Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Pa in His Kerchief and I in My Cat

Hey, to those of you who have told me privately how much you like my blogs, Thank You!  I've been waiting for the next blog topic to come to me, but nothing other than the above title and a few other random thoughts are in my head lately.  The title comes from our current situation with mother cats, kittens and our master bedroom.  We have Trifle and her two kittens, Laverne and Shirley, and Cassie's Thanksgiving Litter of four.  Trifle is a bit stand-offish, but an incredible mother.  The kittens from her first litter with Bugger all turned out with very gregarious personalities, not at all like their mother's, so the breeding was repeated.  I trust that Laverne and Shirley will also be fearless, affectionate kitties.  I've blogged a few times before about Cassie, how she's my favorite and why.  Well, when I am sharing a room with Cassie, I love her so much that she is allowed to get away with things the other cats don't. 
Me with Cassie

Leaving the care of her kittens in the bathroom with Trifle, Cassie's nightly ritual is to curl herself around my head on my pillow.  After my turn is over, she does the same for Jay.  Jay is less enamored with this behavior than I am, even after I remind him that back in the olden days the bedrooms were so cold people had to wear night caps to bed for warmth, so perhaps Cassie thinks she's doing us a favor in keeping our heads warm.  Jay's hair is much thinner than mine so I'd think he'd appreciate the kitty cap more. 

Trifle and Cassie's Litters at 6 and 4 weeks old

Another habit Cassie has that is common in Maine Coons; curling up to sleep in the cool bathroom sink.  The sink contains her perfectly and gives her a mommy break from her demanding kittens.  Cassie seems to need a lot more breaks than Trifle does, but I've seen both mothers nursing all six kittens equally.  I've had water-obsessed cats before and they are frankly a pain when I am trying to brush my teeth and the cat gets in the way by trying to get water coming out of the faucet.  I usually lose patience with these cats and push them aside so I can brush and spit in peace.  With Cassie, however, I can't bring myself to get her out of the sink when she looks so pretty and peaceful sleeping there so I brush less often.   I should take charge, rouse her up and out of my way.  Instead, I think I'll put a toothbrush in the downstairs bathroom.

Monday, December 13, 2010

My Holiday Newletter

I emailed my annual newsletter to everyone who has a cat or kitten from me.  If you were supposed to get this and did not, please let me know so I can correct your email address in my contacts lists.  

Happy Holidays to the Dracoonfly Family!

As I resorted to last year, I’m emailing rather than snail mailing out my annual holiday card and newsletter to save on postage. I hope everyone and their cat family members have had another wonderful year. This is normally the time of year when I receive lots of photo updates from you all. It’s always a major feat if I get to post adult pictures of an entire litter. I try to be organized enough to get them up on the Pictures pages of the website under the names of your kitten’s mother, along with their baby picture so be sure to check there to see your cat. If you sent in a picture and I didn’t get your cat up, please remind me as I lose track of my emails more easily this time of year.

If you haven’t been reading my blog or stalking my site regularly, then you may not know how Dracoonfly has made the news this past year. I took Bugger and one of his son’s, Copper John (formerly known as “Boston”) to NECN this summer for an interview I did about Maine Coon cats. Here’s a link if you’d like to watch on your PC. Plus, Bugger’s modeling debut is finally out in print in the new Arm & Hammer Cat Litter ad as their new spokes cat “Spike”. So far, his ad has been sighted on the back cover of Cat Fancy, and in Health, Country Living and Family Circle magazines. Get your autographs now as Bugger will be retiring from breeding later in 2011 and become a regular pet, as soon as our new young studs, Downy and Bates, prove themselves. Bugger’s lion-like look will continue on with his many breeding offspring.

As a reminder, please be careful to cat and kitten-proof your house, especially during the holidays. One of our kitten buyers had a close call recently with her cat Ceilidh (pronounced “Kay-lay”, formerly Jennyanydots). Ceilidh swallowed a plastic fastener, like those used to attached price tags to clothing. The fastener cut through her intestinal wall, requiring major surgery and the removal of part of the intestine. Thank goodness her owners had pet insurance to help with the tremendous expense of Ceilidh’s surgery and she is recovering nicely. That being said, don’t be afraid to put up a tree if you celebrate Christmas. We cut our own every year and have only had it come down once (not the cats’ fault; it had a twisted trunk). Our breakable ornaments are hung at the top. Unlike in the attached Simon video, most Maine Coons aren’t really into climbing the tree, just knocking down ornaments and drinking the tree’s water.

Rather than my own photos, this year I’m attaching a couple of the Christmas pictures I’ve received recently from my kitten buyers.

Lady Antebellum


Have a wonderful holiday season and please give your kitties a hug from me.


Sunday, December 5, 2010

Thanksgiving Day Kittens

I knew Cassie could have kittens any day last week, with Day 63 of gestation falling on November 24th, Thanksgiving Eve. Historically, Cassie has been my least reliable breeder so the fact that she was even pregnant was momentous for me.  She is a cat that never seemed to cycle, but managed to go into heat when I sent her out to a friend's stud just to see if anything happened.  In the beginning, I would room her with Bugger, in case she was having silent heats, figuring he would be able to detect what I couldn't see or hear from a normal cat in heat.  Not all cats howl when in heat, but an experienced eye notices behaviors like increased vocalization, affection, and the tell-tale sign of her rear in the air, tail to the side (did you notice I used three different spellings of the same word in that sentence?).  If unsure, normally stroking her near the base of the tail brings forth the posturing known as lordosis behavior in which her back becomes concave.  This is kind of like the effect that high heels have on an upright mammal trying to look sexy.  A woman wears her FMP's*, looks good, her rear sticks out, she can't walk very fast and her feet hurt, but the men come a running just like a tom cat.

But I digress.  Normally I wouldn't keep a cat like Cassie in my breeding  program, but her personality and type (meaning a good physical example of the Maine Coon standard) are something I'd like to reproduce, especially her personality.  I've blogged before about Cassie and have declared from the time I got her that she would always stay with us, if not as a breeder, then as a pet.  She has only had one viable litter and Cassie is three-years-old.  In order to keep my numbers down, all other females who retire from breeding are placed in pet homes after being spayed.  Cassie is so demonstrative with her affection that she will jump from the floor into the arms of strangers, she reaches up to be picked up like a small child, she is just....special.   Her only fault is that she gets terribly carsick so her show career got cut short after I spent an hour cleaning poop out of her fur at a show.  Her other fault is that she has had a hard time conceiving kittens. 

This Thanksgiving, the kids were at their dad's house so Jay and I had invited friends over to celebrate.  We couldn't go anywhere because of Cassie's expected delivery.  I slept little the night before Thanksgiving, waking up every couple of hours to make sure Cassie wasn't in labor.  That morning, she acted like she was content to stay pregnant forever, ate breakfast and tried to sneak out of our bedroom several times.  Jay and I got busy cleaning and cooking.  An hour or so later, I came into our room to find Cassie and her newly delivered kitten on the rug. 

I yelled out the door to Jay, "We're having kittens!" so he'd know why I suddenly disappeared.  Of course I should thank Cassie for getting me out of the bulk of the cleaning as Jay finished it.  That's right ladies, my husband finished cleaning the house, changed the litter boxes and cooked the turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes while I sat on the floor and waited for kittens. 

The first three kittens arrived quickly then labor seemed to stop.  She had looked like she was carrying five so I expected more.  I palpated Cassie's sides and felt at least one head.  After an hour, I suspected we may have a stillborn as a dead kitten doesn't release the natural oxytocin to stimulate contractions.  I gave Cassie a shot of oxytocin to help things along, something I'd never do unless a cat had already delivered a kitten so I knew her cervix was fully dilated.  Some breeders think that when it takes a kitten a long time to deliver and the result is a dead kitten that it was killed by the delay in the birth canal.  My vet explains it differently.  The birth canal is very short, shorter than the length of the kitten. The delay in birth is more likely caused by the lack of enough oxytocin necessary to produce strong contractions.  Obviously, all the kittens need to come out or the mother could develop an infection.  Sure enough, the fourth kitten was stillborn, its cause of death was gastroschism, an unfortunately occasional birth defect we see when the abdominal wall doesn't completely close up before birth. 

I still felt another hard head yet to be delivered and Cassie's contractions were sporadic and unproductive.  Fearing the worst, I gave her another shot of oxytocin after waiting 30 minutes.  Nothing.  Contractions every 5 minutes or so, but that's not frequent enough to produce a kitten.  Not wanting to push the man-made oxytocin, I decided to help Jay downstairs and revisit Cassie in another hour.  I considered calling my vet, but hesitated because I didn't want to disrupt her Thanksgiving preparation.  My guests were on their way and received regular play-by-play on the delivery.  They were hoping to watch the birth and the way things were going, they may just get that opportunity.  I should mention that my guests were also cat breeders and Cassie fans so they were naturally intrigued.  Only cat breeders and midwives can talk placentas and amniotic fluid while eating and not lose their appetites. 

After peeling the sweet potatoes and putting them into the Crockpot, I checked on Cassie.  Bingo!  She had just delivered another kitten on her own and she was a live squirmy little thing, born about 2 hours after the rest of her littermates.  Further palpatation revealed that Cassie was finished with the hard part.

Now that I knew we had four live babies, I could critique them.  Cassie is a ticked torbie, meaning she lacks the classic or mackeral stripes on her body like the traditional Maine Coon.  I'm not crazy about the ticked pattern, but it does look pretty on a silver or a red as the cats resemble a fox's coloring.  To me, most of the brown ticked tabbies look like mud.  Well, the whole litter is ticked.  With the exception of the blue ticked girl, their coloring is akin to watered down chocolate, like a Yoohoo chocolate drink.  As their coats come in, these kittens should be beautiful warm brown ticked tabbies.  See the Maine Coon Breeders and Fanciers site for examples of the ticked tabby Maine Coons in different colors.  My current plan is keep a female, ticked or not, so I at least have a Cassie daughter to carry on that winning personality. 

Thanksgiving Day Litter

Coming up with call names for a litter born on Thanksgiving Day, names like Pilgrim, Pocahontas, Chief Powhatan, John Smith, etc. were suggested.  However, most of them sounded masculine and I had 3 girls to name.  So I focused on the word "thanks" and my guests helped with the translation into various foreign languages; Spasibo (Russian) for the one male, Gracias (Spanish), Danke (German), and Merci (French) for the girls.  

Cassie Cleans Up Her New Kittens

*FMP - initials for F... Me Pumps