from new lines in many, many cases and it does costs money, a lot of money and many times for nothing if you are new and inexperienced and don't know what to look for.
- And when you are looking for your first cat and you are just about to go into breeding.
Please when you contact breeders having kittens, make sure to do a proper presentation.
Tell the breeder how you think, what your goal is, how you feel about the health program and on MCO the clones. How will you breed, if you have a mentor and so on… just never ever send an e-mail saying just ”Hi I'm a new breeder I want to buy this kitten!” Trust me in a few years you will understand why and see everything from a different angle ;-)
- Always select the best in the litter for breeding, avoid getting caught in the ”longing for a specific color-trap” at least until you have more a bit more experienced, and even then, do this with selection. Our breeding will get us to our goal much faster by always selecting the best kitten from each litter. Read the standard properly, so you do not risk falling for "fashion whims". I often recognize cats with extreme looks and notice many people saying that they are so, so, beautiful, and all I can see are a whole bunch of clean mistakes according to the standard. Please read the document "The Standard in Pictures" and learn to see with your own eyes how a correct cat should look like according to standard. Look at how a correct profile looks like, how a correct ear placement, how a correct pair of eyes look, etc. Trust me, the so-called European Look is a lot of times not even close to looking according to standard.
- Once you get your first litter, evaluate carefully. Do not be afraid to be seated with unsold kittens. This happens very rarely, and frankly if you have a kitten at home for a longer period of time, what does it matter? I never accept bookings from pet buyers before 4 weeks of age, at 4-6 weeks sometime, it's advisable to start releasing the "worst" in the litter for pet purposes if somebody might got a fault like a hernia or a tail fault or simply isn't strong enough in type. Those who are might go into breeding are preferably evaluated until at least 8 weeks of age. You might say that the longer you evaluate the more chance you are to really choose the right to one to move on with. This applies even if you are going to sell the kitten for breeding purposes. Do not forget the temper of the kitten.
- When it's time for them to start moving, do not forget that 12 weeks are definitely the earliest, it does NOT mean they necessarily need to move on the day they are 12 weeks old, some litters are a pain in the ass, to keep at home until they are around 14 weeks or older but it will pay off for you in the end. Learn to find out if your kittens are ready to move, you might have a litter with some more insecure individuals, who are not so social, they may be scared of sounds (all cats might rush off if there is a sudden noise but they will quickly bounce back again, as soon as it's quiet again).
If after being frightened, a kitten lying stays hidden for a longer or shorter time, it's a good idea to give them some more time with their mom. Someone may move at 12 weeks, someone at 13 or later. I usually leave the moving date a little open and explain that it is around 14 weeks, but it may happen that they can move earlier if the kitten is secure and stable. Some litters stay longer regardless.
- When it comes to kittens for breeding, it recommended that you avoid selling too many from each litter for breeding, we usually try to limit it to 2 kittens per litter, but you must always look at the whole. If the female/male has hardly any offspring in a breeding program and this is the last litter, it may not matter if three go to breeding instead of two, etc. It is a constant balance-act. You always have to keep an eye on it and think about it. The same applies if you have a stud you are letting others use (stud service), make clear in the contract what is applicable, max 2 for breeding from each litter and that everything else can be discussed and might be allowed by a written agreement. Nevertheless, never do a mating with the intention that all kittens would become pets, this is nothing but kitten-production and in no way better than breeding on your domestic cat (if we assume that this litter is being tested, vaccinated, chipped, etc.). So always mate with a plan on each a litter you take, even if you can not save a kitten yourself, there will be others who can benefit from it. Never do a mating that you would not like to keep from yourself! Of course, I do not mean that you can not do it only because you cannot keep yourself, maybe because of relatives or because of the number of cats at home. What I mean is that if you think these are going to be only pet for some reason, do not do the mating , if you feel wow what a mating this will be, but I just can’t keep anything myself, then yes, do make the mating and put the best kittens under evaluation for breeding so that someone else can enjoy the combination. There might be several litters where everyone becomes pet anyway, completely unplanned, that's another story, that happens from time to time, but do not do the mating with the intention of the kittens being sold as pets.
- This one might not be suitable for other countries I do not know how the insurance situation looks like for you? Get the kittens their own individual insurances early. It costs a little more but is worth it if something happens, giving your kittens their own individual insurance already at 6 weeks of age may be worth gold. If mom is has breeding insurance, the kittens are covered through her until they move, but they cover far from as much as "real" insurance. (However, for Agria as I have, it may be worth checking out what applies to your particular company). Normally I also takes the extra breeding insurance when the kittens I evaluate for breeding is about 10 weeks old since Agria says that the kitten has to get it before 4 month of age and sometimes I will not sell the kitten before it is about 4,5 to 5 month if I hold it until a good breeder shows up :-)
- When you start up ... I hope that with this document I can reach many new breeders before they startup. When you start your startup and you have bought your first breeding queen, do not fall for the temptation to buy more cats. Two ladies are okay but stop there, one female is fully enough too, keep in mind that you may want to save a kitten to continue with, how would that work out if you already filled your quota at home with 4 purchased females and a stud or maybe even more? I have seen many new breeders, those last few years that bought many, many cats directly. First of all, you are completely new to this and it makes sense to start slowly and to learn on the way. If you have only one female, it’s easier to change direction.
- Having your own male? You might have bought a female or two, maybe you even have your own male already? Or maybe you stumble on this when you've been going for a couple of years and already have your own male and 3-4 females. Anyway, here's some advice when you have your own male. It’s easy to be attracted to the simplicity of simply mating your own male to all your females, maybe not just once. I have been in the position when I had 2 fitting males at home and likewise chosen to borrow another's male because the males I had did not match my female, as well as another male, did. They may not be as interesting enough, or maybe by borrowing a male to one of my females who is completely unrelated to my other cats, I can save a male that I can use on my other females. Avoid painting yourself in a corner, ie. use your own male on all your females, and then save maybe both females and a male from those matings ... after doing this, even if you bought a female or two, who would you then use the male on if everyone is related to everyone? If possible, try to separate your females in two different lines, to get more benefits from those in the future. Try to plan your breeding for the future, well we all know plans do not always work out, but having a plan in your head or even on paper is definitely not wrong anyway, you may need both a plan B plan C and Plan D. But keep in mind how to get the best use of the lines/cats you already have at home. how you keep them unrelated so that you may be able to use what you have in two or three generations instead of just one.
By: Malin Sundqvist