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?”
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.
Photo Credit: Stella Gaylor- RP Cathouse