Archive for January, 2011

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Hiss! Spat! (10 steps to introduce a new cat to your current cat)

31 January, 2011

I received this e-mail today from a woman who was having problems with a new kitten and a 6-month old kitten:

“… the initial problem was how we introduced the new 3-month-old kitten to the resident 6-month-old.

The new kitten was introduced to her as soon as she was brought home instead of letting the resident kitten get used to the scent etc and gradually introducing them. 

I am now trying something which I found on the internet [Feliway].  The new kitten is kept in a separate room with the resident still getting free rein of the house apart from this one room.

 The last couple of evenings I have been putting the new kitten into a carrier and taking her into a different room letting the resident investigate.

Obviously working full time I can only do this for a couple of hours a day. The hissing has already stopped, the resident is now inquisitive rather than angry. The info given is that this could take up to 3 weeks.

Is there anything else you could recommend??”

I know … I know … like me, you’ve read Anita Frazer who talks about the best gift you can give your cat … a companion.

So you decide to buy a kitten to keep your cat company.  If you recognise yourself in this e-mail, don’t worry – you’re in good company. 

I myself made the same mistake many years ago when I bought in Maya (Bengal – 12 weeks’ old) when Ananda (Maine Coon) was just 16 weeks’ old.  Ananda had been with us for a month and thought of herself as the only cat.  Oh, the expression of surprise and horror on her face when the basket opened and out popped a brash and very confident and very self-centred Bengal.

It’s testimony to Ananda’s very sweet and laid-back Maine Coon nature that she grew to accept Maya without too much fuss.  Unfortunately as they grew older they fell out (but that’s another story and a warning never to mix Maine Coons and Bengals).

Cats are territorial creatures and unless in a feral colony, can have issues with multiple-cat households.  They’re also creatures of habit and hate change.  A new kitten counts as a MAJOR change.

What’s praiseworthy about the e-mail is that at least the owner acknowledges the mistakes she made in introducing the new kitten to the resident kitten and is taking steps to helping them integrate.

In some cases nothing happens after such a hasty introduction apart from a few initial hiss-spats.  However, in most cases the resident cat has come to view home as it’s territory.  It will naturally see the new cat as an invader and try to get rid of it.

So what can you do to minimise such hisstrionics? 

1.  Before the new kitten joins your home, ask the breeder to let you have some of the kitten’s bedding.  This will allow your existing cat to get used to the scent of the new kitten before it arrives.  You could try asking the breeder if you could swap bedding, but it’s a rare breeder that will agree to this as breeders are wary of anything that could spread cat germs.

2.  Do not just open the basket and let the new kitten introduce itself to the resident cat.  Or you could do that and risk WWIII.

3.  Instead, prepare a room for the kitten.  It should contain a litter tray, and food and water bowls (placed some distance from the tray).  This will be the kitten’s home for the next 7 days.

4.  Allow the resident cat to sniff at the door to the kitten’s room.  Better still, feed the resident cat next to the door of the kitten’s room.  This helps it to associate the kitten’s smell with nice things.  You can also swap bedding so they get used to each other’s scent.

5.  After about a week, you can start to introduce the kitten to the resident cat. 

6.  Place kitten in basket.  Place basket in room with resident cat.  Give resident cat something nice, like a cat treat.  Let resident cat get used to sight of kitten in basket.  If the resident cat reacts badly, put kitten back in its room.

7.  Repeat no. 6 on subsequent days, until reaction is restrained.  What do I mean by “reaction is restrained”?  Well, like less hissing.   Sorry I can’t be more precise.  Only you know your cat and will know if it’s being less upset or not.

8.  OK.  Time to open kitten basket.  Make sure that you don’t shut the basket door so that the kitten has something to run into.  Also make sure you have something high for the kitten to jump onto in case it gets thumped or chased.

9.  Be PATIENT.  Don’t shoo the kitten out of the basket.  Let it take its time.  Chances are it’s curious about the resident cat and vice versa.  Have a treat or a cat wand toy nearby so that they can both be distracted.  Not catnip.  Catnip will make them hyper.  It will also help if you play with with both cats together so they see each other’s company as being fun.

Praise both cats if they behave, making extra fuss of the resident cat.

10.  If all goes well, allow kitten the run of the house.  However, you may wish to maintain separate sleeping quarters for the kitten just so that it has something to go back to if it feels threatened by the resident cat.  

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Please note that this process is especially important if you have a multiple-cat household. 

Also, don’t expect “and-they-all-lived-happily-ever-after” to happen overnight.  Be prepared for fights as the cats sort out hierarchy.  As long as there’s no blood, don’t panic.  Don’t get upset if the resident cat’s position gets trumped by the new cat.

My personal experience is that the Oriental breeds and short-haired cats tend to have more dominant personalities.

Does having two cats of different sexes make it easier?  Not really.  There are cases of two female cats who get on beautifully, or two males.  Or a female and a male pairing.  Or an older cat and a younger cat.  There’ve been cases of mother cat and kitten not getting on after the kitten grows up. 

It all depends on the personality of the cats, which as we know is a mystery.  However, by following the steps above, you can make life easier on your resident cat and the new kitten.

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5 days to visit the Taj Mahal

23 January, 2011

A huge THANK-YOU to the 45,000 viewers who’ve read and left comments on The Cat’s Whiskers blog.

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

About 3 million people visit the Taj Mahal every year. This blog was viewed about 45,000 times in 2010. If it were the Taj Mahal, it would take about 5 days for that many people to see it.

The busiest day of the year was May 9th with 244 views. The most popular post that day was And so to bed ….

When I first started writing this blog, it was to share my experiences of being a first-time cat breeder – call it lessons from an imperfect teacher.  This was 4 years ago. 

Whenever I add a new post I wonder if anyone will read it, so I just want to say how chuffed I am by people’s support – your comments really help me go on. 

Please let me know if there are any topics that you would like addressed:  sometimes I assume that everyone knows everything about say, fleas, or assume that no one’s interested in, say, fleas.

 I’ve also made some great friends (many thanks to Sonya, Molly and Naomi!) and hope to make more friends in 2011, so keep those comments coming!

Best wishes,

The Cats Whiskers

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Part 10 of “So you want to be a cat breeder” – the mating

11 January, 2011

When it all works …

 

So your queen has got the green light from the vet and she’s now in her basket, about to be introduced to Mr Stud Cat.

Depending on the temperament of the stud cat and the queen, the owner may introduce the queen into the stud cat’s quarters immediately. 

However, if the queen is nervous or has a reputation for being difficult, some stud cat owners prefer a softly-softly approach.  They may have enclosures in which the queen and stud can make their acquaintance separated by netting, just in case it isn’t a case of lust at first sight.

My queen, Ananda’s, first encounter was with an experienced stud cat, Mullycoonz Romulas.  A beautiful red silver tabby with rippling muscles straight out of a bodybuilding magazine.  His owners assured me he was a gentleman and wouldn’t take advantage of her inexperience, and so chose to release her into his cage.  She dashed into the enclosed part of his quarters and hid there.  He sat outside patiently, letting his potent pheremones and studliness do their work for him. 

His owners told me that they had a previous stud cat who wasn’t so gentlemanly – this chap wasn’t used to waiting and used to reach into the quarters and get the queen out.

Please note that all this is usually done under supervision because:

(1) Stud cat owners are well aware of the risks of putting two strange cats together. 

(2) In the case of an inexperienced queen, she is likely to beat up the stud.  Or in the case of a feisty and inexperienced queen, it may be necessary to hold her down gently [with gardening gloves] in order for the stud to sidle up and have his way with her without losing an eye in the act.

(3) The end of the mating act is actually quite painful for the queen and she oftens turns on the stud with copious use of claws and fangs.  An experienced stud will anticipate this and know how to levitate 3 feet vertically in the air onto a platform in the enclosure.  Think of it as Matrix for Cats.

(4) It is important to record the date of the first mating in order to work out when the kittens are due.  What if the mating takes place in the dead of the night?  Well, canny stud cat owners have baby alarms hooked up to their bedrooms.  And you thought that cat breeding was easy … .

At the end of the stay, a mating certificate is issued by the stud cat owner.  This is an important piece of paper because it must be sent to the cat registry  as proof of pedigree.  It contains the following information:

(1) details and cat association registration numbers of the stud cat

(2) the approximate days of mating (and due date of kittens)

(3) any restrictions on the kittens born from the mating.  For e.g. “one female may be kept for your own breeding.  All other kittens to be registered on the non-active register.  No kittens can be sold/given away on the active register.”

(3)  What the stud cat owner will do in case the mating is unsuccessful, e.g. “a free mating will be offered if one or less kittens result from the mating”.

Romulas’ owners told me how they opened the door to his enclosure one morning during Ananda’s visit and everything was topsy-turvy – his basket, her basket, the litter trays etc.  But they were curled together on the bench.  Romulas and Ananda went on to have six kittens together.

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Part 9 of “So you want to be a cat breeder” – breeding the queen

3 January, 2011

This post assumes that as a first-time breeder, you only have one queen.  It could be that you have more than one queen. 

However, chances are you won’t have a stud cat because breeders do not sell stud cats to first-time breeders.  They know that owning breeding queens is complicated enough without having to cope with the added headache and expense of having a stud cat.

So this post also assumes that you will need to use the services of a stud cat.

I have written elsewhere about the breeding cycle of a queen. 

When she calls, a queen will spray to attract a male cat.  “Spray” sounds very delicate and fragrant.  It is not.  It should really be called “Hose” for its volume and ability to reach long distances.   The smell is not for the faint-hearted.

The point of mentioning this is that even before you breed her, unless you want your house smelling like a zoo, you will probably have to spend a lot of money either (1) buying specialist cat urine enzyme cleaners or (2) house your queen in an outdoor purpose-built cat house.  I chose option (1) and wish I’d chosen (2) instead but that would have set me back by anything from £500 upwards.

Next you will need to find a stud cat.  If the breeder of your queen has a suitable stud cat then that’s very useful.  If not, you will have to phone around for a stud cat.  If you’ve been showing your cat then you may already have met some suitable owners who are impressed by your willingness to show and therefore more ready to let you use their stud cat.

Some stud cats are advertised as at closed or private  stud.  This means that their services are used exclusively by the breeder for her queens.  Not for outside queens. 

There are a number of reasons for this, usually to do with wanting to maintain the quality of the kittens and the bloodline.  Remember – the reputation of the stud and the breeder is at stake so they have every right to be fussy.

It could be that the stud cat is new and the breeder wants to see what sort of kittens he produces before allowing outside queens to breed with him.  Or maybe the breeder wants to keep that particular bloodline to her cattery. 

Also, the more outside queens a stud breeds with, the chances of introducing outside germs is high.  So an owner of a stud cat has to balance out this risk with the need to ensure that the stud gets plenty of action to satisfy him.

In order to minimise the chances of the queen passing on any diseases,  all stud cat owners wil insist that queens are tested for FIV and FeLV, 24 hours before mating.  The vet will issue a certificate for the blood test which must be presented to the stud cat’s owner as proof of health. I paid approximately £40 for a blood test in 2009.

It goes without saying that the queen should also be in good health, and have a clean coat and no fleas.

Stud fees range from £300 upwards (2009 prices).  You will also have to provide food and litter for your queen for her Club 18-30 holiday.  A nice bunch of flowers or bottle of wine is a nice gesture when you pick up your queen.  Not for the stud cat – for the stud cat’s owner.