THE INFLUENCE OF THE FATHER and EARLY SOCIALIZATION ON KITTENS' TEMPERAMENTS
ADAPTING TO A NEW HOME
WHY DO BREEDERS LET ADULT CATS GO?
We believe our parent cats' (especially that of the tom) affectionate, intelligent personalities are as important as health and "type" and a controlled study at Cambridge University of litters and their fathers supports this, finding that although the kittens had never met nor observed their fathers, the friendliest kittens were those from the friendly father.
In fact, in each litter the kittens exhibited the same type of temperament as the father even though they had never met him. The study concluded that the only way this seemed possible was if their behavior was inherited genetically from their father.
Cambridge University study suggests that although
genetics plays a part in early development, the personality is shaped throughout
its life by many other factors including socialization and environment.
We believe in providing our kittens with the best early
environment possible. Our kittens are home-raised
in a family setting with children, dogs, and other pets and handled daily to
ensure maximum socialization.
Like Tom, Like Kitten
Breeders have long believed that the sire greatly influences the personalities and temperaments of kittens. A good-tempered, friendly stud cat tended to produce good tempered, friendly kittens. For many years this remained anecdotal and there were no statistics to back it up.
After a litter of kittens is born, the mother
will have the greatest impact on the attitudes her kittens develop about
life. The fathers rarely come in contact with their kittens. However,
studies have been conducted that establish a definite link between
genetics and personality. Dr. Sandra McCune, an animal behavior
expert at Waltham Centre for Pet Nutrition in Britain, has studied
feline behavior extensively and has conducted studies on the role that a
father plays in the temperament of his offspring.
To test this theory, Sandra McCune an animal behavior expert at Waltham Centre for Pet Nutrition, performed an experiment at Cambridge University to see what effect the father's temperament had on his kittens. She separated kittens into two groups. Each of the groups included litters of kittens whose fathers were friendly toward people and litters whose fathers were unfriendly or standoffish. The kittens never met their fathers, so the fathers' only effect was genetic. All of the kittens remained with their mothers and littermates. Between the age of 2 weeks and 12 weeks, half the kittens were handled by a person daily for a total of 5 hours a week. The other half were only exposed to people during feeding and daily cleaning of their pens. When the kittens were 12 months old, they were all tested to see how they reacted to meeting people, being handled by people and encountering strange objects. The results showed that, for the cats in the experiment, the effect of early handling was about equal to the effect of having a friendly father. Handled cats with unfriendly fathers and unhandled cats with friendly fathers were both about as likely to hiss when a familiar person approached them. However, they were both less likely to hiss than the unhandled cats whose fathers were unfriendly (whether handled kittens from friendly fathers were additionally laid back wasn't reported in the various articles citing this study). The more friendly cats in McCune's study were generally bolder (less fearful) and more willing to approach and investigate a strange object. This suggests that friendliness is all about being less fearful and linked to the production of stress hormones.
Although the kittens had never met nor observed
their fathers, McCune found that the friendliest kittens were those from
the friendly father. In fact, in each litter the kittens exhibited the
same type of temperament as the father even though they had never met him.
The only way seems possible is if their behaviour was inherited
genetically from their father. However, while a kitten inherits aspects of
its father's temperament, that won't necessarily contribute much to to its
adult personality. The Cambridge University study suggests that genetics
plays a part in early development, but the personality is shaped
throughout its life by many other factors including socialization and
Behaviour to People and Novel Objects. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 1995;45:109-124.
Adapting to a New Home
Our kittens are fully weaned by 6-7 weeks of age. The queens generally lose interest in their kittens by the time they are weaned and/or shortly afterwards and some do get aggressive (rough) with their kittens, particularly if they come into season again which tends to happen during the spring and fall months. This is nature's way of telling the kittens that the time is coming for them to "leave the nest" soon. Our kittens are generally ready to leave for their new home at around 10 - 16 weeks of age and sometimes longer depending on maturity and what age we feel they are ready for the type/distance of travel required. By this age they are eating very well on their own, litter box trained and scratching post trained. They have been socialized with adults, children, the adult cats and are use to dogs. This protocol is based on the recommendation of 35 year veteran, respected cat breeder/author Eveleth C. Cowles
"Pet customers want to raise a kitten from an early age. Kittens should be 9 weeks old with the first shot when they go to a new home. At this age they adapt very quickly with a minimum of stress. As time passes it becomes more and more difficult to adjust to new surroundings and other animals." Her book is endorsed by William S. Walker D.V.M.and CFA.
Reference: Cowles Eveleth C. A Manual For Cat Breeders. Acton, MA: Tapestry Press Ltd, 2001.
AAHA (American Animal Hospital Association):
"Kittens can leave their mother and littermates after they have been
weaned, usually at 8 - 10 weeks of age. Like human babies, kittens
require special care, including veterinary care, feeding and
socialization. The best time to bring a kitten home is when you have at
least one or two days to focus on helping him adjust to new
Why Do Breeders Let Adult Cats Go?
The reason breeders pet out adult cats (placing cats in pet homes) are many. All of them come down to one thing: love. These breeders have the best interests of the cat at heart. Most people who breed live in normal-sized homes. They can (and should) only keep as many adult cats as they can give plenty of love and attention. A breeding program requires a certain number of adults to keep viable: you need a few queens, perhaps a stud or two. Most breeders also keep a few adult spays or neuters to show when their breeding cats are busy raising litters.
Imagine, now, that you are a breeder and that you have decided that six adult cats is your limit. You feel you can care for and give six adult cats all the love and attention they deserve. You have six breeding cats right now, and one of them has a litter of kittens. In that litter is a female kitten with great potential. As she grows older, it becomes obvious that the quality of this cat is better than one of your queens whose quality is not as good. After all, it's important for a breeder to constantly improve the quality of the breeding cats. You've spayed the queen, but now you have seven cats. You decided six would be your strict limit and know it's important to the emotional health of your cats to stick to your original notion that you can only keep six. The cat is only two and a half years old and has produced two decent litters of kittens for you. It's time for her to retire to a home where she can be the beloved pet in a one- or two-cat household, the center of a family's attention, rather than the seventh cat of a breeding program.
Or imagine another scenario: You have the maximum number of cats you have decided to keep. Two are neutered boys you have decided to show. One of the neutered boys doesn't like to be shown. In fact, he hates it. It's not good for a cat to be shown if he doesn't like it. The cat wants to be a pet, not a show cat, but it's important for you to show in your program so judges can evaluate the progeny of your breeding program. This is how you know if you are doing a good job. One of your queens has a kitten you think would be an excellent show prospect. You decide that the boy who doesn't like showing would be happier in a pet home, so you decide to find him that excellent home where he can be spoiled in the manner he deserves. Or perhaps a female destined for breeding has medical trouble with pregnancy or birth. Or perhaps she is not a good mother, but a delightful pet. It is best to spay her and pet her out under those circumstances. Perhaps it is the breeder's policy to spay or neuter cats over a certain age, because the kittens tend to be healthier when born to younger parents.
Deciding to pet out an adult cat is an act of LOVE on the part of the breeder. The hardest part of breeding is letting go of your cats, especially the adults -- because good breeders become attached to every cat they produce. But it's important for an ethical breeder to recognize the need to keep numbers down to a level where every cat gets the individual attention they deserve. Breeders must have the emotional and physical health of their cats uppermost in their minds. It is also important for breeders to keep the best interest of the cats at heart, and not selfishly keep everything they produce whether it is in the best interests of the cat or not. Some cats are happier in a one- or two-pet household, at the center of a family's attention. A good breeder recognizes this and does what he or she can to make sure that every cat they produce is in the happiest situation it can be. Copyright 1995, 1996 Barbara C. French
The Maine Coon
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