Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Trials and Tribulations of Cat Breeding

When you get a cat who exemplifies everything you love about cats, as a breeder you want to reproduce it. I got Cassie almost 2 years ago from Broadsway cats in North Carolina. Cassie was intended to replace another breeding female I'd gotten from the broads at Broadsway who was only able to have singleton litters. Amy has nice kittens, but just one at a time (there's been one exception to that when she gave birth to 5 but that happened after Cassie came to us).

Cassie is a ticked torbie, meaning she has the torbie colors of brown and red mixed together but has the ticked pattern with no stripes except on her head and legs. A ticked pattern in a torbie causes the colors to look rather muted rather than the regular flash torbies have. Therefore, I don't really care for the ticked pattern in a torbie but from the moment I met Cassie at the show hotel in Pennsylvania, I loved her. This was a kitten who oozed personality from the beginning. She walked right up and greeted me like a dog would, happy for any adventure. So even though she was ticked, Cassie had me with hello. I named her Broadsway Cascapedia of Dracoonfly, aka Cassie.

Cassie's personality only improved as she aged. She gives little "chirps" when she wants you to pick her up. She will also reach up like a small child, waiting for you to hold her in your arms. Once Cassie is face-to-face with her human, she rubs both sides of her head against your cheeks. If someone ignores or doesn't notice Cassie's attempts to be picked up, she just jumps in your arms from the floor. It's best to be ready to catch her in this case because Cassie will naturally dig her claws in if she feels like she'll fall from your chest. Cassie's sweetness is unbiased, and she compliments new acquaintances as well as family with her affection.

Unfortunately, as Cassie grew up, she also developed intense car-sickness. After too many times of having to clean diarrhea out of her coat at the cat shows, I decided that Cassie had enough of showing and I was tired of smelling like crap. She has a beautiful typey head, but that didn't justify torturing both of us. So Cassie stayed home to be bred...except for one problem....she wouldn't go into heat. My Maine Coons are generally late bloomers and have been known to wait until almost one year to start cycling so I was patient. I know cats can have silent heats so after a while, I put her with my male to see if he could detect a readiness that I couldn't. No, Bugger just kissed her on the head, but no interest "that way". I put her with my other male and he also seemed to just want to be friends. This went on for several months until Cassie was a well over a year and half old.

By this time, I declared that even if Cassie could never have kittens, she was staying with us forever. Normally, I have to spay and place cats I can't breed so the house doesn't get over crowded but Cassie is special to my heart. I was discussing Cassie's problem with my friend Lynn who is also a Maine Coon breeder Lynn suggested a change of view for Cassie might inspire her to cycle and offered her male, Toro, a brown tabby with high white. Well, it worked! Lynn reported that Cassie was acting like she was in heat and although she never actually witnessed a breeding, she was sure Toro had done the job.

On the day I was to meet Lynn and get Cassie back, her husband Howard noticed that Cassie's neck had a nasty sore on it. Apparently when Toro tried to breed Cassie, she kept rolling to the side. Cats can only do it in one position so Toro naturally tried to hold Cassie upright by her scruff. Toro is a gentleman with the ladies so I don't blame him at all for doing what he had to do. However, Lynn thought that Cassie's injury was serious enough that she needed to go to her vet before I got her back. Cat bites are dangerous even to cats and Cassie's wound had absessed. She needed stitches and drains put in. Not a pretty sight. Lynn and Howard felt terrible and even refused to let me pay for Cassie's bill. Cassie could care less even though she looked like she'd been decapitated and had her head sewn back on.

Once home, I was warned by my vet that with all that Cassie had gone through with surgery, there was a good chance the pregnancy wouldn't take or the kittens could have serious birth defects. I realize that with cat breeding, it's never as simple as putting two cats together, they breed and have healthy babies. Things can and do go wrong more often than not. However, I remained optimistic....having complete faith that since I was lucky enough for Cassie to finally get pregnant, everything would work out.

I counted down on the calendar and determined Cassie's due date was May 22nd. She got larger and wisely stopped jumping into my arms though she still begged to be picked up. Meanwhile, Ginger had had a litter of 6. A few days after Ginger's kittens were born, Jay and I were talking downstairs after coming inside from a nap on the hammock. We heard the sound of a newborn kitten crying upstairs. Jay remarked that it sounded like Ginger was moving kittens. Upon checking in on Ginger in our bedroom and she calmly looked at me from her kittens' bed. Clearly, Ginger's kittens were fine. Then where was the crying coming from?

I crossed the hall to Kelsey's room and found two newborn kittens on her floor with Amy hovering around them. Amy hadn't been pregnant had she? And if so, who bred her? These kittens had white and neither Amy nor Bugger had white on them. I started hollering for Jay and checked the mess under Kelsey's bed for more kittens. I found Cassie under there with another kitten and afterbirth mess on her bottom. She wasn't due for another 2 or 3 weeks but these kittens were a very good size, definitely full term and healthy.

As it turns out, I completely miscounted on the calendar. Cassie delivered after 66 days of gestation, very normal for cats. By the time I found the kittens, the cords were cut and they were dry already. Good thing one of us knew what she was doing. Two of the kittens are ticked tabbies like their mother, so I named them Rikki, Tikki and Tavi. Hopefully all three have inherited their mother's good sense and sweetness too.

Cassie with Rikki, Tikki and Tavi


  1. Well at least you didn't name them "cattle tick" and "turicata tick" and "maine coon tick."