Burmese Cats: Cats that Act Like Dogs
My cattery is a little unusual in that rather than keeping boys and cats apart, I keep them in colonies.
A colony is a group of related female cats living together with one unrelated stud. In Thailand, these cats live in family groups, eating, sleeping, and playing together. I wanted to provide my breeding cats with a great life and something like they would have in their natural habitat. Each colony has its own indoor and outdoor space and lots of social interaction within that colony.
I don't keep the cats in cages. They live in barns with outdoor runs. And, yes, the cats are polygamous. You could call this show, "Sister Wives: Feline Edition." It's a cat version of sister wives. One husband cat and a lot of sister wife cats.
There are many advantages to this set up, not least of which, none of the cats pee. Caged cats seem to just pee and pee and pee. Gross. A whole lot of cleaning up pee is part of that story. In the colony set up, nobody pees. That would be one less thing for me to do.
On the downside, they have sexy time whenever they want to have sexy time and I NEVER know when they will have their kittens. I have gotten pretty good at looking at a cantaloupe shaped cat and guesstimating when the kittens will arrive. But, if you wonder why I am vague about when you will get your kitten, it is because I don't know when the cats will have kittens.
A couple of interesting things to know...
One of my big beliefs is that these cats have been healthy cats in Thailand, since forever. So, learn from success. I have attempted, to the best of my ability, to create environments where my cats can live like they would in Thailand. My colonies are not as big as you might find at a temple in Thailand, but, the dynamic is the same. The cats live in family groups, girls nurse each others kittens, and the dad is involved in kitten rearing. They live in a family like they would in Thailand.
An Example of One of My Colonies
Estelle's colony is made up of Estelle and her sister Golda and Spot. Estelle runs the show and the other two are the back up singers. All sisters take responsibility for all kittens, playing with them, cleaning them, and keeping an eye on them. If you look through the pictures, you will see Golda's four week old son hanging out with Estelle's new born babies. He was an only kitten and Golda dropped him off as soon as his cousins hit the ground. He is happier now, even though his playmates are a little behind him developmentally.
More About the Colonies
Thai cats raise kittens as a family. Aunts and dad's pitch in and groom, play, and train kittens. Its not unusual to find a mother sleeping with her babies in the middle of a ring of her extended family. They care for each other and this display of social behavior makes these cats unusual. When you bring a kitten home, they just adopt your family members as their new colony.
Unhappy cats pee on things. The boys pee all over the place, the girls scream and yell when they are are in heat, and then take to peeing too! In my experience, angry, upset and/or disturbed cats pee all the time on all things.
Conversely, I have found that cats living in a family system are infinitely more happy and just do not pee on things. But, I am super lucky to have the space I have to keep my cats in family systems.
I am a scientist and I am studying these cats and letting them live in a natural setting allows me to observe how they do things ... when allowed to do their own thing. I am learning a lot watching them! One key point is these cats are social cats and when they live in family groups they are happier.
And, the kittens that come from these colonies are highly social. They live in a environment with their family members where they develop social skills. In addition, they have lots of people time on top of that. I plop down and pet the adults and play with the kittens in one big pile of cats and kittens. If I had them caged, it would take a whole lot of time to haul out each mom or dad and give them some attention. It's really easier for me to let them live in this fashion, but again, I'm lucky to have the space to do it this way.
Oh, and by the way, I came up with this system after much trial and error. At first, I had all the cats in the Main Farm House and my life turned into a tortured hell. Bless breeders that keep cats in the house, because it can turn into a big, old disaster really fast. When one of the cats was angry, they would be like, "I am so annoyed I just have to pee on something". It might be the TV or couch. It might be on the coil of the stove. It might be on your pillow with your head on it. And, when the aggrieved one processes their emotions by peeing on something you probably like a lot, the other cats will do a tit-for-tat pee war. One girl pees on the couch, and her best friend says, "Oh really, watch this ... I'm going to pee on the heating duct," or "You think you're hot stuff, I am going to pee on the multi plug that has the tv, cable box, DVD box, and everything else plugged into it and watch it explode". I like cats but not cat pee.
The colony living situation, where there is a male, girls, babies, and assorted family members, results in very little peeing. I also don't introduce older cats into the colony. The colony will accept a baby, but, throwing in an older cat can result in all hell breaking loose.
Breeding cats is hard and my cattery set up has made it easier for me, and easier for the cats. They can be cats and do what cats do and I'm not battling with their nature.
And by the way, if you think I am bright for coming up with this concept, think again. First of all, this is how they live in Thailand and by all accounts there is not much peeing in the cat colonies. In addition, when I read the Victorian Cat Breeding books, which is when cat breeding came into existence, I discovered this is how they bred cats. I started with how the original cat breeders kept cats, both in Thailand and in England, and just adapted their way of doing things to my property. I used their experience to reduce my "learning it the hard way". I'm not smart, just someone who knows that the people who came before me have something to teach me.
I set out to learn how to breed a healthy Burmese cat. To say the least, this has been an interesting journey. Part of journey has included learning from them how cats live and love. Watching them do what they do, has shown me how cats do things. And, how they don't do things. Everyday my cattery set up allows me to learn more about the nature of these cats, and, that contributes to my knowledge of these cats. Knowledge equates to the ability to create healthy Burmese cats. So, in a round about way, I have ended up where I wanted to end up.
There have been some surprising discoveries along the way. If you check out my articles section, you will find what I have learned about these nature of these cats. Probably more of interest for a breeder, but who knows, you might find it interesting. Either way, knowledge was meant to be shared.
What I can say for sure is this. My cats are happy cats and I believe they make happy cats. There are lots of ways to make happy cats, this is just mine.
That ends the cattery tour. It gives you a pretty good idea of how things run around here. I am working on cameras so I can broadcast the cat colonies on the website, but, have not worked out that technology. Stay tuned.