In 1958 I saw my first Siamese cat and fell hopelessly in love. Soon afterwards I purchased my first pair of Sealpoint traditional ‘appleheads.’ A favorite photo was taken in 1959 with (a much younger) me holding my first litter. Over the years I have raised and sold many kittens, always striving to stay close to the body-type and characteristics of my first pair. Many were sold, but many were also kept. It is hard not to fall in love with each kitten. A few years ago, after realizing how scarce they were becoming, I searched for a few more queens and began selling more kittens. It is my desire to make available kittens of superior quality and to help increase the numbers of traditional appleheads. Now retired from being a newspaper photographer I am devoting my time to raising a few exceptional litters per year.
My queens usually give birth to their kittens in a box in the bathroom closet. After getting their mother’s scent the kittens are imprinted to the human scent. Several times each day I hold the kittens so that by the time they are 3 to 4 weeks of age, they will run to me instead of to their mother. I feel that this imprinting develops a much more people-oriented cat. By the percentage of repeat customers and the number of my kittens they have each purchased, others agree that this intense method of raising kittens works.
After the babies learn to scale the top of the box and become ‘bathroom terrorists,’ I place a baby gate across the doorway to keep them safe for another week or so and give them a chance to become litter box trained. Eventually, the clever babies learn how to climb over the gate and are at large in the house. This is when the wild races begin! The kittens romp, explore, and play with their siblings. They sleep in my bed as soon as they can climb the bedspread. If I roll over or get up in the middle of the night a few will steal the warm spot! Imagine how little sleep is possible when there are two litters of Christmas babies and their moms sharing the bed!
Each kitten is loved, snuggled, socialized, and played with. Paper wads are introduced early in the kitten’s development and some have begun retrieving as early as 5 weeks! While the kittens explore the house they also interact with the other queens and kittens. It is a very friendly atmosphere with other queens often sharing the responsibility of caring for and nursing litters other than their own. Two neutered uncles and a retired grandma also help with the kittens. At no time are the kittens exposed to cats outside of their family group. Visitors to the cattery are asked to wash their hands before handling kittens and in between litters. If they have cats at home they are also asked to wear a smock when holding kittens.
Retired adults and stud cats are kept in a separate room and are also uncaged. If a confrontation occurs among the stud cats they are placed in a ‘time out’ cage for an hour or two. They hate being caged and usually behave very well afterwards. These cats have access to a safe outdoor compound, complete with apple trees to climb, during good weather.
The family dogs come in the house often so the kittens are accustomed to dogs.
MISC: The name Orecatay was contrived from the Italian pasta named orecchiette which means ‘little ears.’ My daughter, Robin, suggested the name but I could not pronounce or spell the Italian version. I shortened it and then spelled it phonetically. It ended up sounding like a representation of “Oregon Cat.”
I find great satisfaction placing kittens in homes where they are loved and cherished as Siamese cats should be. Since I interact with the babies daily I learn each personality and am able to successfully place each kitten with families requesting certain traits.
I often receive photos of the kittens as adults for my scrapbook. My cats even receive Christmas packages of catnip mice and toys from customers! These kittens and cats in turn enrich the lives of each family member with their love and antics. Once a person has had a Siamese cat they are usually hooked for life. I like to say that ‘Happiness is being owned by a Siamese.’