Friday, April 3, 2015

Penny's Persians - Cattery in North Carolina

Welcome to Penny's Persians, a cozy North Carolina based cage-less cattery producing healthy and well-adjusted Persian and Himalayan cats. Tom Gay, an operations manager and co-owner of the kitties, talks about the excitement and the challenges of running a landmark breeding facility with a distinct home flavor, baby-proof and cat-oriented. 

MJN: You live in a gorgeous home where you have plenty of room for the cats to roam. What have you done to baby-proof the place? Are there any parts of the house where kittens aren't allowed for safety reasons?

Tom: I've a gorgeous Chocolate Tortie sprawled upside down next to the laptop, eyes closed and purring contentedly.... This cat left our care in the Fall of 2013 and after not hearing anything from the owners in DC for over a year, finally received a disturbing email last Sept. of how they'd spent over $1,000 in vet bills for nasal problems and were facing a $2,500 bill for suggested surgery to open up the ear canal leading into the sinuses. They said they would have to euthanize the cat as they couldn't afford the cost.... I requested allowing me to drive up and retrieve her to care for her in our home and after 7 days with what we always recommend as far as meds for a similar condition, she was fine and is a gorgeous animal...all I ask is for a phone call if the new owners have any concerns or questions but people just don't listen. Long story but they've money to travel to Hawaii and Europe (back to back) and although I'd sent photos and updates on her for the past few months, not a word of inquiry as to how she was doing.

That said: we birth our kittens on the bed and they remain in the room for approx. a month until they figure out how to climb up the bedspread and onto the bed during the night. Bad enough when they're just days old and "squeaking" at all hours when hungry or fussing with siblings for available feeding spigots, leaving us sleep deprived for the first couple of weeks. Hopefully (if not already occupied by other kittens) they are moved to another bedroom with their mom once we know they are stable. They are not allowed into the hallway with the back stairway to the kitchen until we are comfortable they'll not drop the 7 ft. through the balusters (never allowed into the main hallway with a 15 ft. drop). All wires to window candles, lamps, etc. are either unplugged or set up high enough to be out of reach of inquisitive little paws.

MJN: What is the ideal temperature for a Persian cat to be comfortable? I am familiar with Siberians, Norwegians, Maine Coons, who are basically equipped for cold temperatures. What about Persians?

Tom: We set the upstairs temp at 67 degrees for winter heating and 70 for summer cooling and there are a number of small kitty beds from WalMart (for $5.99) and the carpeted kitty tree where they curl up when it's cool. As all our floors are the original 1911 wood they sprawl about on bare floors to keep cool. FYI: we read between the lines when we receive photos from people who have subjected their beautiful cats to a "Lion Cut" in the middle of Winter when they live in the Northeast...someone was too lazy to spend 5 min each evening and comb/brush their kitty to prevent knots from forming...

MJN: Can you explain the difference between doll-face and more extreme flat face? Is it like prick ears versus fold ears with Scottish fold? I know that some facial types are more desirable in shows than others.

Tom: Viewing the kitty head-on, the "doll faced" have their nose below the lever of their eyes, protruding just a bit like a standard feline. The "intermediate" kitty has more of a flat-faced appearance with its nose pretty much on the same plane of its' eyes but still definitely a "nose".

The "extreme" faced cat has virtually no nose and is an aberration of inbreeding for something unique like what the English bulldog has gone through over years and years. With such compacted nasal passages and constricted tear ducts they have a very difficult time breathing, experience excessive staining of the fur around their nose and eyes due to poor drainage of tears and require constant attention to their faces just to keep them comfortable much less attractive. As Persians harbor a bacteria that lives in the tear ducts we feel it really is a disservice to the animal and their well being breeding for this appearance.

MJN: Have you ever dealt with a disappointing adoption, where you worried about the safety and the wellbeing of one of your cats?

Tom: We've learned the hard way that although "legal" to re-home a kitten at 8 weeks of age, they are comparable to a very young infant human baby and extremely fragile with the most simple things like constipation or diarrhea quickly developing into a life-threatening situation with a bad outcome. The average owner is just not with them 24/7 due to work, school or other activities and by the time someone notices they don't feel well and decide to take them into the vet it's VERY expensive and often too late. In addition, they should be on a schedule of vaccinations at 8,12 and 16 weeks but as the protection from the shots take time to become effective, we do not allow them to leave our care until at least 12 weeks of age. Being coerced into allowing them to leave early as the people wanted "a little kitten" proved a bad idea and we'll never again be swayed from our rules.

MJN: Some larger catteries allow veterinary students come and help out with the cats as a form of low-stress internship. Do you think such programs are beneficial?

Tom: I'd LOVE to have an intern come and scoop litter boxes, trim nails, clean ears and butts, do laundry, compound meds/vitamins, etc. for several days so I could do my yard work, prepare the garden, clean house, repaint baseboards, etc.....we read about breeders discussing their males and females "just let them get together and have fun any time they want" and cash one mentions performing CPR for 30 min on a minutes old kitten (AND seeing them grow into a gorgeous animal), staying awake from 1am until 6am with a sick animal until the vet gets back to your page, syringe feeding a newborn every 2 hours through the night and rejoicing when they've gained a tenth of an ounce that day...nothing to raising kittens...

I've attached my "suggestions" for your perusal as we try to make the experience a pleasant one that will run its' course over the next 15-20 years of having the animal and it's a work-in-progress as we pass along newly discovered information. Maybe some points will be of use to your readers. One VERY important tip that will be added: NEVER allow your vet to administer the intra-nasal FVRCP vaccine to small kittens as many contain a "live" virus and if the kitten has anything going on in its' nasal passages to begin with, the vaccine will allow whatever virus is there to explode and you'll end up with a dead kitten within days. This happened several times to someone we know and the vet disclaimed any responsibility but I've read up on it and our vet agrees with me...

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