Feel free to browse through this entire page; or, click on any of the following topics: Introduction; Physical Factors; Anatomical Factors; Psychological Factors
This article is being written to provide information for breeders. It is important to note that while it may seem as though making kittens should be as easy as putting a male and a female cat together, there is far much more involved in the process. The breeder must understand that they are fully responsible for the outcome of any breeding or attempted breeding, and that their responsibility is threefold - to protect the health and life of the tom or stud male cat; to protect the health and life of the queen; and to protect the health and lives of any kittens born from the pairing. This may seem a bit simplistic, but in a time where so many animals are euthanized because proper homes cannot be found for their unique needs, creating or attempting to create more of these living creatures demands that we as compassionate human beings take responsibility for our actions to ensure that our animals do not come to any preventable harm or suffer in any way from our actions. Breeding is an enormous responsibility, and not one to be undertaken lightly. One must be prepared for the worst outcome, while of course we certainly always are hoping for the best outcome.
Whenever there are problems with a planned breeding of pedigreed cats, the first place we usually look for answers is with the queen. Recently, however, more attention has been brought to the fact that there can also be reproductive problems with male cats. Fertility issues can be very confusing, and not always easy to understand or to solve. With whole male breeding cats, fertility problems are usually the result of either physical, anatomical, or psychological factors.
NUVET PLUS FELINE SUPPLEMENT
~ From the minute you plan to start a cat breeding program, it's absolutely essential to begin putting your intact males and females on nutritional supplements. Breeding is very hard on cats and robs an enormous amount of energy and nutrients from their bodies. Click on image above for more information and to order this uniquely powerful nutritional supplement for felines at our Foothill Felines breeder discount (which is up to 50% less than what veterinarians typically charge). Used and recommended by Foothill Felines, just a pinch a day in wet and/or dry food provides vibrant results with all ages, weights and breeds of cats. Developed by scientists, veterinarians and formulators to enhance the health and lives of cats, this unique Nu- Vet supplement contains many important minerals, antioxidants, enzymes and vitamins INCLUDING taurine, calcium, blue green algae, brewer's yeast, and much more. Overall proper nutrition can improve a male cat's libido and performance. ~
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In this category, we would put the age of the male cat being put at stud. Toms can vary tremendously in the age at which they become sexually and emotionally fully mature. In our research and speaking with other breeders throughout the world, we have heard of male cats first siring viable litters from the ages of 4 months all the way up to 3 years!! There can be many reasons for this phenomenon, some of which are physical, some of which are psychological. Studies have shown consistently, however, that male cats kept whole and brought up by themselves, without the social interaction with other cats, quite often do not fully mature until over a year old. When tested, these males will usually show a low testosterone level compared to other males their same age. Another way this physical factor can come into play is that even fully mature male toms, who have already proven themselves by siring viable litters, can also experience a loss of libido if they are removed from the close proximity to other cats. Felines are definitely social creatures, and this is just as important to raising healthy breeding males as it is to queens and kittens.
Another physical factor which can cause reproductive problems in intact male cats is a condition called "hypothyroidism". This condition causes a slowing of all body processes including the overall metabolic rate of the animal. Fortunately, hypothyroidism is usually reversible with the appropriate treatment.
Additionally, virtually all chronic diseases can create reproductive problems in toms. This is due primarily to the fact that a chronic disease by its nature will affect the secretion and production of steroids, and this in turn reduces the production of sperm.
~ Getting plenty of exercise is of tremendous importance to the health of your breeding toms. Because almost all intact male cats spray, they are usually kept in a confined area, making it more difficult for them to maintain proper muscle tone and experience the joy and pleasure that cats need from being able to run and exercise. Click on image above to learn about the incredible new exercise wheels for cats; the Toy-Go-Round wheels!! Great for relieving boredom, controlling weight, and keeping your indoor cat in top physical shape. They're simply the best designed, best built and best priced wheels we've found anywhere, and with their compact size, they fit into virtually any enclosure!!
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There are several key factors in this category which can cause infertility in toms. Improper or lack of nutrition can reduce the overall amount of sperm production - fortunately, this condition is usually reversible with adequate nutrition and supplements as needed. This condition can happen even in the most careful of catteries, and sometimes will occur after the male cat has had an illness. Research has shown that toms who are significantly overweight will often have very little interest in breeding, even though their sperm production may be completely normal. Also important to note, there can be the development of a condition known as testicular degeneration in males that are fed a diet high in liver. While not reversible, this type of testicular degeneration can at least be halted by reducing the amount of liver in the tom's diet.
In catteries where the tom is used extensively to breed a high number of females, he may not be able to produce enough sperm to fertilize all the queens he is expected to breed. Common sense would tell us that it is important for the male cat to be allowed some recovery time between queens to protect his own health during breeding season. While it is readily apparent how important the role of nutrition is to queens who become pregnant and nurse their young, male cats kept whole for breeding also require a tremendous amount of top quality nutrition in order to provide them with the needed energy and desire for breeding, as well as the physical ability to produce enough viable sperm.
Sometimes, a male stud cat will develop an auto-immune response to his own semen, which will then render him infertile. This can happen even after a tom has sired viable litters, and usually the tom will be continuing to mount and "breed" queens in heat - however, these pairings will then not produce kittens. What happens here is that even a tiny amount of the male's own semen somehow gets back into the male's system. His body then treats this minute amount of semen as a "foreign" substance, which causes the immune system of his body to try to "attack" these cells. While this condition does not affect the overall health of the tom, it is usually recommended that he be neutered as the chances that he will be able to sire litters again in the future are extremely rare. A testicular biopsy can confirm this diagnosis. Another condition that can happen to toms which will present very similarly to the auto-immune or immune-mediated disease is an obstruction to the outflow tract. This diagnosis requires a semen evaluation to confirm, and also usually leads to infertility due to testicular degeneration over time. With both these conditions, the tom will usually still have a high interest in breeding, and be acting appropriately - but resulting in no viable pregnancies or kittens.
Physical trauma such as a bite or scratch wound to the scrotal area can cause heat from inflammation which ultimately affects the production of sperm. Even after the wound has healed, it may be several days to weeks or even longer before the tom's sperm production and the sperm itself is back to normal. Trauma to the penis can cause obstruction of the urethra, preventing the sperm from reaching the queen. Another recognized anatomical problem which can affect fertility in toms is known as "penile hair rings", occurring most often in long haired males. During intercourse, the dorsal and perineal hairs of the queen can rub against the tom's penile spines, causing hair accumulation which can lead to the inability of the sperm to effectively penetrate the queen. Fortunately, this is a problem that your veterinarian can easily remedy by removing the hair ring.
If you are a cat breeder, you may have noticed your veterinarian carefully checking the testicles of your male kittens during routine examinations. This is because the failure of both testes to descend from the abdomen into the scrotum is a condition most professionals believe to be genetic in origin, and this condition also creates a predisposition to tumor development in affected animals. Normally, the testes are descended at birth, but they may not be palpable even to a professional veterinarian until the male kitten is anywhere from 4 to 12 weeks old. Usually if the testes are not descended by the age of 6 months, statistics show that there is little chance they will ever descend normally. This results in sterility as when the testes are not in the scrotum, the temperatures in the body are too high for normal sperm production to occur. When a male has one testicle which is properly descended, the male is usually fertile because he would be able to produce sperm in the one descended testicle; however, this practice is not recommended as this condition most likely is passed on genetically and does indeed bring with it fertility issues plus the high risk of tumors developing in the abdominal gonad. Neutering the animal is the proper and ethical response to either one or both testes not being properly descended.
Infections which may have occurred when the tom was still a developing fetus in his mother's womb can cause parts of the reproductive system to not develop properly and lead to fertility problems later in his adult life. It is also possible that a queen can be carrying an infection or virus and pass it on to the male during breeding. The male can then infect other females as well as be re-infected by them. Chlamydia and other strains of bacterias and viruses most definitely can affect fertility in both sexes. Use of some of the newer broad-spectrum antibiotics such as Zithromax has been shown to be highly effective in treating some of these latter problems in cattery environments.
Another condition (usually very treatable, fortunately) which can affect fertility in toms is improper development of the penis, referred to as "persistent frenulum". As a male kitten grows and matures, the penis is normally supposed to detach itself from a fold of tissue referred to as the frenulum. However, in some cases the frenulum persists and the male tom is then unable to properly penetrate the female queen during mating. There is a very simple procedure which can be performed by a veterinary surgeon to correct this condition and remove the wall of the prepuce from the frenulum, allowing completion of the breeding act to take place.
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We have already mentioned the importance of bringing up a tom for breeding within a social environment and around other cats. Young or immature males are especially sensitive to any changes in their environment or in their routine. Certain breeds of cats are more prone to this sensitivity than others. Too many or too abrupt changes in environment or routine can certainly be enough stress to cause a tom to lose interest in breeding, and have an adverse affect on their performance. This is a very important reason why it is most common to bring a female queen to the male when she is in estrus for breeding, as opposed to bringing the male to her. On occasion, some breeders may opt to lease their breeding male tom for several months when another breeder they want to work with has several queens that need to be bred - the important thing to remember is to always keep in mind how critical it is to keep the stress level down for the male, and keep his environment and routine as closely as possible to what he is used to and comfortable with for his well-being and optimum performance from him.
Another psychological factor that may affect the performance of especially a younger or less experienced tom is if he is put in with a very aggressive female. There is a difference between aggressive as in a queen who is experienced and wants to be bred - this type of female can often actually be a very good teacher to a learning tom. But a female who is very aggressive and loud, and very physically abusive towards a younger male can definitely cause him to lose interest in breeding - not only her, but he may remember this bad experience and not be inclined to want to breed other females in the future. There are types of stud pens available that help with the introduction of the female to the male when this type of behavior is a possibility, so that the introduction is more gradual and less threatening to both animals.
FELIWAY PLUG-INS & SPRAY
~ Feliway and Rescue Remedy products are invaluable in cat breeding programs to reduce stress and promote emotional and physical health and well-being. Click on links above for more information and to order these exceptionally calming products for felines. Used and recommended by Foothill Felines for breeding, queening, cat shows and everyday household situations!! Wonderful for cats of all ages, weights, and breeds of cats. Odorless to humans, these plug-ins release natural cat pheromones into the air for stress relief and eliminating need for cats and kittens to mark or exhibit other unwanted behaviors. ~
BACH RESCUE REMEDY FOR PETS
~ Click on link above for more information and to order the Bach Flower Essence "Rescue Remedy for Pets"; just put a few drops in your pet's drinking water daily for a natural calming, soothing effect. Great help during breeding, queening and cat shows, also. ~
Finally, other male toms can be intimidating to a younger, less experienced male breeder cat. This is especially true if the other male is older and has been around a long time, is very experienced, and the other cats know him well. Cats can sense "turf", and a more sensitive young tom may be intimidated enough to not be able to perform with a queen if in close proximity to the experienced male. The best thing to do in this case is to provide the younger tom with his own "turf", out of sight, smell and sound from the older male.
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