I’m always thinking about how to make life better for my breeding cats. Although this does not include setting things up so that any of our males can freely interact with the girls.
Anyway, we have a fabulous boy here, imported from Rosie May of Maynetree Maine Coons in Australia. He is a huge silver ticked tabby poly boy with an interesting pedigree. (What’s an interesting pedigree? For us, it is a pedigree that contains some less common lines and supports our aim to breed cats that are genetically diverse and therefore, hopefully, more healthy). He’s also polydactyl and it’s nice to introduce a new poly line into our breeding.
However right now, I also have two other boys and I’m not ready to neuter Joe, our older stud, until I can be sure that Chevvy will a) tick all the boxes – most importantly, that he free from or has only mild hip dysplasia, because we can test for this as young as 10 months and get a reliable result, whereas HCM testing at 10 months or a year is unlikely to tell us much, as these days we rarely see HCM in very young adult Maine Coons. And b) will be fertile (though infertility is rare in males with descended testicles, and when present is most likely due to infection, which can be treated). This means that the two stud cages with the largest outside runs are already occupied.
When I thought he was of an age that he had better be separated from the girls, I put Chevvy into one of the spare stud cages with a smaller run. Initially I did not allow him access to it as the grass in it was waist high. About a month or so ago I got to work and tackled the grass, checked the wire mesh netting (all secure), and replaced a sliding bolt on the door. In my set up I have the two small runs for adjoining stud cages which are also adjoining, so it was possible to lock the outer gate and leave the internal gate between the two runs open. This, I thought would give Chevvy more space and a more interesting outside environment. The next door stud cage was not occupied and was being left with the door inside the stud house open. My stud house opens onto the fully secure outside play area that my female cats and kittens use. It has a central space that the girls have free access to, and four walk in stud cages with cat door access to individual runs.
Of course, I locked the cat door that allowed the girls access through the empty stud cage into the outside run. I did not close the door of the empty stud cage, because some of my girls hang out there on the sleeping shelf. Besides, the cat door to the outside run was locked.
The first thing that happened was a mystery Chevvy escape. Not to the outside, but into the girls outdoor play area. I simply could not work out how he had managed this as I assumed he had broken out of the run (and then into the girls area (though I could not find out where/how). I put him back in his cage and I locked his cat door so that he could not access his outside run, while I tried to figure out how he got out. The next day all was revealed. I went into the stud house to find Chevvy looking a little bemused and FIVE count them FIVE girls in his cage with him. Also a kitten or two.
Of course, then I figured it out. Possibly assisted by the fact that Chevvy had barged through it when locked, the cat door in the spare stud cage was no long doing its job. It was apparently still locked, or partially locked, but this had not stopped the cats from managing to get out into the outside runs, and then into Chevvy’s stud cage (another cat door fail, it appeared to be only functioning to stop him going out but not stopping anyone from getting in.) So once they were in, they could not get back even if they wanted to.
One month down the track and I have replaced all the cat doors with Surepet microchip pet doors (at huge expense, thank goodness we had all those kittens!). Not because we want to use the microchip function but because when locked they are much more secure than the relatively cheap cat doors I had previously. Only one of the girls is pregnant. Chevvy is not related to our girls at all so from that perspective any ensuing pregnancies are not a big problem. But I would have much preferred to know about his hip status before deciding (or not) to breed with him.
The Surepet doors appear to be working just fine. The door from the spare stud cage is set to fully locked both ways and there have been no more unauthorised invasions by the girls or unsanctioned incursions by Chevvy . And we are waiting with interest to meet his first kittens if all goes well with the pregnancy. (It might not – but that’s another story)