Feline reproduction: when looking for a new breeding male (Part I)

 

I am currently working on an e-learning project (definitely exciting, but totally new to me !), and while building those modules on feline reproduction, I thought that I could definitely use that content for some of my short blogs. It would be a great opportunity to get feedback and hear stories from our feline breeder community !

 The module I am currently creating is called : « How to pick the right male for your cattery? ». We could definitely spend hours discussing this topic, but that is not today’s goal (moreover I hope you guys will take the module as soon as it is published, so let’s keep this a bit shady for the moment!). Just wanted to focus on this question I have been spending time on: «  What is the best age to pick a future breeding tomcat for your cattery? ».

 In my experience, most of the times, breeder will acquire 2-3 month old kittens, and when these kittens will reach adult age they will join the cattery’s breeding program. That is definitely the easiest option (provided you know what you want and where to look!). However, if it is a breeding male you are looking for, that is not necessarily the best one for sure !

Kittens: always a bet on the future

From a reproductive standpoint indeed, when you buy a kitten, you have absolutely NO IDEA what their breeding potential will be. It’s definitely a bet on the future. They might as well be sterile, you have no way to check before they reach puberty.

 If you are in the market for a kitten you will turn into a future breeding tomcat, there are fortunately still a few things you can focus on to be sure you minimize the risks you are taking here. 

 

Anatomical details that require your attention

 

Always check that both testes are descended in the scrotum. In cats, on the contrary to dogs, both testes are in the scrotum at the time of birth. At this very young age however, they are so small that they might be difficult to palpate. This should however become way easier around 4-8 weeks of age. If one (or both) are still missing at this age, there is still hope for sure, since they can descend up until 6 months of age (more here, it was written for dogs but the mechanism and the consequences are quite similar in cats). However in my experience it is never a good sign. Especially if you intend to breed this animal in the future !

 Make sure that the kitten is in optimal body condition: overweight is a threat in pets and we unfortunately see more and more pictures of overweight cats on social networks these days. And purebred cats as well are affected. I was reading a paper lately stating that 45.5% of the

purebred cats they studied could be considered slightly overweighted (see abstract here). That is huge for sure ! Overweight can even be more problematic in kittens: they indeed develop something called « hyperplastic obesity », which is very difficult to treat when they reach adult age.  No doubt about the fact that overweight impacts animal health. If you follow our blog, you also know that obesity affects fertility as well (more info on this blog post).

 

Infectious diseases: always a focus !

 

When you breed cats, you quickly learn how problematic infectious diseases can be in catteries. So obviously, you’ll want to make sure that your kitten is healthy before bringing it back to your cattery. There are however two viral diseases you MUST always test your animals for: FelV (Feline Leukemia Virus) and FIV (Feline Immunodeficiency Virus). These diseases have terrible consequences on the reproductive function and can lead to infertility, abortion and neonatal mortality. Definitely something you do not want inside your breeding cattery… These two diseases are fortunately less and less common inside feline breeding units, but we still occasionally see cases. So don’t give up on these tests : an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure !

Male kittens usually reach puberty at 6 months of age. However, they might not yet be able to breed properly (some males might not be able to do so before 1.5-2 years - not uncommon in Persians for instance).  Moreover, first ejaculates are usually of poor quality, so even if they breed they might not impregnate females before later until they get older.

 

That’s all for today but wait for our next posts, we’ll touch on the other options you have when it comes to pick a breeding male for your cattery !

Meanwhile, tell us what your criteria are to select a kitten that will become a future breeding male ! 

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Comment by Emmanuel PRO Technical Service on January 20, 2015 at 9:39am

Thanks for your comment, the more we share around these topics the more we can help feline breeding moving forward !

Comment by Wave Dancer Cornish Rex on January 19, 2015 at 7:12am

Hi Emmanuel.

I agree with all you mentioned and also agree with Ellie.  

We study the pedigrees for quality (assumed based on the championship levels and elite or distinguished merit levels).  Then we need to find the longevity of the lines.  That being said- it does not necessarily mean that the new male will produce the quality that is in his background.  Sometimes it is possible to use an outside male on occasion from reputable breeders with healthy catteries or we raise our own males, breeding specifically for that purpose and choosing the kitten in the litter that meets our requirements.  I realize that it is not always possible for breeders to run with multiple bloodlines, but we would recommend it especially if they are raising their own males.  Raising your own male is risking the possibility of producing the same weakness in the bloodlines, but also the same strengths. An inbreeding using a new male may bring to light health or structural problems that indicate the male is not suitable for further use - or on the positive side, the kittens may be healthy and good quality which makes the male a valuable asset.  

Questions to other breeders require that they answer questions honestly so we recommend working with breeders with a solid reputation that are actively showing their cats and are producing consistent quality.

Thanks Emmanuel - it's a great topic!

Comment by Emmanuel PRO Technical Service on January 16, 2015 at 3:14pm

Thanks for your comment Ellie, lot of work in the selection process from what I read !

Have a great week-end !

 

Comment by Ellie Smith on January 16, 2015 at 12:40pm
Hi Emmanuel. Great idea for an article!
My selection process and questions I ask above what you have already mentioned:
I look for show type cats close to the breed standard. I always know when getting a kitten it may not become a grand champion but I'd it is a candidate for a stud in my cattery it must. I look at siblings, parents and 5 generations back at titles each cat has achieved. The more winners on the pedigree the more chance they will consistently pass on those traits. Also showing my potential new male is a great temperament test, as a shy cat at shows will produce shy kittens.
I also establish what colour genes are present. Ie color point carrier.
Health wise:
I look for a kitten that has never had a URI. I ask weight as body weight of a kitten shows so much in how they were raised and health problems I may not of been told.
I ask if ringworm ever present in cattery. I won't deal with known positive catteries.
I ask what age sire produced kittens, how many?
I ask if sire sprays and is overly aggressive with other cats as I've had to neuter studs that are too aggressive.

I ask if any early unknown cause deaths known in the line, indicating HCM. I also make sure baby is PKD clear via DNA and PRA now as well.
I do a echo cardiogram once an adult before breeding looking for HCM
Buying a kitten especially from a new breeder working with lines they do not know is always a risk. But, buying a Grand Champion proven male just may not be possible due to availability.
I usually am able to use 1 out of every 3 cats I buy in my program that pass all my testing.
Of course this only works if the breeder you are working with is honest and open as well.
Milbury Cattery
Ellie Smith

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