Building a Cattery…
About the time that Nemo was wrapping up his show career, our priorities started to shift to finding a suitable match for our Champion. As any breeder will tell you, if you truly want to become a reputable and a skilled Maine Coon breeder, you have to have a goal in mind and a clear direction on what you want to accomplish. There are too many “breeders” out there that simply propagate their cats as if they were rolling the dice at the craps table – never knowing what they are gonna get.
We were always of the mindset that we must have a distinct and obtainable goal in mind – something to stay focused on. This goal had to be realistic and allow us adequate room to manipulate our lines in a fashion that strengthened the true attributes of the Maine Coon standard without compromising the integrity of the breed by integrating extreme features like extra large or elongated muzzles or super tall ears with an over abundance of ear tufts.
The Maine Coon Cat (originally known as the American Longhair Cat) is the first recognized indigenous cat breed of North America. The popularity of this breed has spread to all four corners of the earth. The foundation lines have crossed continents and oceans, and many great breeders have worked tirelessly to ensure the integrity of strength and vitality of the physical side, while preserving the amiability and benevolence of their personality, maintaining their reputation as the “Gentle Giants.”
As you can see by the chart above, working out colors and patterns can be a daunting task. And above all else, Mother Nature always has a way of throwing in a curve ball every now and again, just to keep things interesting, and keep breeders scratching their heads. Biology is pretty consistent, but you have to account for evolutionary “drift” which changes the game from time to time.
We first looked at the many colors that the Coon family is found in and were instantly attracted to the solids, especially blacks like Nemo, but were also strongly compelled toward the Silver Tabbies. We learned more about feline genetics and decided that in order for us to generate the color typing that we wanted to obtain, we needed a Black Silver Classic (Blotched) Tabby female. Our search for a mate for Nemo began.
Her Majesty, the Queen…
Once Nemo had decided he was finished in the show ring, the search began for his future mate.
In today’s ultra connected world of technology, it was evident that finding the right color might be easy enough, but trying to get information on temperament, lineage and manifestations of specific genetic traits was much more difficult to come by. For instance, there is much debate over DNA testing of Maine Coons, looking for genetic markers that could indicate problems like HCM (Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy) or PKD (Polycystic Kidney Disease). More importantly, Maine Coon hearts should be regularly scanned to rule out heart murmurs and the development of HCM (it is believed that the susceptibility of HCM in Maine Coon cats makes it possible that the disease can develop even without the DNA markers).
In the grand search for the right match, genealogy can play a key function in making a decision. But how do you know what you are reading and researching is accurate? Sadly, there are those in the breeding community who have less than stellar reputations for accuracy, clarity and simple knowledge of what they are breeding. Some breeders take their work very seriously, testing every animal in their cattery and they know each little detail about their cats that would either denote promise of improved prodigy or warning signs of possible future health and temperament and behavioral issues.
One evening in December of 2016, I happened across a Facebook page of a breeder whom I had befriended a year earlier. At the time I had connected with her, I really didn’t know much about her and she wasn’t posting a whole lot of information about her cats at the time. But on this night, I stumbled onto some photos of a litter her cattery had just announced, born the month prior. These three silver kittens had the look that I was searching for. But of the three, one stood out above the rest: Georgina!
I immediately contacted the breeder and we began the process of getting to know one another and arranging for how we would move forward in obtaining the kitten for our cattery in the USA. As luck would have it, Georgina’s breeder is a veterinarian, and to make things even better, she is a certified cardiologist! You could not ask for a better combination for a breeder of Maine Coon cats!
Dr. Christine Suchfort (Georgina’s breeder) lives in Bavaria (the southernmost province of Germany) only miles from the Austrian border. However, her veterinary practice is in the suburbs of Munich, so we set a date and time to meet at her offices and she would bring the three kittens of that litter. And what a meeting it was, as this video illustrates!