WHICH STUD SHOULD I USE
When your kitten is about 6 months old you should be considering which stud to use. In the first instance you should contact the Stud Registrar to ask advice on compatible pedigrees. Once you have chosen a suitable pedigree you can then contact the stud owner who will most probably ask for a copy of your queen’s pedigree unless they know it already. Don’t just use the nearest stud because of convenience, but rather check first what each stud’s good and bad points are and weigh them against your queen’s. Visit, if possible, beforehand or ask for a photograph. If your queen is finer boned, then the stud should be heavy boned, combat poorer eye colour by using a stud with strong eye colour, etc.
Check what blood tests are required – most stud owners require your queen to have the FeLV (Feline Leukemia) and FIV (Feline Aids) tests within 24 hours of going to stud. If your vet is unable to do a snap test, ask the stud owner as they can sometimes arrange for their vet to do the tests for you - Monday to Fridays (weekends are usually more difficult).
Because most Ragdolls are closely related - many descending from the original 12 cats brought over from the USA - it is wise to try and keep the pedigrees as far apart as you can, particularly the first 3 generations where you should aim for all different lines if possible. You will most likely find that the fourth generation doubles up on a number of lines.
Line breeding and inbreeding are best left to those with experience and knowledge of the cats involved, so that any hereditary defects are known and can be taken into account before proceeding with a mating. Progenies of too closely bred cats can be infertile and whilst you double up on the good points, you also double up on any defect. (see Calculating Inbreeding Co-efficients).
It is wise to ensure that your queen is given her ‘flu and enteritis booster vaccination at least 28 days prior to mating. Discuss with your vet the possibility of giving your queen a ‘killed’ flu vaccine booster 10 days before the kittens are due as this will give her the maximum protection prior to the stress of giving birth. Never use a ‘live’ vaccine on a pregnant cat.
WHEN QUEEN SHOWS SIGNS OF CALLING
It is recommended that you do not mate your Ragdoll queen under the age of 10 months. It is also wise to let her have one full call before mating.
When your queen comes on call, contact the stud owner to check that he is available and make arrangements to take her there (please allow at least 24 hours as the stud owner has to disinfect the stud house in preparation for your queen).
Just in case your first choice of stud is entertaining another young lady at the time your cat comes on call, it might be wise to have a second choice of stud lined up.
BLOOD TESTS - FeLV/FIV
You should also contact your vet and make an appointment for the blood tests. Your vet should be able to take blood without your cat requiring an anaesthetic. If he insists on an anaesthetic, I would suggest you either contact another vet practice or ask the stud owner to have it done for you at their vet.
Please ensure that your cat’s coat is free from pests and that you have checked her ears for ear mites. It is advisable to snip the tips of her claws to prevent her scratching the stud. She should be in peak condition - no haws showing. Never take a cat to stud who is slightly under the weather as the stud owner must protect the health of the stud and is quite at liberty to refuse to take your cat if he/she suspects any sign of illness or debility.
TAKING THE QUEEN TO STUD
Remember to take your blood test certificates and the cat’s vaccination card with you to show to the stud owner. He/she in turn should show you the stud’s certificates.
The normal procedure when the queen goes to stud is that she is in“queen’s quarters” for the first 12 hours, until she becomes familiar with her new surroundings and gets to know the stud. Most stud owners supervise the matings over the first 24 hours, and if all is well and the queen is relaxed, she can then be allowed the freedom to run with the stud. The cats will usually mate over 2/3 days and then she is ready to be collected. If you live a great distance away, remember to check in advance whether or not it would be convenient to leave her for longer. It is not recommended that she is left more than 5 days with the stud in order to prevent second matings taking place.
To put your mind at rest ring the stud owner the next day to see how she has settled. Hopefully you might learn that the cats have already mated or the queen may need a little longer before she is receptive.
On your return to collect your cat, if successful matings have been witnessed, you will be asked to pay the stud fee (recommended £300) and you should receive a mating certificate advising when the expected litter should arrive. Should your queen not be pregnant at the first attempt, normal procedure is that you are offered several free matings until the queen eventually gets pregnant, or you may be invited to try with another cat. It is recommended that you discuss the terms and conditions of mating with the stud owner prior to taking your cat to stud.
REARING RAGDOLL KITTENS
The first sign that your queen is pregnant is when she has ‘pinked’ up (her nipples should be visibly growing and look quite pink). This is usually obvious between weeks 3/4. You may also notice that she sleeps a bit more during the early stages and again at the later stage, especially just before she goes into labour.
You must ensure that she has plenty of food and let her eat as much as she wants, remembering always to have fresh water available.
The gestation period for Ragdolls is approximately 65 days, but do keep an eye on her from day 63 onwards. If she hasn’t gone into labour by day 69/70, it would be wiser to have her examined by your vet.
It is always wise to try and be there when your queen goes into labour. Most females like to know that their owner is there beside them giving them encouragement. It also means if there should be any complications you can deal with them as and when they arise.
As a rule by instinct the queen should know what to do, but there are always exceptions when it’s a maiden queen. Once the first kitten is born she should begin washing it’s face to clear the nasal passages - if she doesn’t you must clean its mouth and nose so that it can breath. She will most likely wait until the afterbirth has come away before she breaks the umbilical cord. (Don’t be surprised - it can take up to half an hour for the afterbirth to come through and occasionally the second kitten may be born before the first afterbirth, so do check that with each kitten there is an afterbirth). If she doesn’t appear to know what to do, you should intervene and cut the cord for her - but not too close to the kitten’s tummy. Make sure you have sterilised the scissors beforehand and dab the end of the cord with a little medicated talc.
Once all kittens have safely arrived and the queen is purring contentedly and her kittens are suckling, it is wise to change the vet bedding to make her clean and comfortable. From experience Ragdolls get too hot if a heated pad is used and they begin panting. They may get restless and not want to stay with the litter. If this should happen, switch off the heated pad, but make sure the room is warm and free from draughts.
A Guide to Average weights for kittens
Weighing the kittens, say from day 2, is the best way to check that all is going well, as they should be gaining a little each day. The average weight of a 1 week old kitten is approx 6-7oz (170-200g); 2 weeks approx 9-11oz (255-310g); 3 weeks 10-13oz (280-370g); 4 weeks 12-15oz (340-425g); and by the time they are 1 month old, as a guide approximately 1lb (450g). At 2 months old they should weigh somewhere between 1lb 13oz - 2lb 3 oz (820g-1kg) and at 3 months between 3lbs and 4lbs (1.3-1.8kg). These are approximate weights - some kittens will weigh more at a certain age, and others will weigh less - do not worry as long as each kitten is gaining regularly.
Not all kittens wean at the same time. Usually somewhere between weeks 4-6 the kittens will show signs either by tucking into their mother’s food or by enjoying whatever you are giving them. A good starter is baby rice mixed with Cimicat or diluted evaporated milk or kitten gloop. They usually all love this and then they can progress onto steamed white fish, chicken, boiled ham, mince, pilchards, kitten Felix or one of the proprietary dried foods such as kitten Iams soaked in boiling water and left to cool, which has all the added vitamins and minerals a kitten needs to form strong, healthy bones. By 12 - 15 weeks, if you are using one of the proprietary brands of dried foods most will have graduated onto it by then. Remember, a kitten’s stomach is tiny and it is not wise to introduce too many different foods at one time, because if they cannot tolerate a particular food, or it makes them loose, you will have to ascertain which food it is.
Remember to change the vet bedding in the kittening pen each day as it will be soiled with urine, granted only a little, but enough that the ammonia could affect the kittens’ eyes. The easiest way to start toilet training is to put a small litter tray into the kittening pen beside them from week 3/4 onwards, and lift them into it daily, gently moving their front paws in a scratching motion to give them the idea; their mum usually teaches them what to do. Kittens who are penned are probably easiest to train, but as breeders we each have our own methods and some prefer their kittens to have more freedom once they are able to run about. Patience is the watchword - don’t worry if it doesn’t happen for a week or two, you just have to persevere.
Kittens should be wormed at 6 weeks, 9 weeks and 12 weeks and the vet will advise the best preparation to use.
Assessing the Litter
All kittens are adorable and Ragdoll kittens especially so, as by week 2 they resemble miniature teddy bears, but when it comes to assessing their potential one must be objective. The best time to assess the kittens is at around 9/10 weeks old once the eye colour has settled. Compare each kitten to the Standard of Points, and do be honest about whether they conform. Ragdolls shouldn’t have sharp features like narrow muzzles or pointed chins. Their limbs should look chunky and heavy boned. The overall appearance from head to tail should be balanced.
Remember, a cat you wish to sell as a future stud should conform closely to the SOP and have show potential, as should a show/ breeding queen and a show neuter; a breeding queen should also conform, but she may have a minor pattern fault which would preclude her from getting awards if judged. It is imperative that kittens who have any defects, as listed in the preface to the GCCF SOP booklet, such as tail kinks, squints, protruding sternums, flat chests, dermoid cysts, etc should not be bred from and should be sold as pets.
Preparing the kitten for its new Home
To try and make the transition as easy as possible when your kitten leaves to go to its new home, the following points should help.
Prepare a leaflet giving details of what food your kittens are on and what type of litter they are used to. A good idea is to provide a few tins or a small bag of dried food and a bag of litter for them to take home, so that the kitten continues on that at least for the first couple of weeks until it adjusts to its new surroundings. You might also consider giving it a favourite blanket when it leaves home, so that it has a familiar smell to comfort it, especially its first night away.
Explain that Ragdoll’s coats are easy to groom, but must be done regularly, especially at moulting time, so that they don’t get knots or hairballs by digesting loose hairs.
Vaccinations & Insurance
Most breeders vaccinate against Enteritis and Cat ‘Flu. Discuss with your vet whether he would recommend that the Leukemia vaccine should be given at the same time or by the new owner when the kitten is about 6 months of age. Pet Plan Insurance offer an excellent deal on insuring your kittens for the first six weeks after they leave home and most breeders usually arrange cover. It is wise to encourage the new owners to continue the insurance when Pet Plan write to them a few weeks later as vet expenses can be quite a consideration.
You can register your litter with the GCCF anytime after the kittens are 1 month old. It is recommended that you register each kitten in the litter yourself and not just ‘declare it’. This way you can safeguard pet kittens by putting them on the Non-Active Register, which means that no GCCF papers can ever be issued for any progeny resulting from that cat being mated in future, without your prior knowledge. It is the breeder’s responsibility to decide whether or not the kittens are good enough to go on the Active Register and therefore be used for breeding. It should not be the new owner’s decision.
As from 1 June 2002 when a litter is registered, the application to register must be accompanied by a copy of the certificate of mating unless the person registering the kitten (s) is also the registered owner of the sire. This must state the registered name, breed name/breed description and registration number of the Sire together with the registered name, breed name / breed description and registration number of the Dam and must be signed by the registered owner of the Sire.
If a kitten is sold unregistered, in addition to the pedigree, the seller shall supply a copy of the certificate of mating whether or not the seller is the registered owner of the sire. Any application to register the kitten at a later date must be accompanied by this certificate.
GCCF Transfer Certificate
It is wise to register your pet kittens on the Non-Active Register, and at the time of sale advise the new owner in writing that you are withholding the Transfer Certificate until you receive a vet’s letter confirming that the cat has been spayed/neutered. On receipt of the confirmation you should complete and sign the Transfer Certificate and post it on.
You must provide a 4 generation pedigree to the kitten’s new owner at the time of sale. This must never be withheld as it is contrary to GCCF rules.
If you are in any doubt on what procedure to follow, please ring the Club Secretary who will be happy to give you guidance.
KEEPING A STUD CAT
Stud ownership is not to be entered into lightly. Much thought and background investigation is necessary before even considering purchasing a kitten to be used as a future stud. If you are unknown in the Cat Fancy, you will find it very difficult to acquire one, as most reputable breeders would usually only entrust the care of a future stud to a person they know well and consider capable.
You must ask yourself ‘Are you truly committed to the breed and do you fully understand the work involved in owning such a cat?’ If your answer is ‘yes’, then do as much research as you can and be prepared to wait for the right kitten. Don’t rush into buying the first kitten that becomes available. Ask another breeder to go with you - two heads are better than one when it comes to choosing such an important kitten - and most breeders are only too willing to assist in this way. Likewise, the kitten’s owner is happy to get a second opinion, as naturally he or she wouldn’t want you to take a kitten you were unsure of.
You should have studied closely your queens’ pedigrees to check their lines, as the boy you buy must be compatible with them.
Check whether there is an established stud within a 50 mile radius who might be related to your kitten, because if there is then the chances of your boy getting any outside work will be limited. It is therefore unwise for you to get a boy with similar lines, unless you have enough queens of your own to keep him happy - a minimum of 3 queens is recommended.
The kitten you buy should be an outstanding example of the breed. Ideally he should have show potential and conform closely to the standard of points. In order for him to become known, you will have to take him to cat shows where he will be admired and gain Challenge Certificates (CCs) and do well in sideclasses.
Rearing your stud
Initially he will have been brought up indoors along with your other cats, and it is wise whilst he is growing up to lavish him with love and affection and handle him often - his temperament should be impeccable. By the time he is 6-7 months old he most probably will begin spraying and at that stage he should be given suitable stud quarters of his own. Some Ragdolls are ready to work by the time they are 9 months old, but others can be as old as 2 years before they sire their first litter. It is not advisable to give him stud work too early as it is thought that this could stunt his growth.
It is such a lonely life for a stud that you might consider keeping a neuter as a companion - a cat that he knows and gets on well with.Two litter brothers, if never separated from birth, make the ideal soul mates. Ideally the kitten not to be used at stud being neutered at around 6 months old.
Blood Testing your Household
If your stud is at public stud he should be blood tested for FeLV (Feline Leukemia) and FIV (Feline Aids) at least twice a year. You must also test all your females who will be with your stud - your entire household should be FeLV/FIV negative, and this especially includes any cat you have who is allowed his freedom to roam. Many novice breeders do not realise the danger in letting breeding queens come into contact with their other cats who are out meeting the neighbourhood felines, and therefore could be carrying a variety of diseases which can be passed on via the litter trays, feeding bowls, or in the saliva when they clean one another. You can never be too careful and it is up to you to safeguard not only the health of your own cats, but also the health of any visiting queen coming in to stud. It is for this reason that you should insist on a 24 hour FeLV/FIV test for visiting queens. In this way you will at least have peace of mind that you have taken every precaution you can. Never accept a queen who is not in peak condition as you will be putting not only your own stud at risk, but all other cats who come into contact with him.
What owning a stud entails
You will have to keep the stud house scrupulously clean and spend a lot of time with your boy to stimulate him. There is nothing sadder than to see a once lively kitten turn into a lonely, introverted cat as he approaches adulthood, either through not getting enough attention or queens to satisfy him.
Stud ownership is very demanding as novice breeders will look to you to advise them on every aspect of breeding and kitten care, so your knowledge of the breed should be extensive.
When you have a visiting queen, on arrival she should be installed in ‘queen’s quarters’ where she can see and get to know the stud without coming into contact with him at this stage. This is to give her time to settle and get to know her new surroundings. If you put her straight in with the stud, she will most probably hiss and spit and may lash out at him causing him injury, but by giving her time to settle she should be more receptive when you put them together. A lot of patience is required, especially with a maiden queen who hasn’t a clue why she has been taken to this strange place with different smells.
A female ‘on call’ can be a very different cat to the way she is at home. She may be quite aggressive when approached by the male and it is imperative that the stud owner oversees the initial matings to ensure that they don’t hurt each other. Once they have mated a couple of times, and provided they are getting on well, you can allow them to run together. Some studs will only mate the queens over 24/48 hours and then they will just sit together like ‘Derby and Joan’ happy in each other’s company - others will mate over 3 days. It is not advisable to leave the queen with the stud for longer than 5 days as second matings could occur.
When the queen’s owner comes to collect their cat, provided you have witnessed several successful matings, you can accept a stud fee and you must provide a Mating Certificate which you have signed, stating the dates the cats were mated and when the litter will be due as this will be required when the breeder registers their kittens with the GCCF. Remember to ask the breeder to give you a ring to let you know if their queen is pregnant - this is usually obvious between the third and fourth week. And naturally you will want to know that all has gone well when the litter is born.
If, on the other hand, the queen is not pregnant, most stud owners offer several free matings or, if she is having no success, you may invite them to try with another cat.
It is advisable to keep a stud register where you can record the date of each mating, the names of the queens, their colour and pattern and the details of the progeny once born.
You should be prepared to go and see litters that your stud has sired, not only to satisfy yourself as to the quality of the kittens, but also to assist in assessing their potential.
Remember, your stud cat is one of the most important members of your family, especially if he is on his own, so do give him lots of attention and in turn he will reward you not only with love and affection, but a gratifying hobby besides, where you will make many new friends with a similar interest.
KITTEN SALES AGREEMENTS
Before allowing a kitten to go to his new home it is vitally important to have drawn up a kitten sales agreement stating your terms and conditions of sale. These terms should be read, understood and agreed to by the purchaser and signed by both parties. This small safeguard ensures that there can be no misunderstanding in the future, of what your expectations from the purchaser are, be they about care, breeding policies or rehoming, should the situation arise. It also provides the purchaser with details of what he or she can expect from you as the breeder by way of any guarantee.
One point that is worth bearing in mind though, is that for kittens sold in this country you may want to add a clause stating that, if at any time the need should arise for the cat/kitten to be rehomed that you would require to take the cat/kitten back or be party to agreeing the new home. This clause would not be practical for kittens sold to certain countries abroad due to restrictive quarantine laws.
STUD SERVICE AGREEMENTS
Before allowing an owner to bring their queen to stud it is also vitally important to have drawn up a stud service agreement stating your terms and conditions of mating. If the queen’s owner comes to visit prior to bringing their queen (which is always recommended), this is the ideal opportunity to show them a copy of your agreement to go through the terms with them. This also saves any misunderstanding at a later date of what service the queen’s owner can expect for the stud fee, i.e.; if the queen doesn’t get pregnant on the first visit, will you be prepared to take her back again, and if so, how many times? and would you require any additional fee? also, after the stated visits if she still hasn’t become pregnant will you offer to take another Ragdoll? You may also want to add other terms that you in particular request. One obvious requirement is for Felv / Fiv testing.
As a queen’s owner, having read the stud owner’s stud service agreement if you do not agree with the terms and conditions, don’t take your queen there, as you will be required to sign it prior to mating. As the saying goes ‘it’s no good shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted’!
HOW CLOSE SHOULD WE BREED?
The closer the lines we breed from, the more chance there is in a decline in vigour or general weakness. Outcrossing your lines introduces new strengths. By outcrossing I mean the mating of unrelated Ragdoll lines. Outcrossing lines should be done with a long term plan. The breeder should be constantly planning which lines the resulting kittens should be bred to even before the kittens are born. Ragdolls are becoming extremely homozygous and it is not uncommon for the same cat to appear over and over again in the same pedigree. Often litter mates and half brothers/sisters are mated together, this can uncover lethal characteristics, as there is more chance of recessive genes meeting. When will we check our pedigrees before we arrange matings, how long before breeders realise a homozygous gene pool is not a healthy gene pool?
This is where breeders need to help one another; the breed needs a selection of studs and queens with different pedigrees, these boys do not necessarily need to be at open stud, as their offspring either male or female can be used to outcross with other lines to introduce new strengths. A Ragdoll with a 4/5 generation pedigree with no cat appearing more than once is an asset to any breeding programme. Take a look at your pedigrees – how many times does your Ragdoll have the same cat/cats appearing more than once. It is not necessary nor desirable to continue to line or inbreed Ragdolls. Breeding programmes are at a point where continued line/in breeding will weaken the health of the breed. All breeders can help increase the gene pool by not constantly repeating matings and selling all the kittens for breeding.
The best outcross mating is to take a male with as many different cats as possible in his pedigree and a female from another line, trying to avoid any double ups. The kittens from this mating should demonstrate better characteristics of the breed than the parents. The resulting kittens should have better vigour and survivability than their parents.
CALCULATING INBREEDING CO-EFFICIENTS
Our Stud Registrar will be happy to calculate the inbreeding coefficients for cat matings and this can provide an invaluable tool in assisting breeders by ensuring that we are not mating cats too closely related.
By using this method to select only cats with the lowest coefficients to mate together, breeders will be able to safeguard their future progeny from problems that could arise as a result of inbreeding depression.