Breeding cats is easy. In fact it tends to happen by accident if you are not careful. Breeding healthy cats is another thing all together. I have a page on genetics and it is part of the story but it is not enough. A lot more goes into building a healthy body than just the genetic material. Think of it like baking a cake. You can start with the same basic ingredients but make all sorts of mistakes along the way. Some of the cakes will be delicious and others will be inedible. Which is a great segway to what I consider to be the most important thing I can do to help your kitten have a healthy life.
First off I cringe at the idea of anyone experimenting on cats or really any other animal for that matter. I am not making a hero out of this man but what he learned is useful to know.
Francis Pottenger was a doctor who ran a sanitarium for people with lung problems related to asthma and allergies. In the decade between 1932 and 1942 he did a study using cats to test the effects of adrenaline on allergies and asthma. In the process he stumbled upon an amazing discovery about diet. To do his study he had to remove the adrenal cortex from cats and then feed them an extract made from processed adrenal cortexes. This was the precursor to the EpiPen and many of the other things that keep those of us with severe allergies alive. While doing these tests he stumbled upon the fact that not all foo ds are created equal. There are things in raw food that disappear when you cook it.
Originally he was trying to find out if feeding a raw food diet could help the cats survive the surgery removing their adrenal cortex. It did. It also did something else. As he bred successive generations of cats he noticed a huge difference in the kittens born to the cats fed raw meat verses those who came from parents fed a cooked food diet. I am going to refer you to The Weston Price Foundation for the bigger picture but the gist of it is that kittens born to mothers who were fed raw milk and meat were amazingly healthy, strong and well formed. They also had better personalities due to their hormones being more balanced.
This was an amazing discovery. Not only can diet change your / your cat's health but it can determine the health and well being of future generations.
Every morning, rain or shine no matter how late I was up or how cruddy I feel I get up, stagger out to the barn (occasionally still in my pajamas) and milk a Jersey cow named after the character River Tam from the movie Serenity. I then cart the milk in the house and divide it up between my family and my pets. When the cats and dogs get their morning milk it is still warm and steaming fresh from the cow. I tend to like mine chilled but I am picky that way. At night we repeat the same cycle all over again.
In my yard there are what looks like way too many chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys and other assorted poultry. For the most part they wander around eating bugs and vegetation as nature intended they should. Their eggs are big, firm and have centers so dark they are more orange than yellow.
Out back there are pigs living in the sun and mud foraging for their dinner in the woods. Their fat is rich in vitamin D that is missing in factory farmed meats. In the freezer we are just finishing off the remains of a grass fed cow we recently had butchered.
I did not do this for my cats. I did it for myself. On other pages I mention having survived a major health crisis that centered around my allergies. Everything doctors did made me worse so I decided to reset my body by treating it right. Along the way I discovered Pottenger's cat study and decided my cats needed real food too.
As I write this Twinkle is in her nest box beside me purring away as she nurses her 6 kittens. When we fed a more conventional diet we felt pleased with a 4 kitten litter and often worried about the mothers having enough milk. At 3 weeks old the kittens are big, beautiful and sassy. On average Twinkle puts away over a pint of raw milk every day plus other food.
I have noticed the more a queen likes raw milk the bigger her litters are and the healthier her kittens become. Coats are beautiful. We have less problems with parasites. There are less colds and eye infections. In every way the cats and kittens are happier and healthier. To me there is no better recommendations that good results.
There are people who question the safety of raw milk. I fall back on what my vet told me.. "If you haven't killed your family with it you won't kill your cats." This sounds like a terse and possibly even slightly rude response but he was serious. Poorly handled raw milk from sick cows can kill you but clean milk for healthy grass fed animals is one of the healthiest things on earth.
People often ask me if they should feed raw food to their cats. I always tell them it depends upon the source. I would not feed raw grocery store meat to a cat. I am not sure I would feed it to them cooked either. That stuff is nasty. You don't even want to know.. You probably should. know but trust me you will never look at your dinner plate the same way again.
My rule of thumb is that I only feed my cats food I have processed myself and would feed my daughter. Trust me that is setting a pretty high standard. It is a standard the grocery store cannot meet.
Not everyone can do this and I am not going to lecture you on the need to feed the cats raw food for life. I see it as my way to give the babies a good start in life.
If you decide you want to feed your cat a raw diet look for processors who make small batches from individual animals. Go to your local farmer's market. Be careful. Be sensible. Be safe. Most of all never assume grocery store food is safe.
Seriously, you want to adopt one of my kittens and you don't have a mini farm set up to cater to its needs? How could you! Be gone you foul creature.
Relax I am kidding. You have a life, kids and a car payment or something along those lines. I know I live a weird life and very few people can or would want to do the things I do. My point above was not about how you should feed your cat. It was about what I do to give them a good start in life.
Now lets talk about what you as a normal person with a job and a serious lack of cattle in the backyard can do to feed your kitten right and keep it healthy.
Your cat is an obligate carnivore. That means its body was designed to eat meat. Meat... not jerk.y. Meat is wet. When cats eat dry food they do not get the moisture they need. As a result they become dehydrated. Cats do not have the same instinct to drink that dogs have. They end up chronically dehydrated. This leads to bladder infections. Down the road it leads to kidney problems and ultimately death.
Wet food - every day - will give your cat healthy kidneys
Lets go back to that "cats are obligate carnivores" thing I was talking about . That means cats are designed to eat meat and get sick if they eat other things. Oh they might snack on an occasional piece of grass in the wild but they don't eat it. They nibble on it. What they eat is mice, eggs and small birds. Have you checked the carb count on the average serving of mouse. I will give you a hint - it is ZERO. Yes, the normal diet of a cat eating as it is supposed to eat in nature is completely carb free. Yet most cat foods are high in carbs.
This leads to diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer, heart disease etc.
Find a low carb alternative. We like 4 Health or Blue Buffalo. There are others including raw food that you can buy in frozen containers. If you can find a way to make it work and can find a good source of raw food I am highly in favor of it. Just make sure you are getting quality raw food. There is a tendency to assume dogs and cats can eat anything because they have shorter digestive tracts that is not the case.