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ONE-SHOW-GRAND, GC, RW COONOPRY HONEYSUCKLE ROSE OF PRAIRIEBABY, "HONEY"

Breeder: Sheila Haskins/Judith Schulz

Honeysuckle Rose is a 6th generation part foundation Maine Coon cat with a foundation content of almost 50 %.  She became CFA 7th best kitten in the nation and CFA Gulfshore Region's 2nd Best Maine Coon kitten and 8th best Allbreed kitten !! She also granded at only 8 months of age!  What an incentive for every Cattery to finally start outcrossing!

 
 

THE JOY OF OUTCROSS- AND FOUNDATION BREEDING

by: Judith Schulz, Copyright April 21, 2001


Note: Foundation breeding is VERY DIFFICULT but absolutely CRUCIAL for the survival or ANY breed. It is absolutely NOT to be attempted by newer or inexperienced breeders. 

Here is a comprised, bite-size version of the original articles (with small revisions where necessary)


The term foundation is quite confusing, isn't it? Let's try to simplify: In the beginning of the Maine Coon breed there were several different foundation lines. Those were the lines our whole breed was founded on. Every owner of a first generation Maine Coon cat was a foundation breeder at one point in time.


Nowadays, we call it foundation breeding, when people are creating new lines by introducing foundation cats into the general gene pool of the Maine Coon breed. When we speak of foundation lines, we mean newer bloodlines that are not yet present in nowadays, common pedigrees. 


We are very fortunate that the stud books for the Maine Coon are still open in the American Cat Association. This allows us to broaden the effective population of our breed - a very important process to fight immune related and genetic problems. When looking at the present situation, every Cattery should consider eventually adding some outcrossed lines to their program. The sooner the better.


Foundation breeders introduce carefully selected North American blood lines, in order to widen the gene pool and improve hybrid vigor. The aim is not to create mixed breed cats, but to introduce a little outcross blood into the Maine Coon breed.


The Maine Coon is still hardy and strong - compared to many other breeds. However, like in most purebred species, the gene pool in our breed is relatively small, which has led to several immune system-related and genetic problems. 


The following paragraph is from a breed article from the CFA website:


<<Favoured varieties of today have been bred sire to daughter and cousin to cousin until their breeds are ruined [...] man's insistence on upon breeding in order to perpetuate features approved in the show ring has produced animals of weak constitution, prone to such conditions as skin troubles, lacking in intelligence, no longer mentally alert, eventually stupid; and at last breeding with difficulty: a state of affairs leading in the end to the sterility and death of the breed.">>


Q: What is an F1 or F2?

An F1 is a first generation Maine Coon foundation cat. This cat is preferably, but not always, found in the wild or on a farm. None or only one parent of an F1 is known and registered. An F2 is a second generation Maine Coon foundation cat where both parents are known and registered. An F3 is a third generation Maine Coon foundation cat where both parents and both grandparents are known and registered. An F4 is a fourth generation Maine Coon foundation cat - and so forth.


Q: What is the difference between foundation, part foundation and outcross?


Before looking for outcross it is important to understand the words foundation, part foundation and outcross. A foundation cat we call a cat from newer lines that are 100 % different from the ones in a common pedigree. A part foundation cat is a cat with a certain amount of foundation mixed with a pedigreed cat from common lines. Part foundation Maine Coons can vary a great deal in their foundation content. Most times, cats in higher generations have less foundation content than cats in lower generations unless the foundation breeder manages to keep up high foundation numbers for several generations. Part foundation cats and even some full foundation cats can already have a pedigree with several generations. An outcrossed cat can be anything from foundation to part foundation to a cat with a regular pedigree. It all depends on what we are outcrossing to. So, the word outcross can be misleading as well. A cat can be a half-sibling to one cat and a total outcross to another. Some people consider a cat with a full pedigree, but a low Clone or Heidi Ho content a sufficient outcross to other pedigreed cats. For an explanation of the words Clones, Top Five, Top Three, Top Two and Heidi Ho please visit the Maine Coon Heritage Site http://bowen1.home.mindspring.com/mchs/home.htm on the internet). Others feel that every cat with a pedigree from an older gene pool needs a part foundation cat to get sufficient results, regarding health. 



Q: I want to start outcrossing. How much foundation content do I need? 


Fist of all you should be commended for taking a step into the right direction. In the beginning, it might be a good idea to run all your pedigrees through the Swedish Pedigree Database on the internet: www.pawpeds.com , find out about their Top Two, Three, Five and Clone content,  and make decisions accordingly. What is your goal? Do you want to provide others with outcross or do you simply freshen up your own lines? When looking at your pedigree, it is important to also consider foundation cats besides the five most common ones, in order to find a suitable outcross. They might vary to some extent in certain pedigrees. If you have mostly cats with full pedigrees and all from common show lines, where Clones are often skyrocket, it might be best to look for part foundations with a relatively high foundation content, since a pedigree with low Clones or Heidi Ho will probably not do the job for you. Then think about what generation you want to start with. Remember that cats in lower generations cannot be shown in Championship class (actually only once and you can’t claim the title).  If that bothers you, you might be better off with an F4, F5 or F6. Also, check with your association in your particular country on what the requirements are. If you are a new breeder, please stay away from early generation cats and cats with a very high foundation content. When deciding on the foundation content in the cat you are purchasing, ask yourself the question: How much fresh blood will be necessary for my breeding program to boost immunity in my kittens and/or hopefully get rid of problems that have manifested themselves for many years? Sadly, nobody can answer that for you. All we can do here is guess. Some breeders might not have experienced major health problems in their breeding program. They are simply looking for outcross to increase hybrid vigor in their kittens and to be proactive.



Q: I have been breeding for a while and want to bring in some fresh blood. What do I do? 


If you already are an established cattery and want to bring in some fresh blood, start with very carefully selecting the pedigreed breeding cats that you want to use with your new foundation cats. This is probably one of the most important steps for successful outcross breeding. Before going on a search for outcross, evaluate your own breeding stock in an objective manner. Kind of from the outside looking in. Try to chose the best and healthiest only - do this in a very critical manner. Don't try to fix up cats that already have many health problems. Females should be proven queens and mothers of several healthy litters without deformities, a low stillbirth rate and a reasonable litter size. There are still quite a few healthy Maine Coons out there, even with a 26 generation heavily line bred pedigree!! If you have a choice, try to use only cats with healthy gums and teeth and a good immune system. Also, watch for gentle and loving temperament and of course a good type and size. You will need good quality traits to balance out the weaknesses in your foundation cats. Do us a favor, don't start an outcross program with mediocre looking Maine Coons please. 


If you have a big cattery, a foundation/part foundation male would probably be more economical and get you further ahead quicker than a female. Remember, you are on a journey and looking for outcross will be something you will need to do on a regular basis in the future, if you seriously want to help our breed. To find breeders who work with outcrossed lines, you can visit the heritage site, but be aware of the fact that not all Catteries displayed on this site actually work with newer foundation lines. 

When it is time to buy outcross from foundation breeders, be on the alert. We have heard horror stories about living conditions and breeding practices. There are just as many BYB among foundation breeders as there are among show line breeders. Get many references and ask many questions. Visit the facility if you can. Make sure they test their breeding cats for breed-specific genetic problems like HCM, PKD, HD, etc. Also, they should take disease control and hygiene very seriously. Reputable foundation breeders will not sell breeding stock until they feel confident about their new line. Early generation cats will often only be traded with friends, in order to try out the lines together. Sometimes early generations will be sold to breeders after the breeder had several healthy litters with a cat and feels relatively secure to release the offspring. So, there is the possibility to purchase an F2 or F3, after a few years of work with these new cats.


Q: If outcrossing is the best way to get rid of health problems, why test for Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM), Poly Cystic Kidney Disease (PKD) and Hip Displasia (HD) ?


Just as much as testing without outcrossing is not sufficient, it is the same vice versa. Even though outcrossing is the most efficient way to breed away from genetic problems, testing for genetic diseases is still required. Even though we have a good idea where heart problems in our pedigreed cats came from, there is a chance that a foundation cat could be diagnosed with HCM or some other heart disease as well. The fact is that we have enough problems in our breed already. So we want to carefully watch not to double up on weaknesses in certain organs or body parts. There is no point in outcrossing if we don't go all the way and use all medical science available to reduce the risks of genetic problems. Also, remember that testing without appropriate selection is a complete waste of time. 


Q: What can I expect health wise? 


It took many years for our breed to get to a point of great concern. Problems will not go away overnight. Outcrossing is not the answer to all health concerns. A new line will not perform a magic trick on our breeding program. That's why we call it "working with foundation." Yes, outcrossed cats can get sick, too. They will, like all other species, carry undesirable recessive genes that might never show up until bred to a cat with the same problem. We are talking about genes that usually get lost in the process of outcrossing - but not always. Also, each breeding can bring us between one to four new gene mutations that would have not happened in any other breeding. No guarantees here folks!


Please note that the following things are very likely to happen but nobody can promise you that they will actually happen overnight - some things might not happen at all.  Do not blame the foundation Maine Coon if things don't work out the way you expected:


What we will most likely see is a positive effect on the cat as a whole. We will probably find our cats to become more intelligent and less irritable. Excessive shyness or aggressiveness in certain lines can disappear over a few generations. We will probably see less problems in conception, birthing and kittening - often already in the outcrossed daughter of an inbred female. We will most likely see less deformities, less stillbirths. A greater number of babies will survive common respiratory problems - without or very little medical intervention. There will be fewer reactions to vaccinations. We will eventually get larger litters with not many runts. Weight and size of males and females will be more equal in our litters. We can have less diagnosis of early cancer and Fip which are all mostly immune related problems (Fip lately being suggested as having a genetic factor as well). Gums and teeth will eventually get better. Again, the benefits of a breeding program might not show until two or three generations of outcrossing. Our goal is also to diminish heart, kidney and joint problems - a goal that can be reached as well if we outcross on a continuos basis, make no harmful compromises and test all breeding stock on a regular basis. Did you know that the outcrossing/testing/selecting process can improve your future OFA hip results immensly? 


Q: I only sell to pet homes. Do I need to outcross? 


Absolutely!!  Many people believe that only people who provide other breeders with outcross do something good for the breed. However, is it not the pet owners who will promote our breed the most? Is it not them who deserve a healthy companion with a good immune system? Pets have the same value as breeding cats and deserve to be outcrossed. Yes, people who only sell to pet homes will greatly benefit from broadening the gene pool in their breeding program. 


Q: I am a beginner. Can I work with foundation?


With early foundation? Definitely NO!  It is very important to get to know the breed standard first and also to learn about genetics, health and colors of this breed. This can take several years, sometimes a decade.  However, having said this, I personally believe that it can be more rewarding for a new breeder to start out with cats that have a nicely outcrossed pedigree. The art of breeding is mostly acquired through mentorship and experience and it is probably easier for a newbie to worry about refining traits than having to deal with deformed ribcages, no teeth in their cats' mouths at age two, births with the intestines inside out and kittens sold to pet owners dying of immune related- or genetic diseases. A lot of breeders have started out the common way, have landed flat on their faces and are now desperate for outcross. Supportive mentorship and a group of people to work with is the key to successful outcross breeding. However, it is for sure more advisable for a newer breeder to start with an F5 or F6 outcross, where much previous work with this particular line has already been done. Most times a pretty good standard type is already reached by this time which makes it easier to achieve satisfactory results - in regards to type. 


Q: I have worked hard for years to bring my lines to where they are now. I do want foundation, but please with rabbit ears and alligator muzzle!


We often see people wanting to buy outcross but at the same time not willing to sacrifice a little bit of type. On one hand we want foundation, on the other hand we really want this cat to be decent looking. Sadly, high foundation content, early generation Maine Coons  cats often do not conform in every way to the current standard and most often need to be worked with (so do some show cats by the way :-). If you are looking for a Maine Coon with a high foundation content, you are required to work in your own breeding program to achieve better looks. There will always be some effort involved. Foundation breeders cannot be expected to provide a finished product without fault or wrinkle. If you are suffering from "regional winner syndrome", outcrossing won't be too much fun for you. 


Let me encourage you with this: Don't look at the pictures of EARLY foundation cats. Look at the ones that are presently being produced. Some breeders have a better “eye” than others. Did you know that several F5 and F6 Maine Coons are being successfully shown as Grand Champions in several associations? Some have even become regional winners!


 Yes, breeding is hard work, but if you are discouraged in your breeding program at this point, I am sure with a few little changes you could find *joy in breeding* again. If you decide to hang in there, an outcross breeder would be willing to help you to put together a reasonable outcross program with just a little bit of fresh blood. This way you can maintain your good type.


Q: Are we creating a separate breed?


Of course not!  We breed with foundation to broaden the effective population of the existing Maine Coon breed. The intention is not to create a separate breed. All new foundation lines should be integrated into the general gene pool at one point in time. Segregation of bloodlines is not the purpose of foundation breeding!


Oh, and just for information, there are no clean lines in our Maine Coon breed or ANY other breed. There are no clean lines in foundation cats. Please see the article on Inbreeding Tests in Foundation lines.


 http://www.pawpeds.com/pawacademy/genetics/testbreedingmc/


Keep our breed strong! Support Foundation Breeding!

For more information please visit this archive link (note that the old prairiebaby.com website is very outdated!)

 http://web.archive.org/web/20050405080126/http://www.prairiebaby.com/id13.htm

I would personally not touch a breed that does not allow foundation breeding.  About 20 years ago, 12 new foundation cats were added to the Maine Coon breed by Prairiebaby/Masterweaver Cattery. You can find them in many pedigrees all over the world. The breed is overdue again for some fresh blood.


Judith Schulz

(Formerly PrairieBaby) Masterweaver 

Maine Coon Cats

MASTERWEAVER
Canada’s Polydactyl Maine Coon

Judith Schulz, Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada

TICA * ACFA * MCBFA * CFF *ACA 

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