By: Julianne Harju
The association of man and cat goes back approximately 5,000 years. Originally found in Europe, Asia, and Africa, the origin of the domesticated cat is controversial. Early associations of man and cat are cloaked in legend and myth. Every country has references to the cat in their literature, describing the qualities of the cat in several ways. Sayings, known as cat proverbs, are common. The following are a few that you may be familiar with: Curiosity killed the cat; While the cat's away, the mouse will play; There's more than one way to skin a cat; Fight like cats and dogs; He born of a cat, begets mice (meaning certain dishonest traits are inherited); and The frenetic cat gives birth to blind cats (things done too quickly come out badly). Wherever the origin, cats remain superb companions for humans, young and old alike.
Cats come in several colors and sizes, shorthaired, longhaired, and even no hair, with many breeds to choose from. After you decide what you are looking for, you must decide if you are going to purchase it as a pet, or if you are going to be a breeder. When making the decision to be a breeder, analyze your facilities, your market, your costs, and your time. These factors work together so you can perform an adequate job. Whether you breed, or just buy a pet, you must be a responsible cat owner. A pet-quality kitten should be spayed or neutered as soon as it is old enough. Responsible breeders should not breed their females too often, just for economic gain. The responsible breeder will sell their kittens with a Spay/Neuter contract, withholding the kitten's registration papers until the new owner gets it spayed or neutered. Animal shelters that place kittens up for adoption also encourage the new owner to spay or neuter their kitten by covering one-half of the cost of the procedure.
When choosing your kitten, be sure its health is optimal. Remember to ask the breeder or owner what the kitten eats, if it is litter trained, and whether it has had any shots. It is recommended that you keep the kitten on the food that it is eating or, if you are going to change the brand, do it gradually by combining the old food with the new food until the kitten is eating only the new food. If the food doesn't agree with the cat, diarrhea may result.
Bringing Home a New Kitten
When you get home, make the kitten comfortable by providing it a safe environment, its own bed in a quiet place, and a litter box. To soothe the kitten during the first days at home, you may want to place in its bed a hot water bottle for warmth and a wind-up clock to substitute for its mother's heartbeat. Keep the litter box nearby, but away from the cat's food and water. Although kittens sleep for two-thirds of the day, toys and a scratching post should be provided to occupy its time when it is not sleeping. Slowly introduce the kitten to your other pets. Your kitten will quickly adapt and will become an irreplaceable friend in no time.
A cat will live for an average of 15 years, which is approximately equivalent to 74 human years. How you care for the cat, its sex and its lifestyle all affect its longevity. To maintain its health, your cat needs to be regularly vaccinated and wormed. Some owners have their cats declawed, an amputation of each digit at the second joint, thus altering the personality of the cat resulting in the cat biting more.
There are many unwanted litters of kittens born every day, and becoming a breeder is a very serious commitment. Female cats can whelp three or four times per year if made pregnant. The female is fertile beginning on the third day of her heat. The male should remain with the female for one day and one night. Gestation for a cat is approximately 63-66 days. During the pregnancy of your female, be sure that she receives highly nutritious food, to provide for the demands of producing the kittens.
Prepare a bed for the birth, selecting a quiet place for her to have her kittens. Place a blanket or towel in the bottom of a box that is about two feet square and two feet high, with a section on the side cut out for a door through which the kittens can get in and out. Be sure to place this box in a warm place. A few days prior to whelping, the female will start to pull the hair from around her teats in preparation for nursing and her appetite will subside. Birthing begins and within fifteen minutes the first kitten will appear in a placental sac. The mother will immediately free the kitten from the sac and will clean the kitten up, and may also eat the placenta. She will deliver another kitten every 15-30 minutes, until all are born. An average litter size is four kittens.
Allow the female to rest after the birth. Be sure to remove wet bedding from the box, replacing it with clean, dry bedding. The kittens will naturally nurse. If the mother cannot feed all, you may have to supplement the kitten with a commercially prepared milk substitute. Kittens will nurse for 6-8 weeks and will double their birth weight in eight days. Newborn kittens are blind, deaf, and do not have teeth. The eyes should open between the eighth and tenth day. In approximately two weeks, the kitten will begin to walk around, playing and coordinating its movements. The mother generally cleans up after her offspring while they are wandering about. As they mature, you can supplement the kittens with evaporated milk and a little bit of Gerber Rice Cereal for babies. This will aid in the weaning of the kittens when they are 5-6 weeks old. If a kitten remains with a mother too long, its growth will be stunted, as the mother may not be able to produce the required amount of milk. Gradually introduce kitten food. When the kittens are eating on their own, they are ready to be weaned from their mother. Kittens may be sold between the ages of 10-12 weeks old. If kept until 12 weeks, the kittens learn valuable social skills while interacting with their siblings.
Be sure to register your litter if they are purebreds. Draw up a contract that will cover the sale of the kittens. Kittens can be sold as show cats, breeders, or pet-quality. Include a stipulation to have the cat spayed or neutered if it is not going to be a breeder. When the new owner fulfills the contract obligation and provides the breeder with written verification, the registration paper for that kitten can be signed and released.
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