You have your precious queen and now you are ready for that special breeding. Whether you are looking to bring a foundation stud in to your cattery, adding new blood lines with an additional male in the cattery, or planning on taking your queen to an outside stud, there are three important factors to take into consideration. These three things include temperament, health, and breed type.
You want the perfect male. Well, forget it. There is no such thing. But, the goal of a responsible breeder is to search out the best match that will produce quality kittens that will be loved pets and maybe, just maybe, be a terrific show and/or breeding prospect. Having the advice and support of an experienced breed mentor is invaluable in this search. The stud cat is the most important cat in your breeding program. He is even more important if he is your only stud. This is true because his genes will be in all or many of your kittens. So get the best stud you can find in terms of health, temperament and conformation to the breed standard.
An experienced breeder once told me her plan was to work on one thing that needed improvement with each litter. For instance, if eye shape is a problem in your queen, you want to find a tom that has the desirable eye shape you are seeking and, even better, has proven to produce that shape in his kittens. To do this, you must have a mental picture of your goal. You also want to consider what else the male may be bringing to the breeding. While getting the eye shape you desire, are you going to lose substance or some other important characteristic? While focusing on the desired trait, you don’t want to set yourself up to lose ground on the positive qualities your girl possesses.
I’ve been told by more than one long term breeder that the male sets the temperament for the litter. I’m not sure how science supports this allegation, but temperament is and should be a factor in any breeding. While in any litter there will be variations in temperament, who wants a litter full of scared, shy kittens? Easily stressed temperaments are now accepted as a contributing agent in feline bladder disease. This is such a common problem in the cat population, breeders need to be wary of breeding cats with unstable temperaments. If you are choosing a kitten from one of your own litters, or choosing a kitten from another breeder, look for a kitten that is outgoing, affectionate and confident.
As a veterinarian, health is primary for me. Breeders should strive to produce healthy kittens in every litter, every time. To start with basics, males should have two testicles properly situated in the scrotal sacs. While a monorchid cat may well be fertile, it is not a desirable trait and those cats should not be used for breeding. Whether bringing a male into your cattery or sending your girl on a honeymoon trip, you want to be sure both testicles are present and accounted for.
It should go without saying, any stud cat should have a current FeLV and FIV test. If a stud is used in an open cattery, retesting on a regular schedule is an important part of health management. It would also be prudent to require a very recent FeLV and FIV test on the visiting cat. Parasite control is imperative, both for internal and external parasites. Common worms that are easily transmitted like round worms and hook worms can be transmitted to kittens through the queen. Ear mites and fleas can and will spread through a cattery. The dreaded ringworm can be transmitted from a boy that has no lesions and cause havoc in the cattery. Last, but not least, any cat with chronic or recurrent diarrhea should be suspect of Tritrichomonas Foetus until proven otherwise. The overall health of your cattery is at stake, so be sure to make a check list that includes these items and evaluate the male with this list in mind.
Testing any breeding cat for problems known in the breed is an important part of being a quality breeder. Genetic testing is improving every day. Testing for PKD in an individual or having lines that are tested clear is an imperative part of a responsible breeding program. Other breeds may have different valuable genetic testing available, such as the HCM gene in Ragdolls. In Selkirks, breeders are currently recommending an echocardiogram to check for HCM prior to breeding. Remember, you want healthy kittens.
For foundation stock, you may want to consider blood typing. While breeding a type B stud to a type A or B queen will not present problems, down the road if you have a type B queen, you will need to take precautions if you want to breed to a type A boy.
You will also want to examine the pedigree of any stud you are considering to make sure that he is compatible with your queens and that there will be sufficient genetic diversity in the offspring produced by the prospective stud and your queens. This is when a breeder learns about COI!
Any cat used for breeding should have the overall appearance of a healthy, vigorous cat. A cat prone to illness is never a good choice as our goal as breeders is to produce healthy, thriving kittens that will live a long life. Good eaters, with bright, alert attitudes are what we all strive for. The boy you choose is half of the equation to meet that goal.