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2017 | Reproduction | Dr Emmanuel Fontaine

A few years ago a cat breeder I met during at a seminar contacted me. One of his queens was having fertility issues, obviously it was a very interesting subject for his genetic selection program. He tried several males he told me, of proven fertility… but his girl never got pregnant. When he contacted me, I could feel how desperate he was. He was wondering if we had any 'high-tech' approach to this kind of problem. “Sure we have, I told him. But let me ask you this question first.”  

“Did you observe the breeding?”   

He stopped talking for a while. I guess he was wondering if I was joking or not. But I insisted. It turned out that he had NEVER taken a look. He was assuming there was no point in it, and that the partners would 'know what to do'. 

In this case, we found out that the problem was that the queen was not allowing the males to breed her. As soon as they were getting too close, she was rolling on her back and that was the end of it. I know the question might seem trivial. But in those cases, it is the most important one, without a doubt. Because the #1 cause of infertility in felines is indeed absence of / insufficient amount of breeding's. 

So many potential causes…  

Many people wonder how this can even be possible. Let’s face it, putting a female in season and a male together is no guarantee that breeding will occur, even in the feline species. There are several reasons that could explain absence of mating:

  • Inability of the male to breed: dental diseases can prevent the neck bite the male does to immobilise the female during breeding; hair mats around the penis can make erection painful; back pain can prevent the male from breeding
  •  Aggressive behaviour of one of the partners 
  • Partner Preferences (there are indeed!)
  • Poor libido 
  •  Something I call the “old couple syndrome”: a tomcat and a queen that were raised together since kitten hood might simply not be into each other at all
Whatever the reason, there is today no doubt that absence of breeding is the number one cause of infertility in felines.  

An essential tip: OBSERVE 

Fertility is always a complex equation, where male and female factors are intertwined. Both sides always have to be considered to try to solve problems that may arise there. Knowing the number one cause of infertility, you will now better understand my first tip: OBSERVE. 

It is simple, it may seem trivial, but believe me, if you are able to answer without a doubt the question I asked this breeder at the beginning, this will make a huge difference when it comes to deciding what is the right approach to undertake.  

So observe what is happening during the breeding. Some cats will be OK if you are around. Some, obviously, will not. You know your cats, you know how they will react. Good news: in today’s world, it is no big deal to observe without being seen. Webcams of all kind exist and you can use one of them to watch what is happening in the breeding room while quietly sitting in your kitchen, sipping a cup of coffee!