There are several problems associated with using studs from other catteries, the main ones being finding a stud that you like, that is available and that will give you the kittens that you want from your queen.
Having found a stud that you think might be suitable you should check out his cattery to check that you are happy that the cats there are healthy, kept in good condition and well looked after.
The owner of the stud should ask to see a copy of your queen’s paperwork, to check that she has been registered for breeding and her vaccinations are up to date. You need to confirm the same information about the stud.
The stud owner should also ask for your queen to be blood tested, no more than 24 hours before taking her to the stud, to check for certain transmittable diseases, such as FelV (Feline Leukaemia) and FIV (Feline HIV).
The stud owner cannot guarantee that your queen will get pregnant from her stud but most reputable breeders will have a stud contract that offers a second or even a third visit for which you do not have to pay an additional fee.
And don’t forget to check out the cost of using the stud. The fees vary considerably but you should at least expect to pay the price of one ‘pet’ kitten as a stud fee.
It is helpful to know what the jargon means when you see studs advertised:
This is where a stud cannot be used by anyone other than the owner. It may be that the owner has spent a great deal of money buying the stud, perhaps even importing him from overseas, and wants to limit who can have kittens from him. Alternatively, it may be that the owner does not want to risk infection from allowing the stud to mate with any cats from outside their own cattery.
Limited studs are those where the owner will only allow some queens in to use the stud. There are many things that may be considered by the owner of a boy at limited stud.
Queens will sometimes have to be ‘maidens’ (first mating) or may have to be queens that have not previously been to another cattery for a mating. Sometimes limited studs may only be allowed to mate to queens bought from the stud’s cattery or bought from a cattery that the stud’s owner knows to be free of infections.
This is where your reputation as a breeder also becomes important. If the stud owner knows that you care for your cats and have a clean cattery, with no infections, then you are far more likely to be allowed to use a boy at limited stud.
Some studs are ‘open’, which means that anybody can use their services, though some breeders will reserve the right to refuse a girl if their boy needs a rest period.
Finding a stud for your queen in season
Your girl should be ‘calling’ or ‘in season’ when you put her in with your chosen stud cat.
It can be difficult deciding when is best to send your girl for her first mating. The first consideration is age – is she old enough, big enough and mature enough to get pregnant, to carry a litter to full term and then feed them successfully? The breeder who sold you the girl may be able to give you an idea of when this might be for your queen.
For some breeds you may need to consider pyometra – this is an infection of the uterus which is difficult to treat and can result in the girl having to be spayed. A contributing factor to getting pyometra is leaving your girl calling too many times without mating her. If the girl has had at least three adult seasons, you may decide to mate her, even if she is not as old as you would prefer.
There are various ways of recognizing when a girl is in season, but even some of those aren’t foolproof, as some girls show no signs at all when calling
The obvious one is when the girl ‘calls’ for a mate. Her normal meowing changes to a loud and very insistent yelling. This may be a couple of times a day or could go on for hours, both day and night.
Another clear sign is when she starts behaving in an extremely voluptuous way – stretching, rolling, rubbing against you and the furniture and then laying on the floor with her front legs stretched out in front of her and her bottom stuck up in the air (can be embarrassing if you have visitors of a sensitive disposition).
If none of that is obvious, then you can try a couple of tests of your own. Tickle the girl’s back, just in front of her tail, and if she puts her tail to one side she is in season. Alternatively, tickle her bottom, underneath her tail, between her back legs, and watch to see if the tail swishes to one side.
Now is the time to get her to the stud – but don’t leave it to long. There is nothing more frustrating to a stud owner than to have someone bring a girl to them, saying ‘she was in the season last week’. They may have other queens waiting to go in with the same stud and won’t want your girl living with him for weeks until she comes into season again. Get her to stud whilst she is in season and you are most likely going to have a litter of kittens two months later.
The most common signs of pregnancy happen when the girl is three weeks pregnant. Her nipples will harden and will go pink. So start checking the nipples from three weeks after she was introduced to the stud.
However, you cannot always use this as a guide as some girls get pink nipples when in season.
To be absolutely sure, take your girl to the vets to get her scanned to see if she is carrying any kittens. If your vet wants to anesthetize your queen to scan her then I would recommend that you take her elsewhere, as you do not want to risk the kittens.
Also, some vets can palpate the queen’s abdomen, from three weeks of pregnancy, to see if they can feel developing kittens.
For some of your girls, once you get to know them well by observation, you will be able to tell whether they are pregnant just from changes in behavior. Some even get morning sickness!
My advice for medicating girls who are pregnant is very simple – DON’T, unless it is critical. And if it is critical, make sure that you check any medication thoroughly to ensure that it is safe to use during pregnancy. Make sure your vet knows the queen is pregnant if he is prescribing for her and check out the many articles on the internet.
Feeding pregnant queens
As her pregnancy progresses, don’t be surprised if your girl starts eating more than usual. After all, she is now eating for two or three… or four or more. If you are using a good quality cat food, then you shouldn’t need to feed any supplements as her normal food will contain everything that she needs.