Mating Problems -- 17 Ways to Spark Romance
You can't count on Cupid's arrow when planning the perfect pet romance. While experienced cats rarely balk in the boudoir, it's not always so easy for beginners.
"A lot of times inexperienced pets won't know what to do," says H. Ellen Whiteley, D.V.M., a veterinary consultant in private practice in Guadalupita, New Mexico, and author of Understanding and Training Your Cat or Kitten.
Performance anxiety can be a problem, particularly for males. Also a problem for males is balance -- or the lack of it. And in some cases the chemistry simply isn't there. But with planning and patience, you can help your pet make a successful love connection. Here's what experts recommend.
Start him young.
"Breeding a five-year-old cat for the first time often results in difficulties," says Dr. Whiteley. He may have a low libido or sperm count. Or he may not know what he's supposed to do.
"If you're going to use him as a stud, the first time should be before he's over 18 months old," says Dr. Whiteley.
It's also a good idea to have a vet examine your pet to make sure he (or she) doesn't have a sexually transmittable disease or unwanted genetic conditions -- like hip dysplasia or certain eye diseases -- that might be passed on to offspring. Your vet can also recommend the best time for breeding.
Find an experienced partner.
Female cats generally have less trouble mating than males do, so matching a male with a more experienced partner will make his job that much easier.
Go to his place.
Male cats occasionally get nervous when they travel to another cat's turf. "Take the female to the male, because males perform better and have more confidence when they're in their own environment," says cat breeder Elaine Wenner Gilbertson, of Vista, California, author of A Feline Affair: Guide to Raising and Breeding Purebred Cats.
Make her comfortable.
"If it's the first time for the female, she is usually frightened being taken out of familiar surroundings," adds Gilbertson. "If she has a favorite toy or a cushion that she likes to sleep on, take it along. Give her something familiar from home."
Introduce them properly.
While some cats are smitten at first sight, in many cases "blind dates don't work," says Marion Hunt, who breeds cocker spaniels in Howe, Texas. "She's not going to accept him if she doesn't know him."
Don't try to rush things, Hunt advises. Give them time -- anywhere from a few hours to an entire day -- to get comfortable with each other. When allowed to proceed at their pace (rather than yours), they'll eventually do what comes naturally, she says.
Send advance notice.
When a prolonged face-to-face meeting isn't possible, Dr. Whiteley advises sending a personal "message" -- a blanket, toy or some other object that has your pet's scent on it. Cats perceive the world largely through smell, and getting acquainted with their intended's scent ahead of time will make them more comfortable when they finally do meet.
Prepare a comfortable boudoir.
For first-timers particularly, it's important to give them a place without distractions. Provide a quiet atmosphere!
"Some pets don't like anybody looking," Hunt adds. She suggests putting them in a place that provides a hidden view, like a garage with a window or a screen that you can peek around to make sure everything's going okay.
Give them encouragement.
"Pets need a lot of coaxing and encouragement when they are unproven," says Walkowicz. If your pet seems unsure of how to proceed, speak to him in a calm, cheerful voice and reassure him that everything's going fine, she advises.
Give them support.
A slippery floor is more than just distracting. It can also be dangerous if it causes the couple to slip and fall. "Always provide a rug or mat that provides good footing," Walkowicz suggests.
Find another partner.
While most pets will breed with mates of your choosing, others can be extremely choosy. If one (or both) of the pair seems totally uninterested in the other or is getting mean and aggressive, it may be time to call it quits. "Try selecting another partner," suggests Dr. Whiteley.
Practice makes perfect.
Vets refer to cats as induced ovulators, meaning the female doesn't release an egg until after the mating act is completed. This isn't likely to occur the first time. "You must have more than one mating to produce a pregnancy," says Dr. Whiteley.
Breeders typically bring the pair together many times over the course of two or three days in order to make sure pregnancy occurs. Luckily, the process doesn't take too long. Cats can mate successfully in 30 seconds or less.
Provide an escape route.
Experts aren't sure why, but it's natural for a female cat to strike out at the male immediately after mating. To prevent injury, "he needs a place of safety, a refuge to protect himself," Gilbertson says.
Professional breeders often put a high ledge nearby to make it easy for the male to escape in a hurry. His mate calms down fairly quickly, however, so he can usually descend within a few minutes.
Give her a trim.
Another way to protect the male from his partner's wrath is to trim her claws beforehand. "Some females get kind of hostile," says Mary Jo Mersol-Barg, a cat breeder in Michigan. "Before putting them together, make sure all her nails are trimmed."
When to See the Vet
When the course of four-legged love runs true, you can expect to have some new furry friends in about 63 to 65 days.
Sometimes, however, pregnancy doesn't occur. This is usually because the female wasn't at the right time in her cycle, says H. Ellen Whiteley, D.V.M., a veterinary consultant in private practice in Guadalupita, New Mexico. In some cases, however, it may mean that one of the pets is infertile.
There are a number of diseases that can cause infertility in pets, such as brucellosis in dogs and chlamydia in cats, she explains. When caught early, each of these bacterial infections can be treated with antibiotics. In some cases, however, the damage may be permanent.
If you've tried mating your pet several times without success, call your vet. Today, veterinarians have some sophisticated techniques to help solve breeding problems.