Breeding. Our View
We aim this article to those people that are starting to breed or that are thinking to do it in the future and only if the motivation to do it is not just the money.
Our intent is to provide our view on the topic of breeding after spending nine years doing it with high standards (or so we think).
We don’t want to be dogmatic or, in any way, try to impose a specific way of breeding. Of course we don’t think the only truth is ours. We try to propose some ideas for thinking and discussing and hopefully some hints can be useful for somebody.
We write it because there’s a complete absence of articles like this either in webs, books or magazines. When you start breeding there’s nothing talking about it. We would have liked to have something like this when we were starting.
And, finally, we discuss the topic with some sense of humour…Smile, please!
WHAT IS BREEDING?
Well, some parts are obvious, you know, the male, the female … For us, to breed is to have an active contribution in preserving a breed, improving it if possible.
Like all definitions, there’s some ambiguity here and probably it’s not very helpful, so now we’ll drill down on it.
So let’s start with “preserving a breed” and let me ask another question: Why do we need pedigrees? The pedigree is like an authentication certification or a personal ID of the cat. If you want to be sure that a cat belongs to a given breed then it’s clear why it’s so important for a cat to have a pedigree.
It’s clear: if you want to breed Persians (as an example) and you buy some cats to start your breeding somehow you need to be sure that you’re buying true Persians.
But it’s also more than that: nowadays, if you’re not registered somewhere you don’t exist, and when something doesn’t exist officially it’s more frequent to suffer abuses. Probably you can think of examples of this out of the cat world.
So, although some people may think that they are sure about who is buying their cats, unless all of them are sold already neutered, they can be starting a long line of non-registered cats and the descendants can end up in a pet shop or as stray cats.
Someone may say that we don’t know either what the people buying our pedigree cats will do and it’s true, but at least we take responsibility for those cats that we sell.
Finally, the pedigree allow us to know the ancestors of our cat, that is related with the second piece of the definition, “improve the breed”, because the characteristics of our cats are inherited form parents, grandparents and so on. We can study the “lines” of our cats, in order to improve or be aware of possible problems.
In some way, to breed is like being God, because we replace the freedom of the animals and they follow our decisions, so we should be responsible and careful in what we do.
THE BEAUTY IS ON THE INSIDE
This should be the first principle guiding us. Breeding healthy cats with good temper should be the first goal as breeders. Controlled breeding can have very positive effects in a given breed when, as an example, we do strict controls to select the most healthy individuals and, over the time, remove genetic diseases from the lines.
Nevertheless, it can also be dangerous to be an extremist, we are not talking here about neutering as soon as we see the most insignificant problem, that way we can reduce the genetic pool of the breed.
At this point, is important to have a global vision, not only of the breed but also of the biological rules of nature. So we need to control the problem little by little, being careful of not forcing the situation.
So we have to breed to improve health and temper of our cats, and when we have this assured we can start to worry about the external view of the cat.
STANDARD AND CAT SHOWS
Some people say cat shows are beauty contest, but we don’t think that is completely true. Probably you’ve seen a not so beautiful cat wining from time to time, aren’t you? The shows are, or should be, standard contest.
In case you don’t know what the standard is, it’s the description of the ideal cat for a given breed. As we work to preserve a breed, it’s normal that the cats that win are those that are more close to that “ideal”.
(OK, OK, we know that in this point experienced breeders can have a lot to say, but we can keep that for another article).
It’s a pity, but in the cat shows is only possible to judge the external aspect of a cat. We are sure that most of the people would agree that it would be much better if we were able to judge also “the inside”, that is, we should be sure that a winner is also a healthy cat. It’s clear that there’s neither time nor ways to ensure that a winner it’s not only a cat with a good standard but also with a perfect health. And probably we don’t even agree in a definition of what healthy means.
So, although some details are checked in the shows (deaf certificates for white cats, cryptorchidism for males …), the reality is that health issues are the responsibility of the breeders and exhibitors.
So health is our responsibility, at least until judges are required to have X ray vision. We have the responsibility to work, as much as we can, to match an outstanding external view of our bathed, groomed, perfumed cats, with an equal healthy inside.
External beauty of a cat and closeness to the perfect standard is desirable, but is not as important as health.
How to breed healthy cats it’s a topic to write whole books, we do not try to get here into any detail about that. In the health of an animal there are many elements: genetic heritage (by the way, parent selection should also consider health aspects and not only beauty or standard), correct breeding with a correct nutrition and socialization, etc.
It’s clear that cats are living animals and so they’ll have illnesses and they’ll die even if we do things well. Some diseases are difficult to detect until the cat is quite old. The distinction between breeders will not be based on the fact that these things happen or not, because nobody is free from having some problems, the distinction will come from the reaction when the problems happen.
So, if we have a diagnosis for a genetic disease, a responsible behaviour would be to stop breeding with that cat immediately and to tell anybody breeding with his/her offspring so they can also react.
Once again, we need to be careful. We are not taking about cutting a whole line for a small problem in just one individual. We need to understand the probability of the offspring to have the disease, severity of the problem, etc. You can have some descendants that are perfectly healthy.
If you really want to keep a line where you have identified a health problem you can have a litter, keep one of the kittens, give the others neutered as gifts explaining possible implications, and latter you should check if the kitten that you’re keeping is having the problem or not. In case is healthy, perfect, if it’s not, start again.
As a general rule, you should apply objective scientific criteria and common sense and not act based on fear, ignorance or trying to hide the issues, a behaviour that has been very bad in the past for cat breeding.
Openness is good. Knowledge sharing is good.
It would be healthy to share experience, knowledge and information. Be more fact and science based and less about “old stories”. What about trying to keep up to date with new developments? What about reading articles in English?
We see that the breeders are sharing more and more, even the problems they are having and not only the good stories. We think this is the right way, so we want to encourage the few Spanish breeders that are starting this path and we want to do our little contribution with things like this article.