Choosing a Responsible Breeding Program
Any responsible breeding program will require complete medical check-ups for all breeding pairs. These check-ups include blood tests, x-rays, and tests for sexually transmitted diseases. All cats involved in the breeding program should have a well documented medical history, and preferably the medical history of their parents and siblings. The breeding program should also pay particular attention to the cat’s genetic background as well.
Programs which breed cats responsibly will not compromise a cat’s health for breeding purposes. Female cats should not be bred before they are 2 years of age, and they should only be bred every other year. Many legitimate breeding programs put a cap on the number of litters that a queen can produce, and they require medical check-ups for the queen before each and every litter.
Legitimate breeding programs were started in order to preserve and maintain the quality and health of cat breeds around the world; they are not concerned with financial gains or marketing puppies. If you find a breeding program that promises you financial rewards through breeding your cat, walk away and walk away quickly; these programs do not have your cat’s best interests at heart.
A responsible breeding program should be up front with you about all the financial costs that you may incur during this time. Breeding cats can cost a small fortune; in fact, many professional breeders routinely lose money on their breeding endeavors.
Before you choose a breeding program for your cat, research that program thoroughly. Talk with your veterinarian about which breeding programs may be best, and ask local breeding clubs about breeding programs which they may recommend.
The Feline Breeding Process
Cats are truly prolific when it comes to reproduction. Since ancient times, when the Egyptians worshiped cats as a fertility symbol, the female cat (queen) has been associated with fecundity. Though Valentine's Day is not a special romantic occasion for cats, at this time of the year the females are starting their spring heat season. Incredibly, according to a recently published journal article, if allowed to mate naturally a queen can have two or three litters annually resulting in 50-150 offspring in her lifetime. Only rabbits share the distinction of having multiple litters annually.
When a queen is bred by a tom, usually ovulation results. Queens are termed "induced ovulators" meaning that some kind of stimulation (like breeding) is usually needed before the eggs ovulate. Normally during a heat in the presence of one or more toms, multiple breedings will occur. It takes time for the hormone levels to drop off once the first breeding has occurred, usually 1 to 3 days. This explains heat signs a few days after a mating, and explains the phenomenon of cat litters containing offspring of more than one male (superfecundity). Sometimes the queen will have a surge of hormones in early pregnancy also, resulting in a litter of mixed gestational age where kittens inside her uterus are at different stages of development.
Matings will commonly continue for up to three days once the queen enters her full heat. It is difficult to know right after mating whether she has become pregnant or not. Some cats experience pseudo-pregnancy or false pregnancy like dogs, but cats are much less likely to show symptoms. Normal queen pregnancy lasts about 65 days, though a range around this average is considered normal.