by Dr Rick Kesler,
Royal Canin US
Years ago it was explained to new veterinarians that if the Tom and Queen were in the same county than she would become pregnant. That was the sum total of feline reproduction. Breeding cats has come a long way in sophistication, it certainly can be overwhelming to the novice, but the basics should be understood by all feline breeders.
Anyone that breed cats, and for that matter most pet owner with intact Queens, are familiar with the signs of the estrus cycle. During proestrus they constantly rub their head and neck against any object including humans. Vocalizing does occur but during this time she will refuse the Tom’s advances. It usually last for a very short time, approximately one to two days. In many cases it is often overlooked. During estrus she will be receptive to the Tom and exhibit more intense signs than when in proestrus. She usually exhibits more intense vocalizing, crouching with the forequarters to the ground and what is called lordosis, hyperextension of the back so that the tom can reach the vulva.
The feline cycle is usually thought of as seasonally polyestrus. When the length of day is decreasing many cats will stop cycling, a period called anestrus. Indoor cats are usually under the influence of artificial lights and thus cycle year round. It is thought that ten hours of light is needed for the Queen to cycle and when exposed to less than eight hours of light cycling stops. Vaginal cytology is useful in the Queen but does not have as many clinical applications as in the canine.
Ovulation in the queen is induced by luteinizing hormone released by the pituitary gland in response to the stimulation caused by the Tom’s penis. We also know now that spontaneous ovulation can occur in up to thirty percent of queens. This phenomenon can occur when the Queen can see the Tom but has no contact with him. Of course if there is no contact than there will be no pregnancy and she will enter a pseudopregnancy.
Estrus behavior of the Queen may be suppressed due to a new environment or a Tom she is unfamiliar with. If her stress level is so high she will not breed than artificial insemination can be rewarding. The collection of semen from the Tom is usually more complicated than in canines but with experience can be done. The length of feline pregnancy is usually thought to be 65 days with the majority of pregnancies falling into the 63 to 67 days. Failure of the Queen to conceive has many causes but in most cases it is due to the breeder failing to observe the mating’s. It is not enough to just put the Queen and Tom together but rather observing the successful mating’s. The reason for this is that with only one mating ovulation occurs less than fifty percent of the time but with greater than four successful mating’s reaches near one hundred percent. So when a Queen fails to become pregnant the search for the reason why always starts with the question, did you observe the mating’s?
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