Dr. Douglas Schar
More About My Cat 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 behaviour 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. Well, even a happy cat will pee on something but generally speaking, cats use peeing as tool to express themselves. 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, disturbed cats pee more than happy cats. I have found that cats living in a family system are infinitely more happy and I have very little of that unpleasant behaviour. 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!
This also means that I don't know when cats are pregnant until they appear pregnant. In this colony environment, curiously the girls don't really go into screaming heat. In fact, I rarely know they are in heat. They mate when they mate, and, I know someone is pregnant when they shows signs of pregnancy. When people raise cats in cages, drop the girl into the boys cage, they know exactly when a girl mates and they know exactly when they can expect kittens. Because my cats are kind of free range, knowing when my girls are having kittens is a little more challenging. So, for those of you on the waiting list, when I give you plus or minus dates for kittens, its because their living situation is such that I don't always know when the kittens will come. its really up to them when they get pregnant. But, they usually have kittens twice a year…...unless they don't.
They are happier and there is virtually no peeing.
This cattery set up makes kitten planning a little more difficult, but, the kittens that come from these colonies are highly social creatures. They live in a social 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. Its really easier for me to let them live this way, but, again, Im lucky to have the space to do it this way.
Oh, and by the way, I came up with this system after much trial an 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 real 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 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 to a tit for tat pee war. One girl pee's on the couch, and her best friend says, "oh really, watch this….Im going to pee on the heating duct" or "You think your 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". 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 Im 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". Im not smart, just someone who knows that the people that 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. With that all said, now you can meet the colonies.
Banjee's colony is made up of her daughters Lucretzia and Rose and Mister. Banjee is one active cat, she likes to run and jump so we built her colony home with extensive walkways and roof runs and mazes. And she uses them. She is part cat and part Zumba instructor. One daughter is a sable and one daughter is black and both are half as athletic as their mother. They are all going to be bred to Mister who is more or less the cat embodiment of a marshmallow. Bonnie, like some of the Thai cats, is a bit manic and I specifically paired her with a limp rag cat so the kittens she has will be more relaxed. All three girls love Mister and can be seen kissing him and licking him. Rose, the sable girl, loves to rip up paper, as you can see from the photos. When I first built this colony I had grass in the outdoor areas, I subsequently had it paved with stones. They would hide in the grass and freak me out. Now, I can see where they are!
Violet's colony is made up of Violet who is the blue girl with blue eyes, Lilac, the sable girl with blue eyes, and Tank, the sable male. These cats are all really young, and they won't be having kittens for some time. But, this group is a total trip. Violet runs the show, keeping Tank and Lilac in line. Though each cat comes from a different mother, and from different places, they bonded immediately and are now inseparable. Tank is a grandson of Mister and is a Marshmallow cat and pretty much doesn't care what the girls do as long as they don't leave him alone. Violet is super sweet and has a habit of purring before you touch her to indicate you should be touching her. Lilac is like a little gremlin. She is full Thai and has the most comical personality. She thinks she is a lot bigger than what she is and acts like a full sized tiger. Which she is not, she is really small. Anyhow, this group all come from the cats that blew up the cat genetic testing world…. but that would be a story you can read about in my article section. But, all of these cats can have light colored kittens so those of you that won't a light colored kitten, it will probably come from this group.
Lilac really reminds me of a wrestling Gremlin…. as you ail see below. Violet will wrestle with her, but Tank just plays dead.
Thai Cats in Thailand: Social Cats
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.
I have a small farm about 14 miles from Washington, DC. With lots of space and lots of buildings, I am able to keep my cats in colonies. A colony is a group of related cats living together. 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 recently added two more colonies to the farm.
A couple of interesting things to know.