Finding your first breeding queenFinding your first breeding cat is harder than you would think, and there are many pitfalls that can catch the unwary.
First of all you have to convince a breeder that your heart is in the right place, and you're going to do this as well as you possibly can. If a breeder doesn't grill you and make your life difficult, then don't buy a kitten from them. Someone who doesn't care deeply enough about their cats and their breed to be cagey about selling one for breeding, is someone who probably doesn't care about their health and welfare in their own home, so you may end up with a kitten who is completely unsuitable for breeding, and a breeder who is no help to you if you get into difficulties.
Join a breed club for the breed you are interested in; attend meetings, breed seminars, and AGMs so that you understand the world of your chosen breed. Visit cat shows and get to know the breed and the breeders. Ask for, and listen to advice about breeding and about choosing a kitten from everyone you can. You can't have too much information. If you aren't interested in showing, do not just write off or ignore the show world: this is where the type of the breed is set and where the breed is examined to make sure it conforms to the standards set down for it. As a breeder it is your responsibility to uphold the breed and ensure that you do not damage its health, welfare or type by what you do. Learn what is good and bad about the breed and how to recognise a good example of the breed.
Next you need to find your breeder: someone who -
- is an experienced breeder with a good reputation;
- genuinely cares about their cats;
- is knowledgeable and experienced (never buy a breeding kitten from a novice);
- ensures that you know what you're getting into;
- doesn't make you feel stupid when you ask questions;
- expects to mentor you through your first few litters (or insists on you finding a mentor near you before selling you a kitten);
- is always there on the end of the phone to answer questions;
- is honest about their bloodlines, and tells you of any possible problems that you might encounter. No bloodline is perfect, so don't expect any guarantees.
Make sure your cat is -
- physically strong and healthy;
- A good example of the breed (i.e. doesn't have any obvious type flaws). This has nothing to do with showing, but everything to do with breeding within the guidelines;
- well grown and, if possible, large for her age (never choose the pretty little runt of the litter - Look at a number of litters so that you can judge relative sizes);
- from a mother who has no difficulty in birthing and is a good mother to her babies;
- from parents with excellent, gentle, loving temperaments. Any flaws in temperament will be passed in the bloodline, as will the good characteristics.
Do not buy a kitten -
- who has any physical defect at all - including a tail fault;
- who comes from a litter where other kittens have anything wrong with them, including heart defects, the wrong number of toes, any physical deformity, etc.;
- who was born by caesarian section, whatever the reason (you don't want to unnecessarily increase the risk of your novice litters having any difficulties);
- who looks scrawny or small when you go to collect it, even if it looked fine when you first met it;
- who has had cat flu, even if it is 'completely better now';
- who is not friendly, cuddly and purry when you visit;
- who has a dubious temperament - a placid, gentle and well-adjusted cat is essential for breeding;
- that is nervous or hyperactive;
- is a picky eater;
- if you have any doubts whatsoever.
One way of finding a good kitten for breeding is to find a breeder you feel you can trust who does not have kittens to sell (and therefore has no vested interest in what you buy), and ask them to help you choose one from another breeder. The cat fancy is a place where people can be bitchy about one another, and as a result you may hear all sorts of things about other breeders. Don't believe everything you hear, but be wary - it's often impossible to tell whether what you hear is just nastiness or if it is based on truth, so you can't ignore anything. If a breeder warns you against buying a kitten from someone but doesn't want to say why, this may be because they don't wish to be bitchy: there are usually good reasons for warning a novice off a breeder, and it is wise to have your antennae out for what is not being said.