All over the animal kingdom, a female will only accept a male for mating when she chooses to. Identifying the right time for the male to be introduced to the female is the art of the experienced breeder of any animal. In cows for example it is particularly important, especially during winter months when signs of oestrus are limited both in extent and duration, since in the absence of a bull on the farm the time of artificial insemination has to be decided by the farmer and ultimately by the inseminator himself. In the mare, it is normal for her to be tested by walking her to a gate or gap in a hedge, to the other side of which is led a pony stallion. If the marc stands still in the presence of this stallion and does not whinny and kick out with her hind legs she is then taken off to the stallion chosen for the ‘service’.
The queen cat is best introduced to the stud male on the second day of the full oestrus. The queen will probably settle with him on this day and observe him with tolerant interest, exchanging a few pleasantries and perhaps rolling about. It is normal, however, in ideal circumstances, for the mating itself to take place on the third day.
It is often assumed that cats, dogs and other creatures, unlike humans, suffer only from physical ailments. This is not necessarily the case. I have mentioned elsewhere the ability of cats to develop a will to die when they think they are too sick to live. Similar psychosomatic influences can also be observed in a young nervous queen cat sent away to a stud male. Cats are creatures of habit, liking their own surroundings, and even sturdy and phlegmatic animals can become nervous and excitable if they are put in a cat basket in the car. If a nervous female suffers this experience only to find when it is over that she is in completely foreign surroundings, with a healthy torn showing an inordinate interest in her, it is likely her hormone cycle will be interrupted and oestrus will cease. She will be unwilling to accept the male under any circumstances, showing positive displeasure at his advances with a great deal of angry behaviour such as hissing, arching of the back and striking out with the paws. In most cases the male, feeling that discretion is the better part of valour, will retire gracefully and sit hunched up in the corner of the mating room until released from his embarrassment. In very severe cases when the queen is subject to the oestrus-arresting effects of what may be to her a frightening-journey and unfamiliar surroundings, it may be necessary to arrange for the stud cat to come to the queen’s quarters instead.
To add further confusion to this situation, a female which has failed to mate due to nervousness may subsequently try to persuade her owner that she is pregnant. She will show all the signs of a normal pregnancy, there will be an increasing extension of the size of the abdomen and milk will be produced in her teats. When the date approaches when kittens would have been produced, she will disappear into a box or corner containing furry objects with a great deal of vocalizing and scratching and turning. The severity of what is in fact a pseudo-pregnancy varies from animal to animal and usually after the pantomime of the ‘confinement’ the queen gradually slims down, the milk stops and she returns to normal.
Very occasionally this phenomenon occurs even after the owner and the veterinary surgeon have confirmed positively the presence of developing kittens in the womb. This is explained as a spontaneous reaction to adverse conditions. With their normal reproductive efficiency, whether they are pets or not, cats have no problem in reproducing the species. The size of litter is an indicator of the numbers needed to maintain the population. Cats being hunting animals are under less threat than fish, for example, which reproduce themselves in thousands in order to keep the species going. When conditions for the pregnant queen cat are unfavourable, such as when, in the wild state, the weather closes in, she becomes trapped or food becomes impossible to find, the survival of the kittens when born would be most unlikely- In these extreme circumstances, nature compensates the queen by a hormonal change which results in her reabsorbing the foetuses and all the foetal tissues from the womb with no external signs that this is taking place. In this way she is saved from the stress of finding food to nourish the unborn kittens and the further demands for milk and food when the kittens are born. Although this is very rare, it is nevertheless a natural event. However, the possibility of some debris being left in the womb, which may lead to infection and possible sterility, means that the cat should have a veterinary examination to ensure that no residual infection or other abnormality exists, when this phenomenon has occurred in a breeding queen.
Although it is unusual, some queens will pass urine in the house when calling, spraying it about rather like a torn as part of their general response to basic instincts and the awareness of changes in the genital area. Fortunately, the urine of the queen cat is not so pungent and offensive as that of the torn, which is naturally intended to be noticeable in order to emphasize the territorial boundaries which the urine marks.
One other occasion when spraying by both male and female occurs is when a strange animal is brought into the house. This might be a puppy, a new kitten or even a friend’s dog. It is simply a demonstration of psychological stress and a response to it, although there may also be some association with boundary marking to reaffirm territorial superiority.
After you have arranged for your queen to be mated, she should be confined to her quarters and kept well away from any other males for about ten days or more. Otherwise, it is quite possible for her to mate for a second or third time with another male, producing kittens in the subsequent litter from the various consorts involved.
This is particularly unfortunate if the mating to the selected stud cat has not ‘taken’ and you are confronted with an unexpected litter of mongrel kittens. Biologically, the queen is stimulated by the mating process to produce her ova, thus ensuring that the best possible conditions exist for the union of ovum and sperm. The ova shed at this time therefore find their way into the upper end of her reproductive tract, the fallopian tubes, and if multiple mating takes place sperm from any of the male cats involved could find an ovum still alive and ready to be fertilized. The longer after the first mating that further matings take place, however, the more likely it is that the ova which have not been fertilized will be dead, so that no kittens will be produced from them.
If the mating, which is usually repeated at least for a second time on the first visit, is unsuccessful, then a return match can be arranged. It is usual for the owner of the stud torn to arrange this free of charge except, perhaps, for the cost of the queen’s food for the three to four days she may be a guest in the torn cat’s house.
So far this article has concentrated entirely upon the queen. This is simply because most people interested in breeding would normally start with one carefully chosen female kitten. The breeder’s ultimate aim may be to have, say, half a dozen breeding females with one stud torn cat, though this is probably outside the scope of the amateur breeder. Apart from anything else, the breeding torn cat can be anti-social as a household companion clue to his habit of spraying. If he is the only male in a harem of say six queens, he will be in a continual state of sexual excitement which will lead to his spraying around the house as part of his display of male sexuality. This behaviour may settle down during the winter if the queens stop calling, but it will start again in the early spring.
As the undoctored torn often includes house furniture as part of his marking of territorial boundaries, most owners of stud cats prefer to keep them out-of-doors in an appropriate run. Once it has learnt to spray, which may be delayed until it is about two years old or after it has mated a female, the torn cat is impossible to house train. Very occasionally, for no apparent reason, torn cats confine their spraying to the boundary outside the house, but this unhappily is not common. For this reason, if a male cat is considered to be unsuitable for stud purposes it is sensible to have it neutered before the spraying habit begins. This should be at about six months of age.
Once neutered, assuming this is carried out at the right age, either male or female will normally settle down to a life of happy domestic bliss. Occasionally, however, a neutered male may demonstrate an interest in a calling female and even go so far as to attempt to mate with her. This type of sexual behaviour also involves the usual growling and what appears to be aggression and it can also be seen occasionally in two male neuters, although this is relatively infrequent.