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Some really important rambling, guys

Kuro - rescue MC x ragdoll
Kuro - rescue MC x ragdoll

It's about time I spill the details on something I'm really passionate about

Disclaimer notes: 
1 .These blog posts will likely be developed and added to over time as I learn more information. 
2. While some breeding "secrets" are kept as unwritten law, the general concept of what I write here is freely available to find if you look in the right places. The feline associations (Australian/American/European) are a good place to start. The PawPeds website also has some interesting information (not always/strictly scientific though).
3. Some really really important questions for anyone to ask themselves when embarking on new or controversial scientific adventures are: 
        a) Why am I getting angry about someone pursuing a certain line/trait? 
        b) Is it because it's scientifically or genetically unsound? 
        c) Is it unethical?
        d) Is it because someone simply "told me it's wrong/right"? 
        e) Is it fear of the unknown? 
4. Be brave. Be courageous. Explore something new. 
5. Admit your mistakes and learn from them.
6. Please don't blindly believe me. Also, please don't blindly hate on me if you have no scientific backing. 
7. Ask your own questions, and seriously, genuinely, seek answers. Make informed decisions.
8. Lastly, as always, be kind.  


- - - - -


Becoming a real-life crazy-cat lady has been a long time in the making. 

My entire life, I've been around animals. I've grown up with them, fostered, rescued, and loved them. 

As someone who has gone through episodes of major depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress, no matter the circumstance, an animal has always been there to heal, love and adore me.

I'm embarking on something that I know will be controversial to some groups of people, so... let me explain....

I'm entering the next phase of my life, where I am finally able to achieve my dream of breeding my favourite breed of cat: the Maine Coon. 

Firstly, let me add a bit of pretext...

I'm well aware of the hashtags #ADOPTDONTSHOP and #DONTSHOPADOPT and so on. You'll know where I'm going with this... 

In my area, there has been a huge social uproar about backyard breeders, kitten & puppy farms, and generalised hate towards pedigree breeders, for the simple reason that there are billions of dumped, stray, and orphaned animals out there, filling up the pound or your local rescue every single day. The general consensus {is that a redundant term?} is that the public should make up for this atrocity by only rescuing and adopting these animals, and that breeding contributes to the problem. On a large scale {not taking into account other factors} I kind of agree. 

But let me say this. Registered, responsible pedigree breeders do what they do for the love of the breed, not to make a profit, but to enhance and enrich already existing pedigree lines, and - if they are truly ethical breeders - they will always send away their babies vetted, microchipped, desexed, and healthy. There ARE breeders out there who will dump the runt of the litter, or the one with the defect (which shouldn't have been bred in the first place) off at the shelter, give it away online, or just abandon it in a box next to a fire station. In regards to these breeders, I cannot shout this loud enough: THESE ARE NOT ETHICAL BREEDERS AND I WHOLEHEARTEDLY AGREE THAT THIS IS WRONG AND NEEDS TO BE PREVENTED!

Another factor is that a certain type of person, who actively seeks out a pedigree companion, will always exist on this planet, no matter what type of animal it is, this type of person can never be eradicated. It's not necessarily a bad thing. It is okay to desire a certain type of animal/species/breed. It's not for everyone, and that's okay too. 

I wholeheartedly agree that we need to reduce the amount of stray animals. An effective program is Trap, Neuter and Return (TNR). I know of several rescues in my local area who actively participate in this. It is highly effective in keeping existing stray animals in their "home" environment that they know, while preventing any more from being bred (from that particular animal at least). 

Yes, we need to see less animals abandoned at shelters. I don't really have an answer for how to do this. Perhaps more education for the public. Perhaps make "give away" animals illegal on Gumtree and local buy/sell/swap Facebook pages. A lot of the rescues I know charge adoption fees of around $140-$190 per kitten. This is no way means they are making a profit. It covers the desexing, their first vaccinations, and a microchip. I know of several veterinarians who work alongside rescue organisations who only charge for the medication and procedures, and sometimes not even that. They give their time for free. The adoption price for the animal also ensures that a buyer is at least a little bit serious. As for the animals dumped at the shelters. Usually there's a limited timeframe and then they get put on the hit list. This truly sucks. I understand it, I mean, the incoming animal volume is waaaaay larger than the outgoing adoptions. Simple maths. Which is why these rescue organisations are so valuable. They're making a dent, you know? I've been involved in a rescue as a foster home for some mothers and their babies born in my care. We cared for them until they were old enough to be adopted into their furrever homes. The organisation paid for their medication, their vet work, their microchips, and some of their food and litter. I paid for the rest of their food and litter... and that's it. I didn't make any money off them. It just took some of my time. I loved it. And I will do it again when the time is right. 

I wish that I could save every abandoned animal. I wish that I could punch every human in the face that buys a rabbit at easter, or a puppy for a christmas present, then when the animal grows up or the human changes their mind about what colour they wanted, they decide to "surrender" it to a shelter or give it away on Gumtree.

F--- YOU! Seriously! How dare you treat an animal as a disposable object!

It's NOT okay to drop hate on a breeder, simply just for being a breeder. Don't be so quick to judge. Some of us out there actually care for our animals. I will be raising mine underfoot in my family home, the same as my rescue animals. They will all be fed the best food possible (100% raw preferably, as cats are obligate carnivores, but some rescues have a lot of trouble transitioning), they will all be loved the same, and their prospective adopters will all undergo the same scrutiny from me to make sure they will really be offering a forever home. For whatever reason, the animal will ALWAYS be able to return to my home if they cannot have them anymore. 

I don't see a problem ethically breeding and being passionate about a certain breed, and wanting to be a part of that, to enrich it, to have the honour of creating beautiful companions for humankind to enjoy and love -- AND I don't see a problem with taking on rescue animals, fostering. protecting, and finding forever homes for these precious souls. They are unique and special and they deserve to be loved and to have a belly full of food and to be loved the same as any other animal. 

So, I am going to continue along both paths which I am equally passionate about. 

How about we champion this hashtag more often, guys. 

#ADOPTORSHOPRESPONSIBLY


My future goals

My 10 year plan, which has begun to take shape now in the past 12 months, is to have a hobby farm either in the hills or one of the peninsulas. I am going to have a purpose-built cattery and kennel. I'll be breeding pedigree maine coons AND taking in rescues and foster animals. There'll be other animals too. 

My other kind of secondary dream is to develop my own outcross line unique to MayneTree {with my mentor's help of course} and for my original breeding pair to develop a name for themselves, perhaps even internationally. This is the reason the first of our breeder kittens have a name that relates back to South Australia. I have the most wonderful breeding mentor and true friend in the United States who is helping me reach this goal. She is an encyclopedia of information, and vital in encouraging me to remain ethical and true to the breed.

It is easy to become starry-eyed with the {ahem} {cough} "breeders" that advertise heavily inbred, unhealthy, and sketchy "pedigrees". Many moons ago, I almost got suckered into this, SEVERAL times. I won't mention names or locations just now, they are easy enough to find and largely associated with being kitten mills, and are basically in it for the money. The health of the kittens is waaaay down on their priority list. 

The trick is to find people who you can trust, to cross reference your information, to question everything you read or are told, and to continually seek answers to your questions. 

I also have a third dream. I have yet to even begin thinking in-depth about this, but I want to explore the possibility of getting my cats to be {officially-unofficially} kind of support animals. I'd love to begin with companions at retirement homes or hospitals. Perhaps also companion animals for, say, autistic children - there are many possibilities here, and I wouldn't limit it to just that. But you get the idea. 


Why a maine coon?

So how did I come to choose this particular breed though? Why a maine coon? As I touched on earlier, breeding has been something I've been dreaming of for many years. I was never sure which breed to choose though. I don't want to breed for the money or the status (if you know me, you'll know I'm not the least but money-orientated or motivated), but I'm doing it for the love of the breed. If you are doing it for the money - you shouldn't be doing it {I won't shout again, but seriously}. You'll notice the photo at the top of this post. This, my dear friends, is Kuro. He is my darling beloved pet, the stand-in daddy to my previous rescue litters {and probably to our future babies}, and recently self-appointed CEO of MayneTree {ha!}. Kuro is largely the reason I fell in love with the maine coon breed. I rescued Kuro from a breeding "accident" between a male maine coon and a female ragdoll. He was going to be put down. Our family is so much richer for having Kuro in our lives.  I feel that he holds the personalities of both breeds equally. He is a talker, a {terrible} hunter, a lazy lapcat, and the designated printer manager {anyone else's kitties obsessed with your printer paper??}. A maine coon is generally very large, but Kuro sits on the smaller side for a boy, about 5kg. He is obviously darker coloured. Sometimes he looks solid black, but in most lights, he is more of a chocolate shade (thanks to the ragdoll side of the world), and sometimes he even appears to have a smoky ruff. Chocolate is not recognised within the breed standard colours for a maine coon {according to ANCATS}, and is a dead give-away that he is crossed with a raggy. Kuro doesn't care though. He doesn't care about anything except food, cuddles and his purple pipecleaner mouse, which is the way it's supposed to be for a CEO. 

So at the moment, I am focused on preparing my breeding program. Our breeding pair are from Georgia and Oregon, USA. They come from clean outcross foundation lines and 5+-generation pedigrees. Some dislike the foundation cats for reasons that I'll explain in another post, and I believe they need 4-8 generations to develop into true show cats {please correct me if I'm mistaken here}. I do however, feel it is necessary to go back to their roots to keep this breed healthy, or any breed for that matter *I will be blogging about this when I can get my head around it*. 

Here are links to the parent catteries:

Behold & Kumskaka Maine Coons
Maine Cave Cattery

I am beyond excited! Have a look at our Kings & Queens pages for some cuteness. As mentioned earlier, I have incorporated something South-Aussie into each of their registered names, so that they can be traced back when their lines become famous {ha!}. There are only a handful of breeders here in SA, and I am so excited to become one of them. Most people I speak to, their first question is always "what even is a maine coon??". They are not common here yet, but I like that. I also like the story that perhaps way back in the day, a raccoon mated with a domestic cat - hence the term "coon" - although this is genetically impossible. 

My stud male has a {controversial} feature which I want to talk about. He has polydactyl paws. This means that he has extra toes. Some consider this a genetic defect, and in terms of showing a pedigree maine coon, polydactyls are not permitted to enter a show in Australia; also in many regions of the US - yet - but this is changing. Whilst it is technically a defect, it does not pose any negative personality traits, or any negative health traits, other than physically having bigger feet due to the extra toe beans. Some people call them "snowshoe" paws. One story is that the maine coons that came into North America on the viking ships evolved to have larger feet/more toes on each paw to obtain better balance whilst running around and scaling the ships, keeping the rat population down. Or perhaps, when they landed in the North, they developed larger paws to make walking in the snow easier. Whatever the truth, I think poly paws are an endearing feature on these magnificent creatures. I specifically sought out a cat with poly paws to breed. My two queens both have normal paws, and so their litters will produce kittens of both poly and normal paws. 


Registration Challenges

Most {all??} states do not recognise polydactyl maine coons within the breed standard. One of the prominent South Australian feline associations FASA rejected my applications. They also told me that it was illegal to even possess one. I'll be honest, this frightened me! I sought out advice on what was actually legal in my state. Would I be breaking a law? Would the RSPCA come knocking on my door? I got hand-balled between the local councils, as they had no idea. Finally, the Dog and Cat Management Board got back to me. They advised that it is not breaking any legislation to breed, own, or sell a polydactyl maine coon. If it was, say a heart or hip defect that adversely affects the kitten's health, then this would be illegal and I would have animal control breathing down my neck. Although it is still technically a defect, it is allowable. It is a benign mutation that does not cause any pain, difficulty mobilising, or negative personality traits.  According to both local and national feline associations, I cannot show any polydactyl maine coon, yet. Until if/when the breed standards are reviewed and changed. This is okay with me. Despite the advice from DCMB, the FASA still will not recognise my poly cats and they said they would revoke my memebership even if I was found to be owning one. So I told them, yes that's the plan {I'm upfront about everything}. The other SA association GCCFSA are still deciding whether they will allow me to remain a member with them. {I will write more posts on this whole thing}. However, Australian National Cats Inc (ANCATS) do allow registering, breeding and selling of poly's in Australia. Yay! My cats will be dual registered with ANCATS and with Cat Fancier's Federation (CFF) {USA}. I am also a registered breeder with a legitimate DCMB registration number. I do not and will never associate with any type of backyard breeder. My cats' health is always the number one priority. *I'll talk about polydactyl paws in a later post*


Breeding goals and values

I will be aiming to breed twice per season, per queen, but only if health permits, and I will never force them to pair. I will never exceed two litters per female per calendar year as per state legislation. Pet homes will be negotiated after lengthy investigations and with homes that align with our values. I care deeply about each cat and where they end up. Plus, a piece of my heart goes with them. If at any time, a pet is no longer wanted or cannot remain in their home for any reason at all, they will forever have a place with me, no questions asked. However, I will not hesitate to express my rage, if anyone is found mistreating or abandoning one of my animals without a legitimate reason. I understand life happens, and there are mitigating circumstances which I will obviously make exceptions too. My cats are exclusively indoor, or within a catio or fully enclosed cat run that is outside. Their new homes must respect this and acknowledge that having a cat run loose is a danger to both the cat and to surrounding wildlife, and they must show evidence that they will be providing the same. I have been thinking about this a lot, and oh how I wish they could run free and wild. I was going to make an exception for properties on acreage/farms, but even then, I have heard of cats getting tangled in plant machinery, and then there is still the wildlife they can get to. I think it is best and safest, if these cats remain indoors/within a cat run, or alternatively, supervised on a harness and leash {maine coons are quite happy with this if trained early}. I had someone say to me recently, "If I'm buying the cat though, surely I can do what I want with it?". This is true. However, I also reserve the right not to sell you one of my animals if you don't agree or align with our values. I am well aware that a buyer could go out and source another cat. Or, disappointingly, they could be dishonest with me. If that is the case, then that is your bed to lie in. These are my terms, and I will stay true to them. At least I will know in my heart that I have done everything I can to protect and allow these animals to live their longest lives. 

Now that we've got that serious part out of the way, let's talk about colours! My favourite colour shade of all time is blue. In every aspect of life actually. In the animal world though, blue is the term used to describe the shade of grey {why didn't they just say grey?}. I even googled it {science, obviously, jk} and one person said "because it's more technical and interesting to call it blue instead of grey" {really?}. Obviously, the grey colour can have a blue sheen. An actual scientific reference is that the blue gene is the dilute of black {all kitty colours begin with black or red - I will explain this further in another post}. So anyway, in the name of science and cats and illogical rainbows, my favourite colour is blue. One of our girls is a blue cream, perhaps with a bit of smoking, we will see as she grows, and I absolutely adore her. Paired with our boy, who is a black silver (smoked) tabby, and who also passes down the blue dilute gene - these two will be creating some striking little cherubs. So in combination, there are going to be several colour possibilities! We will be expecting both solids and smokes (our boy has silver/smoking gene, he carries both agouti and solid alleles, and the blue girl is technically a tortie). Our baby boys will be black, blue, red or cream, and the baby girls will be black, blue, tortiseshell, or blue-cream. At this stage we will not be adding "white" or "with white" but I think 50% will be silver/smoked. I am thinking about adding low-white at some stage, but not right now. 

So my next aspiration is about what type of MC I want to strive for... Aussie/American type, or European type? Whilst I love them all, my main grand plan is to aim for a very strong Euro type. This is for no other reason than I simply love the way that they look. They are not widely accepted for US/AU showing standard, but that doesn't mean it's wrong. I feel like they are slowly becoming more accepted, a bit like polydactyls are slowly coming back. The Euro type have tall, solid ears and long lynx tips, their coat is shaggier and longer than US, their bodies are long and rectangular, their paws are huge, their muzzles are very large and square with high cheekbones, and sometimes they have a wolf-like appearance. I adore this look. My goal is to start with the best lines possible, American (and possibly one from Ireland), and then integrate this with a strong European line. 


Mentoring

Here's something else I'm wanting to point out. I am not yet experienced enough to provide mentoring to another inexperienced breeder. Definitely in the future though, I will consider working with any new serious breeder, and give them the same consideration that my mentor has given me. I cannot express enough how appreciative I am of the knowledge she has given me, the international connections that she has provided me with, and how much she has "put up" with my repetitive, endless questions, haha. 

At this stage we will not be providing or selling any breeder kittens, unless under the approval of my mentor. As we continue to grow and learn, we will certainly consider this.

Just quietly, I wanted to mention this next point. I have approached many other breeders - local and international - who have completely turned their noses up at me, or straight-up ignored me... I think part of this is because I haven't been involved in showing cats, and most breeders feel that you need to earn the right of passage by showing first and then moving into breeding {this is just an opinion, guys, but please enlighten me if I'm mistaken here}. The other part might be simply a business thing and perhaps I'm cutting in on their territory. It's not my intention to do that, and there are only a handful of breeders here in SA. Honestly, I'm just doing this because I love this breed. 


$$$$$

Let's talk about the elephant in the room: money. Sure, this breed can get pricey, especially for a certified pedigree. However, I'm not doing this as a business, or to make profits. That's not my goal with this anyway, it is {and will remain} a hobby that i'm passionate about. Sure the money made from the kittens is a nice end-point, but certainly in the first 2-5 years, I wouldn't even come close to making a profit. The whole process is pricey, buying the kittens initially, the continued vet work, microchipping, desexing, DNA testing, physical tests including echocardiograms and xrays, and the food & litter. I'd at least like to cover some of those costs. I also want serious buyers, who won't dump the kitten when it grows up, or because it's "not cute anymore" or "we got tired of the colour". The monetary value placed on each kitten, I feel, represents the breed, the pedigree line, the time, effort, heart and soul that we as breeders invest. 

I must say that it is a huge disappointment to be treated like an outsider, or like I haven't earned my place. Of course I haven't yet, I know that. We were all new once at something. It is okay though, it is also expected. 

But the connections that I have made are lifelong and I will cherish them......and... it inspires me to learn.


Showing

I will definitely show our cats one day. Part of my mentoring involves learning the aspects of showing, the differences between show and pet characteristics, and grooming techniques. I'll be completely honest though, I have significant social anxiety, and from what I've seen of shows, they are busy, there are people everywhere, the noise is high, and the potential for over-stimulation is real. I over-think everything, which you can probably see just by the detail of this first post. But I think about everything... what if I don't hear my cat's number being called? What if I walk to the wrong ring? What if my cat pees or poops when they are being judged? What if he/she panics and does a mad dash to the exit? Will my cat be too anxious? Will they suffer stomach upsets, pain, or mental anguish as a result? These are all things I need to explore and overcome. If I am to begin showing, I would start with a normal-pawed kitten {can't show poly's yet!} because at that age they are adaptable, resilient and more open to new environments {I feel} compared to an older cat who hasn't been exposed to it before. Who knows, maybe the kitten will love it, and perhaps I will too.

If you are still reading this far, I suspect you're possibly serious about taking on one of our babies. Or perhaps I was actually making sense for once {I know, I tend to ramble}. Or, maybe you're just genuinely interested in stuff about cats, ha! I will have other posts about the conditions we will sell our kittens under, colour genetics {if I can get my own head around it}, genetic defects, maine coon specific stuff, and my new recent passion - raw feeding. Read on if you're interested. If you'd like to comment, go ahead, I'd love to know your thoughts. Please remember I'm only learning too, and I'm open to new ideas. You're certainly entitled to your opinion, but I won't tolerate bullying, patronising or personally attacking comments. {Sorry I had to mention it}.

On that note, thanks for reading, because this first post was really important for me 

Rosie ♡



 

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