This post is pretty much geared towards breeders considering adding one to their program. Please please please forgive me if I sound preachy, it is certainly not my intention but my passion for these animals gets in the way of tact and diplomacy. My background is in animal medicine, surgical vet. tech., I have learned more managing Stonehenge for 7 years than all 16 years working in clinics and reading books. There are so many questions to ask yourself BEFORE acquiring one. One of the most important that comes to mind first is, What happens to your F cat in 4 years when you have to close up shop, or something happens to you. A care plan is important for all your cats but the F cats pose the biggest problem. I'm sure I'm not telling you anything you don't already know but if you never had an F cat, housing, breeding and feeding can be quite different from raising SBTs. IMO, if you really believe adding an F cat to your program will enhance your line then start with a kitten. I will go into the difference between hand/home raised kittens and acquiring a breeding ready queen raised by someone else or acquiring an F cat that is feral and comes cheap. Please do not ever do this; it will not end up well for the cat.
The Bond created by human and kitten is intense. This is why I believe the F cat, pet or breeder needs to go to their forever home as early as possible. If they are FAT healthy and fearless and their forever home is within driving distance then leaving the nest at 8 to 10 weeks is best. If of course you are shipping then obviously they must wait till 12 weeks. Please guys this is just my opinion coming from years of experience and the 10 or so breeding F cats I have cared for and the many many kittens we have sold over the years.
Since raising Sasse as pet first and breeder second I have created a sweet, willful but trusting cat. She is one extreme, I was able to be there for the birth of her kittens, she lay against my tummy and I mock groomed her but I just really was there if she needed me. I was able to handle the babies without fear. Syd's last words to me on the day of whisper and willows birth was "don't let Sasse hurt you" You see this is all we knew. Fractious mothers, babies born in the middle of the night in a room we practically slid food under the door. I would go in armed with something in front of me. Some queens will protect their babies ferociously or run. Either scenario is NOT desirable. You are creating stress for the queen and jeopardizing the baby’s lives. There are 3 types of F queens. I have experienced all 3. The first type...Completely feral...they do not want anything to do with the stud. They will not give the stud a chance even if they are in full blown heat. The second type is the sterile type; they are just not capable of getting pregnant. The 3rd type, they do breed, get pregnant and birth can go either one of two ways. Smoothly with no problems or she eats them. It is an expensive proposition. Kind of like a crap shoot. What are you willing to bet on? We had one f-1 that would get pregnant, verified by ultrasound just days, I mean like 2 days before she was due to give birth. On that day there were no kittens and no sign she ever gave birth. She ate them as they came out. Gia, Syd's first F-1 from way back when was a terrific mother. One of Sydney’s best producing f-1 queens. She had bonded with Syd. It took her years to Bond with me and by then we had to retire her as she was pushing 10 years of age. She was a good breeding f-1 and terrific mother. Silver Icon put out incredible babies. She had bonded with Syd in as far as feeding time came. She was by no means a lap cat or a pet. One day she became ill, since she spent most of her time inside her house we had no idea just how sick she was we thought she was pregnant. One day I noticed her acting strangely as she sat outside her house. When we got to the vets, sepsis had taken over and she passed away at the vets. FROM STRESS not just sepsis. If she had been more domestic we could have intervened sooner and a trip to the vets would not have been such a big deal. The Asian leopard in silver icon increased her stress level and she could not cope. There are breeders out there now doing the best they can. Like Pat, obviously she is keeping a close eye on her girl with a video camera during the birth of her f cat kittens. Wouldn’t you rather be a part of it? Wouldn’t you rather be able to see the mother, sex the babies or make sure all is well? That was then and this is now. All up and coming breeders with F cats in their cattery need to be a part of the life of the queen and a part of the birthing process, this way you know what’s going on, you don’t have to guess.
Having a well socialized F cat means trips to the vet don’t end in the cat climbing the walls, pooping and peeing everywhere and possibly hurting people. Sasse is not fond of going to the vets now, she is older and I know it creates stress for her but when there she will sit quietly on the table and allow the vet to examine her.
Once these kittens, male or female have been properly socialized and homed the responsibility of the breeder DOES NOT END with the sale of the kitten. The sale of our f cats and the follow up is a big deal to me. I want pictures. I want to be able to answer questions and trouble shoot any problems that may arise...In the first year or any year.
Another issue with raising and selling f babies is, are you willing to take back this cat if its starts exhibiting typical f-1 behavior? What does your contract say? We have taken back f-1 boys a year later when adult hood kicks in. It may be because they are too destructive and of course litter box habits are one of the biggest reasons I get calls and why we take them back. I say if you’re not willing to take them back then you should not be breeding them. These cats are a commitment in time and love. All the cats are but right now I am just speaking of them.
After we retired Gia, and silver Icon passed we have had maybe 2 litters of f-1s. What we do have are 3 f-1 queens that are not producing and they never will, and being that they are kind of wild this is their forever home. If Sydney decides to ever keep an f-1 girl we are going to raise her completely underfoot make her a pet first then breeding queen second. This is what I strongly urge and recommend to breeders out there thinking of bringing one into their program. I wrote an article in the Bengal Bulletin on living with F-cats, check it out!
June, Stonehenge Bengals pooper scooper adding her 2 cents