We talk a lot about what good American Shorthair breeders are expected to do for you. We require them to health test their breeding American Shorthair cat. We expect them to guarantee the health and temperament of each kitten. We expect them to be there for you 24/7 for up to 18 years or longer — longer than most other relationships you are likely to have in a lifetime.
We haven’t really talked about your responsibilities to your breeder.
I have done a lot of thinking. American Shorthair breeders tend to be very private people. They don’t tell you about the three weeks they spend getting almost no sleep except for quick naps next to the kitten pen because Mother Cat needs some help. Maybe her milk hasn’t come in. Maybe her milk is bad. Maybe she gets Mastitis and can’t feed her babies even if she wants to. Maybe her mothering instincts are a little slow to arrive. Maybe she wants you to show her how to be a mum. Maybe she died. Regardless, those first three weeks with kittens are often more intense than the first three weeks with a human infant.
Feeding six or eight kittens every two hours is exhausting. We haven’t got our mothers-in-laws, husbands or best friends here to help us and babysit so we can take a break. Struggling kittens count on us to be their Intensive Care Unit nurse with a full ICU full of supplies, scopes, syringes, feeding tubes, oxygen, etc.…. It is no surprise that maternal (or paternal) instincts go full bore on us, and we bond to these guys for life.
Not everything goes well with every kitten in every litter. Losing a kitten is deeply traumatic and emotional. We fight so hard and do and spend what every we need to, so we can save them and often we can’t, even though we have exhausted all resources. Death is ugly, emotional, and traumatic. Death is graphic. It is not peaceful and often violent. It leaves a scar on our soul and no matter how many times this has happened, it never, ever gets easier.
After the American Shorthair Breeders first three weeks...
After an American Shorthair Breeder gets through the first three weeks, we spend nearly every waking moment watching, thinking, analyzing, cuddling, loving and, inevitably, bonding with them. We get high on watching them play and see them develop their individual personalities. Could you hold a baby in your lap and not feel anything? Neither can we. By the time the kitten leaves the cattery, that kitten is as much a part of our heart as it is yours.
Things go wrong. We get that. Best intentions fade through no fault of our own. Maybe a job was lost. Maybe the terms of our rental agreement changed. Maybe someone in the family became sick and needs all our attention. Maybe one of a million things happen but things go wrong.
An American Shothair Breeder gets that. We are people, too. We have lived as much life as you have. We know the world is not a perfect place. We also know that sometimes, despite our best intentions, we mismatched your kitten to you. We know that.
Whatever the reason, we know that not every kitten is going to live its full life with the people we placed it with. Divorce, death, gosh. Anything can happen, anything at all.
But we love our babies more than you know. And we also love you. We want to be here to help. If you can no longer keep the cat, please. Be open and communicative. If your cat has a close relationship with someone else, let us know. That contract you signed with us? The one that guarantees health and our lifetime assistance? That applies to the kitten, no matter who owns him/her.
But more importantly, please be kind to our hearts. If you lost a grandchild — say your son and his wife were divorced and the wife cuts off all communication with you — that would hurt. You would feel sad, lost, a little panicky, so please be kind to us and let us know how and where our baby is.
That’s how an American Shorthair Breeder feels when we lose track of an American Shorthair kitten.
Stay in contact with your American Shorthair Breeders
So, please, stay in contact with your American Shorthair breeder. Send photos occasionally. Send a quick note to let them know how the baby is doing, please, this is how we know our baby is doing well and is having the life it deserves. Let him or her share in your cat’s joys and frustrations. Let them be a shoulder for you. Let them provide a listening ear and support. And please, please, please, let them know where your cat is, and if you can’t keep it, please let them be involved in any placements that may need to occur.