I am currently working on an e-learning project (definitely exciting, but totally new to me !), and while building those modules on feline reproduction, I thought that I could definitely use that content for some of my short blogs. It would be a great opportunity to get feedback and hear stories from our feline breeder community !
The module I am currently creating is called : « How to pick the right male for your cattery? ». We could definitely spend hours discussing this topic, but that is not today’s goal (moreover I hope you guys will take the module as soon as it is published, so let’s keep this a bit shady for the moment!). Just wanted to focus on this question I have been spending time on: « What is the best age to pick a future breeding tomcat for your cattery? ».
In my experience, most of the times, breeder will acquire 2-3 month old kittens, and when these kittens will reach adult age they will join the cattery’s breeding program. That is definitely the easiest option (provided you know what you want and where to look!). However, if it is a breeding male you are looking for, that is not necessarily the best one for sure !
Kittens: always a bet on the future
From a reproductive standpoint indeed, when you buy a kitten, you have absolutely NO IDEA what their breeding potential will be. It’s definitely a bet on the future. They might as well be sterile, you have no way to check before they reach puberty.
If you are in the market for a kitten you will turn into a future breeding tomcat, there are fortunately still a few things you can focus on to be sure you minimize the risks you are taking here.
Anatomical details that require your attention
Always check that both testes are descended in the scrotum. In cats, on the contrary to dogs, both testes are in the scrotum at the time of birth. At this very young age however, they are so small that they might be difficult to palpate. This should however become way easier around 4-8 weeks of age. If one (or both) are still missing at this age, there is still hope for sure, since they can descend up until 6 months of age (more here, it was written for dogs but the mechanism and the consequences are quite similar in cats). However in my experience it is never a good sign. Especially if you intend to breed this animal in the future !
Make sure that the kitten is in optimal body condition: overweight is a threat in pets and we unfortunately see more and more pictures of overweight cats on social networks these days. And purebred cats as well are affected. I was reading a paper lately stating that 45.5% of the
purebred cats they studied could be considered slightly overweighted (see abstract here). That is huge for sure ! Overweight can even be more problematic in kittens: they indeed develop something called « hyperplastic obesity », which is very difficult to treat when they reach adult age. No doubt about the fact that overweight impacts animal health. If you follow our blog, you also know that obesity affects fertility as well (more info on this blog post).
Infectious diseases: always a focus !
When you breed cats, you quickly learn how problematic infectious diseases can be in catteries. So obviously, you’ll want to make sure that your kitten is healthy before bringing it back to your cattery. There are however two viral diseases you MUST always test your animals for: FelV (Feline Leukemia Virus) and FIV (Feline Immunodeficiency Virus). These diseases have terrible consequences on the reproductive function and can lead to infertility, abortion and neonatal mortality. Definitely something you do not want inside your breeding cattery… These two diseases are fortunately less and less common inside feline breeding units, but we still occasionally see cases. So don’t give up on these tests : an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure !