Stella Gaylor: An Interview with an Exemplary Breeder of Maine Coon Cats

I promised to interview Stella Gaylor, an experienced, knowledgeable and responsible breeder of Maine Coon cats after reading the many thoughtful comments and questions on my blog about Persian cats.

Maine coon kittens from Stella Gaylor a breeder

Maine coon kittens from Stella Gaylor of RP Cathouse

Stella Gaylor’s reputation as a responsible and ethical breeder and exhibitor of magnificent Maine Coon cats is exemplary. Her cattery is RP Cathouse. Since she loves all cats and kittens, her goal is:

“Ensuring that every cat has a loving home where they are cherished and loved forever. I want them to have the medical attention they need and deserve. I don’t know everything but I will give up most everything to make sure they are taken care of before I take care of myself.”

Interviewing Stella was both a delight and privilege. I discussed some of the main concerns and questions about breeding cats raised by PoC readers.

Jo: “In order to produce a locally bred ‘traditional Persian’, one of our readers tried to breed his 5 year-old male Persian to his mother. The queen was in estrus and inviting, but his male didn’t seem interested in her- or since he never had been bred before, perhaps he didn’t know what to do.”

Stella: “I have a male who was almost 4 years old before bred his first female. It is uncommon but not unheard of. Plus, I do not think that breeding son to mother is wise. The inbreeding will double up on any underlying genetic problems. Only breeders who have line bred will do this, but they have tested the cats for any and everything, and it would only be a onetime thing.”


Jo: “What testing do you do to rule out these genetic problems – and possible illnesses associated with them? Do most responsible breeders do this?”

Stella: “There are a lot of necessary tests. Responsible breeders test their lines for

  • Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD)
  • Feline Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HMC)
  • Hip Dysplasia (HP)
  • and Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA).

Some tests are X-Rays and sonograms. Doppler Echocardiograms are performed to rule out heart problems. DNA testing is done, also.”

“While these tests are expensive, they provide breeders with a great deal of vital information. Most breeders do test their line; testing for PKD, HMC and HD. This doesn’t negate the possibility that the cat will not come down with some condition; but testing for HMC clears the cat. My cats have never had hip problems, HCM, PKD or SMA; but I don’t rule out that it will never happen. Genetics is the major player in these factors. A distant ancestor might have one of these conditions. Eventually it will make its presence known. Testing is the only way to find out if the breeding cat has genetic problems.”


Jo: “Do you subscribe to the commonly held position that moggies are healthier than pure bred cats?”

Stella: “I am sorry to say there are breeders who breed indiscriminately. Some are in it for the money just like kitten mills, instead of the goal of preserving the breed. I have seen sickly moggies and feral cats. Who can say how long they live and if they died from disease or something else? I have had rescues live a long life and then of course some that die in a few years.

How many moggies get tested if they die at a young age- between 8 to 10 years old? I am thinking, not many. How many under the age of 5 years old? Did they run away or die or get killed? How many are allowed to roam outside? How many are up to date on their vaccines and get regular medical checkups every year? When they see that something is wrong with their cat, how many owners will drop everything and get their kitty to a vet, instead of searching for a home remedy to cure what they think is wrong?

I would never put off taking a cat/kitten to the vet; it is a life I love and am responsible for. Every breeder I know has spent a fortune at the vets, and would do it again and again. How many people would do that that let their cats have litter after litter? Before breeding, how many would spend the money to test to ensure their cat is healthy, with no genetic problems? Yes, getting rescues saves lives; but at the same time there are people who are looking for a certain type of cat, coat, personality and temperament. These people want see the parents and grandparents and make sure they are healthy.

I have 4 generations in my home. Visit my cattery and you will see my kittens’ parents, grandparents, and even some great grandparents. I know the health issues of my cats and their personalities. Can you say that about most moggies? I loved my rescues but some also died young; under the age of ten.”


Jo: “Another question posed by a reader. So, are there any statistics on how many pedigree kittens are miscarried, born dead, die young, or are born deformed because of incestuous breeding?”

Stella: “I know of no statistics on how many kittens are miscarried or still- born. I know of no breeder who would allow incestuous breeding. My males have 2 rooms of their own and no females are allowed in unless there is a planned breeding. I have had a few still- born kittens in the 14 years I have been breeding. No miscarriages or no deformed kittens. Can the average person who lets their cat breed to an unknown male get the same results? Do those with unaltered cats know the health and identity of the father? We can only speculate about the outcome of these breedings.”


Jo: “Do you and other reputable breeders keep extensive breeding records?”

Stella: “I can’t comment on what other breeders do. I keep extensive records ever since I started my breeding program. I keep a file on each litter, the people who bought them, and a signed contract. Since I want to know how my kittens are doing and where they are, I follow them up regularly.”


My final question:

Jo: “What type of line-breeding do you do?”

Stella: “None!”

I hope this interview serves to better illustrate the way in which responsible, reputable and ethical cat breeding is done in the United States and throughout Europe. What are your thoughts? Please share them with a comment.

Jo

Photo Credit: Stella Gaylor- RP Cathouse

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Stella Gaylor: An Interview with an Exemplary Breeder of Maine Coon Cats — 37 Comments

  1. Yes this seems more ethical. It’s another situation like Harvey where an older established breed is being conserved although the MC fits into the cat fancy standards too whereas for example the conserving done by Harvey is not registered as valuble to the cat fancy.

    Either way – MC cats have been around for ages and deserve perhaps some kind of conservation although I would argue that breeding should never happen in countries with massive over population. I’d suggest moving to Switzerland if you want to breed. People here can afford cats. The laws are very good on welfare here and there is, if anything, a shortage of cats.

    I’d like to know of other countries like Switzerland – I believe northern Finland and central Finland also have a history of being responsible with cats – they haven’t created overpopulation in tragic extremes.

    • We never hear about overpopulation of cats in Sweden or Norway or any of those northern European countries. The same goes to Switzerland. Although there are feral cats in England you never see them and the numbers must be far lower than in countries like Israel or America for example.

      Update: your comment prompted me to do a quick search for stray cats in Sweden. Interestingly, I found an article which describes the police force being disgruntled having to round up stray cats as it appears to be their responsibility. There would appear to be an increase in stray cats in Sweden and I will do a bit of work on that subject as we rarely discuss Sweden on this website.

      It would be nice to try and understand where this difference in culture comes from and what is the root cause of the cat overpopulation problem, as it is always described, in the USA. It must be an embarrassment for cat breeders because they can never justify breeding cats when set against the background of mass euthanasia of unwanted cats.

  2. Excellent interview that has touched most aspects of pedigree cat breeding.Would like to know the average costs of cats purchased from registered pedigree catteries like “RP CATHOUSE” ? The “Main Coon” is considered the largest cat breed amongst domesticated cats.

    • Rudolph, I think that you will find that the prices vary quite a lot depending upon the quality of the cat. In my experience prices range from about $500 to well over $1000. Show quality breeding cats are more expensive as I understand it.

      • Jo with the cost of the testing, vets, food and everything else going up in this economy. The prices have risen to $800 to $1200 for a kitten. That depends on the part of the country you live in, also.

        • RP Cathouse!

          I would imagine that with serious and ethical breeders that test, vaccinate and take great care of their kittens, that may barely cover the cost they charge for their kittens.

          When I was breeding Burmese back in the 60s, I had a queen who needed a C-section since the kitten was too large for her to deliver normally. Between the stud fee, the surgery, additional vet care for the queen, I barely broke even charging $400 for the kitten- who went to a fantastic home. The stud fee alone was $200 way back then!

          One day I will have to write about this very special kitten- whose mom refused to nurse him after the surgery. We had to find him a foster mom – the story is quite amazing, as the many breeders I called all jumped in to help him. The community of caring breeders who did everything possible for this little guy was totally amazing and very touching.

          The good news is that once the queen recovered and was feeling a lot better, she was searching for him, and they were reunited. She was an extraordinary mom and took incredible care of him.

          • Your Burmese — Jo, there is a nice story there. I like the idea of the cat breeding community helping. This shows a side of cat breeders that people don’t know. I believe cat breeders need to engage the public more.

            • It is not usually advertised what we do for the community. Donations are a big part of CFA and the cat clubs I belong to part of any monies from cat shows always go to rescues, funding for research and education. We do pay the judges for their time and judging our cats but most all the time they donate the money back to the club or to a rescue or research fund. I donate to the FIP research team.

              • Stella, that should be shouted from the rooftops as it is good public relations. I am surprised the charitable side of the CFA and breeders is not publicized a bit more.

                Love your cat by the way. Calico. Female. She looks female. I could fall in love with her 😉

              • This is R P Cathouse Baby Blue call name BeBe. She is a blue classic patch with white. We are going to see some friends in TN. and have entered her in the show for her championship. She is a pretty female but I wish she had more of a scoop to her nose just a little more lenght. But no one has the perfect Maine Coon. LOL. In the picture she was 6 months old in January. I had her pro pics done here is one of them.

          • Jo, I had a female who needed a C-section and it was about $1300. She had 4 kittens and the cost of the kittens then was $600. Didn’t even come close to breaking even. But the life of the cat and the kittens was first and foremost. All 4 kittens made it and one is co-owned by me Willie and he is a handsome and outstanding stud. And he is solid white to boot.

            • What a stupendous looking cat. All white Maine Coons look regal and very special. If I were to anthropomorphize a cat I’d say they are like princes and princesses!

  3. Jo, Thank you very much for doing this interview. It is a first for this website. It is fantastic to be able to get into the head and the thought processes of a Maine Coon cat breeder.

    Stella, demonstrates a high degree of responsibility and I’ve always felt that that is a basic requirement of people involved in this occupation. It is such a responsible job because lives are being brought into the world. I don’t think there can be more responsible job but at the same time-and this is indicated in the interview-more cat breeders need to raise their game.

    There is a weakness at the heart of of cat breeding. That is the cat associations, in my opinion, do not get involved enough in ensuring that their members behave responsibly and breed nothing but the healthiest of cats with the best characters at all times.

    There needs to be a refocusing of the objectives amongst members of the cat fancy.

  4. Great article on a great breed. I have had the joy of having a Maine Coon in my life.Leo was a joy and we shared lots of great together time. He was loving and purred like a diesel engine. He had terrible heart problems as a kitten and over came them, with surgery. In the end, at age 12 years, his heart finally failed. He was a true beautiful spirit. RP Is great! She has helped me when I knew of Maine Coons that had to be rescued. She has great information and references for all manor of needs. Thanks for honoring this great breeder and this sweet gentle giant breed.

    • If I ever adopt a pedigree cat it will be the Maine Coon. I love them. Not only do they look impressive they have nice characters. It is a shame that some breeders don’t really stick to high ethical standards to make sure their cats are as healthy as they can be. There are a number of genetic diseases associated with this breed and that should not be the case.

    • Elizabeth, I plan to do more interviews. Could you tell me what other questions you’d like to be put forward or the sort of questions you’d like any breeder to be asked?

      • Hi Stella. I’d just like to say thanks a lot for agreeing to be interviewed. It was very nice of you. It is not often that cat breeders allow themselves to be interviewed as far as I can tell but it is good for the public and breeders. It creates a public connection which I feel that sometimes breeders lack.

        Personally, I’d like to know why some Maine Coon breeders (Stella excluded!) seem to accept the genetic diseases as part of the process. Are the genetic diseases associated with the Maine Coon becoming less prevalent? Is something coordinated (between cat breeders and associations) being done to reduce these health issues? If not, why not? These are the big issues that if tackled well will be a massive marketing boost to this cat breed.

        • The genetics in a cat are still a mystery, more has been done for the dogs and their health than a cat. This has been changing over the 14 years I have been breeding. With the doppler scans and echos we can tell if a cat has any heart conditions. HCM is one of them. These tests are only good at the time they are done and does not mean it will never happen. But after years of scanning and altering the lines that can carry it it is getting a lot better. Not saying that the disease can not rear its ugly head at any time because it is genetic. I wish main stream cat owners who own rescues would also realize that a domestic cat can also have the same genetic diseases, but people are less prone to pay for them to be tested and find out or to have a nycropsy done when a pet dies at an early age. HCM is also found in other breeds, Ragdolls is another one. But the Maine Coon Breeders at least have it out in the open and are doing what they can to help learn more about it. I will not tell a kitten buyer that my lines are 100% clean because I can not say if the genes that produce it are not in the kitten. Yes they have found one marker but there is so much more to learn. Thank goodness we have people who are dedicated to research in the feline field and what to find the cause and cure for this and other disease,such as FIP.. I don’t want to mass market my kittens. I am very picky who my cats and kittens go to. I interview and really just talk to the people who are looking for kittens. I want to get to know them and them me. For that massive marketing there are the back yard breeders who will produce kittens just to fill the need of someone who doesn’t do their homework and ask questions. My lap before typing this

          • a domestic cat can also have the same genetic diseases

            Good point and it needs to be made.

            the Maine Coon Breeders at least have it out in the open

            Another good point. I agree it is important to air this as it is the beginning of solving it.

            Thank for the extra info. You tried to upload a photo. It failed because it was too large. Just below the comment box is a link to a page on how to reduce image size online if you’d like to try.

  5. My impression is that Stella is a very good breeder but she hints at the fact that there are bad breeders which we know but it is nice to see a breeder say it.

    I’d like to know more about that area of the cat fancy so we can encourage improvements.

    I praise Jo for arranging this interview. They can be tricky to arrange it seems to me.

  6. Stella, I just was interested in more about their personalities and day to day lives. I guess I’m more interested in what the cats are like once they get here than in how they come into the world. But then, I’m just a cat lover, not a breeder.

    • Day to day living. A Maine Coon kittens is like any other kitten. It can be out going or a little shy, they run around getting into things and on things. They are a normal kitten maybe except for Size. At 4 months some are 4 pounds but more like 5 – 6 dpending on the lines they are out of and how quick they develop. After a year they have mellowed out some and are not racing around. Yes they love to play and interact with you playing with toys with them. Most are very lappy cats. Taking up the entire lap. They love to snuggle at night time. Lay on you while you sleep. They are quick to learn. Mine know when I call home on my way from work and are waiting for me at the door. Even the kittens come to see what is going on. They have been by my side when I am sick and not feeling good. One is almost always in my lap at the computer. I have learned to type with my arms stretched way out. They follow you around like puppies most of the time wanting to be near you. They are a natural breed and that is what I love about them. As they age of course they are less active but will play if you play with them. What else would you like to know? This is how my lap usually looks.

  7. These cats are truly special and a very special lady she is for proper breeding and homing these wonderful kitties. Thank goodness there are still responsible pet owners and breeders.

  8. Am about to get away from the general trend of this article. I love the article and it was very informative. I have a short story to tell. About 6 years ago I adopted three litter mates (rescues). Each and everyone is so different.Patches is the one who looks very much like a Maine coon if I ever saw one. She has a really long multi- color coat with extremely long whiskers! My only problem with her is that she is really bossy with my remaining cats (6) and has them running for cover when they see her. Are most Maine coons this aggressive even towards their own litter mates and other cats? Yes they are all neutered and all are females.

    • Stella is the best person to respond but my gut feeling is that this is not a Maine Coon (MC) thing but a sibling thing. MCs are like any other domestic cat. It is probably sibling rivalry or something similar and will possibly pass in time.

    • No not usually, that being said if a breeder sees one that is being a bully they will not breed that cat. Kittens take their personalities from their parents for the most part. Plus it depends on the socializing of the kittens. If a kitten is being a bully the other kittens will not play with it to teach them they are being to rough, momma cat will also swat the kitten to put it in its place. Usually they will come around with you holding and controlling the kitten when you are playing with them. A quick scruf and and firm and loud NO! will work most of the time. It all depends on how these kittens were raised. Now saying that I have found the female with red in it will be a little more outgoing and head strong and want to control. Talk to your vet and see what they say. There is safe drugs you can give to help change behaviors.

      Stella

      • Now saying that I have found the female with red in it will be a little more outgoing and head strong and want to control.

        This observation squares up with mine. The orange tabby tends to be a boss cat.

  9. Jo, thanks for an outstanding interview. Stella, thank you for agreeing to the interview and making some excellent points. I became interested in the Maine Coon breed after interacting with you on onther online forums. I now volunteer for a Maine Coon rescue organization processing applications for adoption. Thank you for your responsible breeding techniques and for caring so remarkably for your cats and kittens. 🙂

  10. I have a few questions. As a breeder I control the breeding and mating of my cats. I control the number of breeding cats I have and the kittens they produce and when and how often. I make sure they have vet care and are vaccinated, proper diet and so on. I am on a list that have pet owners, why would they not get a cat spayed or neutered, then ask why is my cat spraying or there is a discharge coming from the female, or any medical problem, go looking for home rememdies fix the problem. Or a behavioral problem consult the vet first, and many other questions. Before I fell in love with the Maine Coons I made sure that my cats were vetted and fed properly. As a child yes my cats were in and outdoor cats. But that was way too many years ago. But they were at the vet yearly. Thank you MOM! They were spayed or neutered. You are responsible for their life and health. Yes I am sure there are those who don’t have the money but there are many more I am thinking that do. How do we educate them that a first visist doesn’t cost thousands of dollars or hundreds. I kitten well check up and vaccines are basics. This way the vet will know them and the cat. Just a little (big) pet peeve of mine. Yes it is in my contract that a kitten must be seen within 72 hours or pick up and a letter from vet is required on the condition and health of the kitten. I give a vet certificate on the health of the kitten and vaccine record. It is in my contract that they will be seen if anything is wrong and I am to be informed of it.

    Stella

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