Selecting Good Breeding Stock
by Susan Little
Before selecting stock it is important to consider the number of animals in the cattery, their over-all health, their interactions with one another, and the things we have reviewed earlier in this article.
The challenge is, not to add animals without a reason, and not to overpopulate the cat-tery with animals that do not advance your breeding program. The reminder I have used is to decide how many animals make a good breeding program for the cattery and post that numberon the refrigerator where you can look at it daily.
If the number is exceeded, then one of thecurrent animals will need to be spayed or neutered and placed in a good home.
Whether you are selecting foundation cats for a new cattery or contemplating adding breedingstock to an established cattery, it is important to understand how to select breeding stock.
Breeders can start by identifying their specific goals clearly when considering the addition ofnew breeding stock. Important skills for the breeder to acquire include a good understanding of the breed standard, the ability to recognize excellent examples of the breed, and the ability tojudge one’s own cats impartially to recognize strengths and weaknesses.
It is also important tokeep accurate breeding and health records so that information will be available for selection critteria .
Catteries may require new breeding stock for several reasons:
1. To improve the overall look of the cats as compared to the breed standard.
2. To improve reproductive performance of the cattery.
3. To improve the overall health of cats produced.
There are a number of ways in which breeders can add new breeding stock to a cattery:
1. Selecting a kitten produced within the cattery.
2. Purchasing a new kitten from another cattery.
3. Purchasing a mature cat from another cattery.
4. Using outside stud service for the cattery’s females with the intention of keepingkittens for breeding.
5. Leasing a mature cat from another cattery for a specified period of timeSelection implies choosing cats for breeding on the basis of individual merit or on the basis of family performance and characteristics.
In general, selection causes a small decline in heterozy-gosity, perpetuation of certain genes, and increasing similarity.
Mature cats may be selected pri-marily on individual merit, whereas kittens may be selected primarily on the basis of family per-formance.
Selection criteria should include health, reproductive performance and phenotype.
In general, successful breeders select toward a breed standard based on good temperament and sound conformation and select away from breed-related health issues and other detrimental factors (poor temperament, poor reproductive performance, etc.).
The first goal of the successful breeder is selection for good health and temperament. Good breeding stock is healthy and as free of inherited defects as possible.
Select against breeding stock with:
1. Poor overall health, susceptibility to infectious diseases.
2. Any inherited defects (including cryptorchidism).
3. Poor temperament with other cats or with people.
4. Conformational faults or anomalies.
Physically view as many siblings or relatives as possible in order to have a good understanding of the phenotype of the lines you are contemplating. In the case of young kittens, it will not always be possible to evaluate these factors fully until the kitten is mature.
Therefore, you can evaluate these factors in the kitten’s closer relatives, especially parents and full siblings.
Check on the health of the litter to see that they have all grown normally and have been free of disease from birth. Kittens with eye disorders or poor health are not good candidates for breeding programs.
A cat being considered for potential new breeding stock should be:
1. Free from signs of illness (such as upper respiratory infections, diarrhea,ringworm, etc.).
2. Tested negative for feline leukemia virus and feline immunodeficiency virus.
3. Tested negative for intestinal parasites.
4. In good body condition .
5. Screened free from breed-associated genetic diseases, such as polycystic kidneydisease, hip dysplasia, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, etc.
6. Blood typed, if the breed has a significant amount of blood type B cats.
Reproductive performance is often over looked when new breeding stock is selected. If care isnot taken, poor reproductive performance can be propagated into future generations. It has been suggested that reproductive performance cannot be evaluated fully until a cat has produced atleast 3 litters.
Queens that have a poor reproductive performance record by the third litter areunlikely to improve.
Young kittens should be evaluated by the reproductive performance of closerelatives.
Evaluate young males by the performance of the father and full brothers.
Evaluate young females by the performance of the mother and full sisters. Select mature male and femalecats that have good libido, good breeding behavior, and good fertility (average or above averagefor the cattery or the breed).
The stud male is the most important cat in the cattery due to simple statistics. The stud male cansire many more offspring in a lifetime than can any queen. In general, breeders need to applyhigher standards for health, reproductive performance and phenotype when selecting a studmale, and if he is not up to par, be prepared to neuter him in favor of an offspring or another addition to the cattery.
His brother or another sibling could be a better breeding candidatethan the show cat himself. A secret to keeping good breeding stock available in these uncertaintimes is to keep a littermate (male or female) when you are showing another cat heavily so that the breeding stock is available to the cattery if something happens to the show cat. This can be accomplished as well by a group of catteries working together.
Mature queens being considered as new breeding stock have:
1. Normal estrous cycles.
2. Normal parturition: no history of complications with labor and delivery.
3. Good mothering skills: no history of cannibalism or abandonment.
4. Normal milk production.
5. Normal kitten birth weights, low neonatal mortality rates.
- Potency is the term used to describe a male or female cat that possesses the ability to pro-duce offspring bearing a strong resemblance to that parent. The term is more often applied tomales because it is easier to recognize this trait in them due to the larger number of offspring they produce.
- Potency may occur as an individual becomes more homozygous for both dominant and recessive traits.
- Potency can be a valuable asset in a breeding cat, but remember that both good and bad features are reproduced in the offspring.
Using a potent male of superior phenotype can enhance the appearance of kittens produced by a cattery, and using a male known to produce healthy kittens can benefit the long term health of a cattery and a breed.
The popular sire (or “winner”) effect occurs when a given stud cat is overused in the breedingpopulation. Sires may become popular because they are a top winning cat or have sired manywinners or because they are known to be free of certain genetic diseases.
Recognition programs such as the Distinguished Merit program of the Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA) can actually encourage breeders to flock to certain cats because of their proven track record. However, these programs recognize only the ability to produce show winners, not the overall health of the cat,or its reproductive performance, so caution should be used.
In less populous breeds the effect of overuse of certain cats can be extensive. When one cat’s genes are widely propagated, any unknown detrimental recessives the male carries will also bepropagated, perhaps to be uncovered in future generations.
This can be the mechanism behindthe foundation of a new genetic defect. Popular sires also block the contributions of other studcats and an artificial population bottleneck can occur.