If you’re a cat lover, the idea of breeding cats and having a houseful of little kittens has probably crossed your mind at one time or another. However, the actual process of setting up a ‘cattery’ may be a mystery. A cattery is simply the feline version of a kennel, a place where breeding, birthing and raising the offspring occurs. Some professional cat breeders will have rooms filled with cages, but smaller catteries can be little more than a person’s house where the cats roam free. Deciding the extent of cattery you want it the first step.
Starting up a cattery and obtaining breeding females, the queens, and the stud males can be a very expensive endeavor. Depending on the breed of cat, you might spend thousands of dollars just on the queen alone. Other associated expenses are vet visits to make sure the cat or cats are in excellent health and are vaccinated and dewormed. Then there is quality cat food to buy. Cheap food is never a good idea to give queens because they will need the extra high quality nutrition during pregnancy and continuing on through the lactation (milk production and nursing) period. Pregnancy takes a lot out of a cat, so she needs good food, clean water and exercise every day.
It’s also a good idea not to let the queen outside where she could pick up disease, fleas, ticks or get into fights with other cats. You will need to prepare a ‘kittening’ or nesting box for the queen a few weeks before she’s ready to have the kittens. Keep some soft blankets or towels in the box. Cats like to have a private, quiet and dark area to have their kittens, although some won’t care and might even have the kittens on your bed! Keeping track of the day she mated is important so you’ll know approximately when to expect the kittens. Gestation for cats ranges from about 63 days to as long as 70 days, but this is rare. The average is about 65 days. Make sure you show the nesting box to your queen so she will be familiar with it.
Once the queen is ready to give birth, she’ll become friendly and follow you around, or might become more aloof. You’ll know she’s getting ready when she goes to the nesting box and inspects it or digs around in the blankets. When she’s in labor, you can watch for contractions, just like in a human, and know when they are close together that she’s about to give birth. Keep noise down and if she doesn’t mind you around, sit with her and keep her calm. If she doesn’t want you around, leave her alone or watch from a doorway, just in case she needs help.
It’s always best to let the queen handle things on her own. Instinct kicks in and she’ll know what to do. When the first kitten comes out, she’ll cut the umbilical cord by chewing on it and will most likely eat the placenta. Let her. There are important nutrients in the placenta that give her strength and help to heal the uterus.
So, once you have all the kittens and make sure they are nursing, you can relax. The queen will likely stay very close to her babies for a few days. Because of this, make sure you have fresh water and food nearby, and of course, a litter pan. Running a cattery, whether it’s made up of several cats or just one, is a labor of love and should never, ever be done just to make money. With all of the related expenses, it’s hard to turn a profit. We’ve all heard of the ‘puppy mills’ where people overbreed dogs just to make a buck. This is wrong. Go into breeding for the right reasons. Love the breed and love the animals.