Mythicbells Interview: Breeding Persian Cats & Raw Diet

As a follow up to my last post Should I Breed my cat? I wanted to interview an experienced respectable breeder. I’m very grateful to be able to share Molly’s honest experience of over 10 years of breeding Persian cats as well as feeding a raw diet.

Mariah Nomad

Mariah Sage, Shaded Blue Golden Persian, Nomad Shaded Silver Persian

Bio: Molly Barr from Mythicbells Persians, has been owned by Persians since 1992 and started breeding them in 2004. Her 10 cats are part of her family and live under her feet in a beautiful cat-friendly home. She shares their adorable daily antics on her Youtube channel Mythicbells. The dedication that Molly gives to the health and well-being of her cats is admirable.

Can you explain your experience feeding raw and how it has affected your breeding program?

Molly: ​I began feeding raw in March of 2004.  I had 3 aging Persians at the time ages: 9, 12 and 12.  The two older Persians were Himalayans, the younger Persian was a torie … all females.  All three had health issues.  The Tortie was diagnosed with heart disease the year before.

One of the Himalayans was recovering from surgery for intestinal lymphomic cancer​. A section of her intestines had been removed and she surprised everyone by making a full recovery and living another 6 years.  The other Himalayan was diagnosed via a biopsy with inflammatory bowel disease at about age 2 (1994).  We tried various prescription diets … all dry and also prednisone.  She suffered from it basically for the rest of her life, dying at age 15, however in 2004 I switched her to the raw diet and saw significant improvement for a while which was enough to sell me on the raw diet.  Needless to say, cleaning up raging diarrhea for a decade was not fun, but worse was seeing my poor kitty suffer.  I gave up on veterinary intervention for her after trying the medications and​ array of prescription diets and I began my own research into feline nutrition.  I found numerous anecdotal write ups on the benefits or the raw diet over all and specifically for IBD.  I also discovered that many articles linked intestinal lymphomic cancer to IBD and both to a species inappropriate diet.   Up until this time, I had fed 100% dry food without giving it any thought at all.  It’s just what one did.  The dye was cast when after a full transition to the raw diet, the IBD kitty had her first week completely free of diarrhea.  She was not cured, but did have a good year free of symptoms before they began to come back along with other issues.  She ultimately lived to 15.

By now I’m sure you are wondering what raw feeding has to do with breeding…. Ultimately deciding to breed was the culmination of A. a long time dream, B. being retired  so I could devote my time to this endeavor, c. having 3 aging kitties I adored, but knew would not be with me much longer and I wanted a younger generation coming in, and d. I ached to start young cats out on the raw diet.  I’m not sure that I was actually thinking of the over all benefits of pregnant queens, nursing queens, tiny weaning kittens, etc on the raw diet, but ultimately that is what ensued.  My first litter was born in October of 2005.  Initially, after reading all of the books on how to wean kittens off of mother’s milk, I attempted to follow the advice.  This lasted perhaps a day or two before I caved.  It calls for mixing what they call “GLOP” — a kind of mixture of milk and other nutrients.  Many breeders have their own recipes.  What a mess.  The kittens struggle and aren’t interested, then finally, I assume, they will eventually start eating/drinking the stuff, then you mix it with canned and/or sodden dry food and eventually they are eating a nice dry kibble just like mom.  I threw this all out and started over within a day or two.  I placed the raw diet in mom’s dish where the kittens could wade through it, making sure that it had plenty of juice and finely ground meat.  Occasionally I’d get them started by letting them lick it off my fingers, many of them just dived in when ready.  Weaning is so easy.

In any case that’s my story with the raw diet and breeding, but I also found that I simply never had some of the issues I’d heard of such as a queen without enough milk.  Bearing in mind that my “operation” has always been quite small.  Two litters on the ground at once is the most I’ve ever had and that only 2 or 3 times.  The raw diet is appropriate for all breeding cats in all stages as well as all the kittens and all of the spay/neutered cats.  I never needed to supplement the queen’s diet, nor the kittens with vitamins or anything else.  A queen will simply eats more if she needs it.  I just made sure that it was always available.

One concern that many breeders have who feed the raw diet is what about when they go to their new homes?  This was also a concern of mine.  It’s something that has to at least be considered.  I ultimately decided that I would simply have to inform the kitten buyers that their new kitten was on an ALL wet diet and recommend that they keep it that way.  I did, for the early years, feed canned as well in order to better prepare the kittens for their new life.  In later years, with all of the new commercially available raw diets on the market I stopped the canned as well except for an occasional treat or as a back up.  I also had kitten buyers if local, bring a cooler and I sent them home with a sample of the raw food to get the kitten started.  No dry food has been in the house since 2004 and it’s my belief that trying to feed both raw and dry is not good idea.  Still, I assume it can be done under some circumstances.  But I don’t.  I know that many of my kittens have ended up on less than ideal diets in their new homes, but that’s ultimately not my call.  On the plus side, many people come to me because of the raw diet and others adopt it as a result of my recommendation.

Breeding Persian cats

 

What do you hope for the future of the Persian cat breed? Why?

Molly: ​I have no lofty goals for the breed as a whole.  I’ve never been much of an activist.  I simply follow my heart.  However, having said that, I most definitely want the breed to continue.  In other words, outlawing breeding is not an answer to any problem in my mind.​

​ On the flip-side, I abhor ​anyone who chooses to breed these wonderful creatures without full thought to their health and well being.

What has been the biggest challenge in breeding cats?

​ Molly: A GOOD breeder … a REAL breeder will re-home their breeding cats when they are retired.  I’ve failed miserably at this.  Obviously I’m just a “dabbler.”  It’s extremely easy to let this situation get out of control.  The more cats you have the more logistical problems you will have.  Cats are not like dogs in this respect.  When breeders say they don’t cage and/or they raise their kittens under foot, etc.  You need to take this with a grain of salt.  A breeder with a lot of cats is probably going to have to use cages and the kittens are not going to be allowed “under foot”  due to safety and health considerations.  Queens with kittens often to NOT get a long.  If this is the case you are restricted in how many litters you can have at one time, or they will have to be caged.  If you have more than one stud, or one stud who sprays … some cats may have to live in isolation (large cage or a separate room or, yes, the garage).  This is often very true of studs and is their lot in life as part of a breeding program.  I have avoided this and have refused to give in, but this has been the most difficult thing for me.  Dealing with these logistics.  As the numbers increased one room had to be set aside for the queen and kittens which decreases the over all territory for all of the other cats.  A stud or queen who sprays is another challenge. I’ve been lucky to manage this at all and it has been instrumental in me making my breeding career much shorter than I would like or any of the people who want my kittens would like.

One other thing that I might add as far as what has been hard for me.  The anxiety and stress.  With a litter of kittens in house, I live and breath based on their every need and hurdle.  Losing one is always on my mind and it’s not uncommon to have this happen.  The birth is horrendously anxiety ridden for me… and has ultimately ended in three “C” sections.  Thankfully I have never lost a queen, but that is also possible..​

 

Breeding Persian Cats

Sahara with her kittens

Persian cats co-mothering kittens

Sahara with her kittens and Gypsy Rose the brown Persian, helping out by co-mothering the kittens.

And how are your cats doing now?

Molly: My current kitties are amazingly healthy … but still young.  The oldest two just turned 11 the others are 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 6, and 2.  Two​ of my current kitties were born here and therefore weaned onto the raw diet (some canned) the rest came in as kittens and were immediately put on the raw/canned diet.  All came from breeders who fed dry and have not had dry since then. I don’t feel this is old enough to make a valid comparison, nor is my small pride an adequate case study, but regardless these are my experiences.

Urinary issuesThe vet continues to be interested that none of my males has ever shown any urinary problems (crystals, blockages, stones, etc) … nor have any of my cats.  HOWEVER, Nugget, one of the 11 year olds had 2 episodes of cystitis (frequent, bloody urination) within weeks/months after I brought in the new kittens (Nomad and Mariah).  Despite a high moisture diet, interstitial cystitis possibly due to stress obviously still happens.  It lasted about a week, has not reoccurred, and it’s now been 2 years. I continue to believe that any cat with any kind of urinary issue should be on an all wet diet, preferably all raw.

Hairballs, Vomiting, Skin – When I made the switch to raw vomiting and hairballs became almost a thing of the past.  I still see it, of course, but it’s not a daily occurrence which it nearly was with cats on kibble.​  The other thing was that the two older Persians had small scabby lesions on their skin.  Minor, but noticeable when you petted them.  I took them to the vet for evaluation and he more or less shrugged his shoulders that it might be some kind of an allergy but wasn’t anything to be concerned about.  They had this condition and I just didn’t think much about it until I happened to notice a year or so into the raw diet that those lesions were no longer there.

However, to my dismay, two of my kitties began to have chronic colitis  (I’m calling it that … but it was never formally diagnosed — symptoms: diarrhea, often with blood, several times a month).  I was horrified… after all my work with feline nutrition that I should have this issue.  Simba Kahn, my stud, suffered from it from about the ages of 5 to 7.   The other kitty is my 11 year old queen.  Her symptoms were (are?) the same and continued until recently — perhaps 4 years?  I made the decision to go with 100% raw and see what happened.  My stud’s symptoms disappeared and never returned (so far … 2 years).  The queen’s episodes lessened by 50 – 75% but did not stop.  Earlier this year, I’d been reading about the use of Tylosin for chronic diarrhea.  It’s an anti-biotic, but thought useful for it’s anti-inflammatory benefits.  In all my years of dealing with diarrhea in cats, this had never been suggested to me.  I requested that she be put on this for a period of time and she hasn’t had an episode since then…. but it was only this year.  Time will tell.   I still strongly believe in the raw diet, but it’s not a panacea for all ills.

What has your vet’s reaction been to feeding raw?

Molly: Switching to a raw home-prepared diet in 2004 was done completely on my own without my vet’s sanction.  Virtually every vet I discussed this with was completely and utterly appalled.  Years later as I brought in one robust litter after another, all raw fed from raw fed parents, diet was tactically not discussed with me.  The entire change from commercial to home prepared was one of the scariest things I’ve ever done.  I proceeded carefully and systematically and kept extensive records and notes…. for several years.​

 

​ Interestingly, this year when I took two cats in and was asked what I fed them… I gave them one of the commercially prepared raw diets I feed and the comment was simply, “Oh, that’s a good diet.”  Things have changed a lot in 11 years.​

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Awwwwh reading Molly’s words just fills my heart with her dedication and love for her cats. She has a wealth of knowledge and experience, I am so grateful to hear her story. I agree that raw feeding is not a magic cure all. But it is the best we can do. Click here to read more about my experiences feeding a raw diet.

Mythicbells Persians

 

Photo Credits: Molly Barr from Mythicbells Persians.

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24 Comments

  1. August 22, 2015 / 6:17 pm

    Thank you for the great write up, Jenna!

  2. Sue
    August 22, 2015 / 6:23 pm

    Molly was so helpful to me in switching my cats from a dry to a wet diet. I’m not able to do raw, but the wet diet has made a big difference. Tiger had a urinary blockage at age 2. He’s now 9 1/2 and has never had a repeat. I will never go back to dry food.

    • August 22, 2015 / 7:11 pm

      You have one of her kittens I assume, you know he came from a great home :-)Raw isn’t for everyone, but that’s great a all wet diet has solved his problems.

      • Sue
        August 22, 2015 / 7:21 pm

        Actually, my cats are shelter cats. I “met” Molly online and was reading all the great stuff she has about various cat topics. When Tiger got sick I was ready to try a different diet. Molly had great suggestions and was very supportive as I went through the process of switching to wet. Tiger has issues of not always using the litter box and we’ve explored that together as well. (Still no success, Molly.)

        • August 22, 2015 / 9:20 pm

          Sue, if we could solve that problem we’d both be rich! .. and I’d be a happy person. As you know I’m fighting similar issues here. SIGH… I still can’t believe how many years it’s been, now, and Tiger still doing well… :D

          • Sue
            August 22, 2015 / 9:23 pm

            Yes, more than 7 years now. Tiger will be 10 in January and Lily just turned 8. Hard to believe – I still think of her as the “kitten”. Not so much anymore. I think we have as good a chance at winning the lottery as solving the “out of box” issue.

  3. August 22, 2015 / 6:36 pm

    Wonderful interview! I’ve been addicted to Molly’s site for several years, now, and I’m always impressed with the amount of thought and care she puts into making her kitties blissfully happy, as they obviously are. I would never buy a purebred cat from another breeder. Molly is truly exceptional.

  4. August 22, 2015 / 6:40 pm

    A very well thought out and informative article. Well done~

  5. August 22, 2015 / 7:44 pm

    Molly, I didn´t know you fed raw! That´s great to hear. :)

    Sadly, I had to stop raw after feeding it for 2 years and seeing quite a few benefits, especially for my 16 year old boy Lugosi who suffers from FLUTD, but his twin brother Spider was diagnosed with kidney disease a few months ago and raw is simply too high in proteins for a cat with kidney problems, and in that case the kidneys cannot process the amount of protein and the cat is better off on a lower-protein diet. However, I´m going to go back to raw now for Lugosi (the FLUTD kitty) and my fairly healthy 6 year old ginger girl Ruby, so only Spider will be on the special veterinary diet, though I may give him some raw in between too.

    Anyway Molly, well done with this interview, I adore your babies so much! As you may know, I also had a shaded golden queen called Janelle, who is now 12. I adopted her after her owner, an elderly lady whom I knew well, had died, but I had to rehome Janelle with my best friend because boss-cat Lugosi would beat her up every single day and it just didn´t work out for her in my household. That is how I found you – because I searched for other people with shaded golden Persians. :)

    Come and visit our website some time if you like http://www.themadcatlady.com – speak soon! :)

    • August 22, 2015 / 9:43 pm

      Barbarella, thank you so much. I will definitely visit the “madcatlady” website! I’m so sorry to hear about your kitty with CRD. In my travels around the Internet and specifically the book “Your Cat” by Dr. Elizabeth M. Hodgkins, DVM I’m seeing some new (different?) thinking on diet for CRD patients. It’s the phosphorus, not the protein that needs to be restricted. Dr. Hodgkins writes that the CRD diet is modeled after that used for dogs and that it may not be ideal for obligate carnivores who need the protein. The problem, I guess, is how to restrict phosphate without restricting protein. She has a chapter on it in her book and suggests an alternate approach using something called “phosphate binders” … Anyway, it’s something to think about. That’s the sum total of my knowledge on it. Good luck to you and all your lovely kitties!

      • August 23, 2015 / 10:43 am

        Molly, thank you so much for that interesting info regarding Dr. Hodgkins. I will check out that book!!!! :)

  6. Karen
    August 22, 2015 / 8:24 pm

    Wonderful interview! I had no idea until I met Molly how beneficial a raw diet is, it’s completely changed my views on my cats diets.

    • August 22, 2015 / 8:30 pm

      Great to hear, how long have you been feeding raw?

  7. August 22, 2015 / 10:23 pm

    Pawsum posty. Mommy wants to switch us over too. Meez not a fan, so she’s twyin’ to figger out da way to do it bestest.

    Luv ya’

    Dezi and Lexi

  8. August 22, 2015 / 11:40 pm

    I’ve read more and more about feeding a raw diet to cats. I just don’t have the time to do it right now because of my job, but may seriously consider one of the commercial raw diets in the near future. Excellent article.

    • August 23, 2015 / 7:50 pm

      There are quite a few commercially prepared diets on the market now. Even retired people often don’t want to get into making their own or the whole raw meaty bones, etc. They just want to go buy the food and feed the cats. LOL. Now it’s possible.

  9. August 24, 2015 / 2:42 pm

    Any steps you can take to decrease or optionally get rid of the dry kibble food will benefit any cat. Having fed my dog raw for years and seeing the benefits from it I am sure that cats too would be healthier on this type of diet. In fact, seeing my dog do so well lead me to switch my cats to canned and I have never looked back. I don’t feed raw to my cats, but I do supplement their diet with any meat that we eat.
    It is great to see Jenna feature a conscientious breeder who obviously loves and cares for all the cats under her roof.
    Molly: Your right about a lot of veterinarians changing their thinking about raw feeding. I like to think I had a part in changing the thoughts of the vet I work for. She now has no qualms with raw feeding, if done properly. About 5 years ago she went to a national vet seminar which included a talk about IBS and when she came back she was all excited to tell me about the expert vet who had given the talk recommending to try a raw diet for cats with chronic diarrhea. That and seeing how well my pets were doing off of dry food lead her to switch her own cats. She now is a vocal advocate to all her patients about ditching the dry. Yes things are a changing in the veterinary world.

    • August 25, 2015 / 9:15 pm

      Amazing. Way to go, Anne!! My sister now has both dogs (2) and cats (4) on raw and since they can eat the same diet in the case of raw it really simplifies feeding the two species in the same home.

  10. August 24, 2015 / 4:05 pm

    This is a great article and very informative. I never considered feeding my cat raw food, but it’s certainly an option to consider

    • August 24, 2015 / 7:18 pm

      I came upon the raw diet accidentally and I’m so happy I made the switch. You can see my experience and step-by-step process on the Raw Cat Food page.

  11. August 25, 2015 / 1:04 pm

    omg this is the cutest darn blog I’ve ever seen! These cats are so precious!!

    Thanks for sharing!
    Xx, Antonnette

    Check out my blog if ya get bored ;)
    http://www.antoterese.com

    • August 25, 2015 / 6:24 pm

      Thank you for stopping by :-)

  12. August 28, 2015 / 11:51 pm

    We switched to a raw food diet for the exact same reason – to help Charlie’s IBD. We’ve now transitioned the entire family to raw for the health benefits – their coats alone are shinier and softer since changing to a raw food diet.

    • August 29, 2015 / 9:14 am

      And did it help Charlie’s IBD?