KINGS OF THE HILL - CHOOSING A BREEDING STUD
By Alon Bigler
Choosing a breeding stud for your cattery is never an easy task. Here are a few tips before laying your money on the wrong one.
It is no doubt that in the whole cat fancy, the life of a newbie breeder is the hardest. I feel it is even harder when coming to choose a foundation boy for your breeding program. This is an area where mistakes are made a plenty, so I thought it is best to give a few guidelines to people wanting to start the breeding hobby on the right foot.
If you have a mentor, or mentors, and you already approached them with the question of choosing a boy, sentences like "Choose only the best of the best", and "There is no such thing as breeder quality when coming to choose a male" may sound familiar to you. As friendly and familiar as they may sound, if left hanging in the air with no further explanation, such sentences can leave the newbie breeder even more confused than he/she was before. So to make things clear, let's start with a few facts about feline boys.
The Social Behavior of Intact Feline Studs
Behavioral studies of felines, both in nature and in the domestic environment, show that males, unlike females, are extremely territorial. In nature, two intact males rarely share a territory, and weaker younger males are chased away from stronger more established males' grounds. Males donít like to share their females, and terrible fights are held when girls are in season and more than one boy is around. Also, in order to mark their grounds and state their presence to other felines, males usually spray objects in their territory boundaries with stinky urine.
This natural behavior of the stud really limits the possibility of small catteries to hold more than one or two studs, and even then things need to be planned ahead, since in many cases two studs will not live together peacefully. Even if they do, spraying may require some sort of confinement at times, so careful planning beforehand to ensure the quality of life for both the stud/studs and your family is required.
But this is not all. In nature, stud territories rule upon at least 3 fertile queens, so in order to keep your boys happy you would need at least twice as many girls.
All this brings us to the point that 'empty slots' for breeding studs in a small cattery are very limited. Ideally, you would want to have one, and yet to avoid too much inbreeding in the program, most use two. And even the ones that have the luxury of having more than that need twice as many females.
Top of the Crop
If we haven't said enough to persuade you so far that you need to be extra careful in choosing your cattery's studs, let's add the fact that boys can usually breed almost until the day they die. So choosing the highest quality boy you can possibly afford can save you a lot of trouble in having to retire a boy early and replace him. This is always best, since most of us get attached to our pets and retiring them is hard. It may be even harder to retire and place a spraying boy.
How to Go About It
After all that said, one may ask, "What is a good breeding boy?" and "How do I know a certain boy is good for me?" These are very good and valid questions. The first thing I think a breeder should do, before purchasing any breeding cat, is define a 'breeding goal' for themselves. It is usually pointless to purchase a perfect Himmy for instance if your dream cat is a bicolor, or purchasing a silver cat if you dream to produce a perfect solid black. (I know these declarations may sound unclear to people very new to feline genetics and the allowed colors of show Persians, but I am sure that a lengthy conversation about them with your mentor would clear the reasoning behind them.) But the point is that it is usually problematic purchasing something that doesnít serve your final goal.
So your first move must be defining your dream cat and goal, and carefully purchasing breeding cats according to it. The help of an experienced mentor is usually due in this stage.
The second step before purchasing a breeding boy is learning the Persian standard. Unfortunately, reading the standard is not enough to properly comprehend the way it is interpreted by judges at the show. So going to as many shows as possible and studying the looks of Persians that win is crucial to your ability to make an educated choice. Among the several winning looks of the breed, you may want to find the one you like best and start looking for reputable catteries that produce that look consistently. Discussing the possible purchase of a boy with such catteries is a good idea and may broaden your knowledge on breeding and the breed in general.
When you are finally offered a boy that you like, a thorough study of the pedigree is necessary. The pedigree is the only genetic testament of what hides in the genes behind your cat's look and health. The look will not go much further than the cat itself without the proper genes/pedigree to back it up. Try to see if the pedigree is full of show titles. These are an indication for consistency to a winning show look.
Ask the breeder about testing for health issues and which cats in the pedigree had any issues. A pedigree may not be free of cats with health issues, but a breeder willing to address these and build a program free of them may ensure you a good breeding cat. Surely though, you must confirm that your future cat is tested and found free to the breed's common health issues. Try to find as many pictures as possible of cats in the pedigree. See if the look you want is consistently built.
And last, ask about the inbreeding coefficient in the pedigree. You may not want a cat that is overly inbred, because it may be a source for trouble, and yet as a new cattery with stock coming from very different places, you probably donít want a cat that is too crossed. A very far cross may create less homozygosity in the cat's genes and will make it hard on a male to imprint his look on the kittens from females from distant lines.
I am sure that by now you understand that starting out in the fancy without a guiding hand may be rocky and difficult. Finding a good guide or a mentor is usually a necessity. So like many things in life, the key to success is making new friends! Good luck!