For the record, I did not choose to jump on the phantom for this week’s photo. I was forced to pose there by my humans- hence the look of displeasure on my face. That being said, my Breeding & Foaling Seminar this month was one of the best-attended educational events I have ever hosted! But in case you were one of the 2 or 3 cats who forgot or couldn’t make it here to see me, I’ll give you a re-cap.

If you are considering breeding your mare, there are several stallion factors to consider. These include but are not limited to: germs, bloodlines, history of breeding success, and legal jargon. Make sure your stallion of choice checks all the boxes before committing to breed to him. If you need help deciphering a breeding contract or remembering what diseases he should be tested for, ask our vets! That’s why they went to 8+ years of school after all.

Breeding a mare is a lot like baking a soufflé. In the cookbook, it sounds easy: just follow the recipe and voila! But in real life, lots of things can go wrong. Mares don’t like to read the cookbook. Failing to come into heat, not ovulating in a timely manner, reacting to the semen placed in her uterus, or fertilizing twins…these are just a few of the things mares try to do to make the docs bang their head against a wall.

Let’s say your soufflé comes out perfectly: after one cycle, you end up with a single, beautiful, round little embryo at the 14-day pregnancy ultrasound. Fast-forward 11 months, and now you are ready to welcome your new bundle of joy! But when?

This is another point where mares can be tricky. Their “due date” is just an estimate, and can easily range from 320-360 days gestation, or even longer. In the docs’ opinion, the best way to know when your mare is going to foal is to test her milk pH daily. When it drops to 6.4, there is a 98% chance she will foal within the next 72 hours. I like those odds! You can also use the good old signs like bagging up, relaxation of the vulva, and waxing of the teats.

So your mare is in labor, now is the time to panic, right? Yeah…no. Stage 1 of labor can last several hours and is characterized by acting restless, pawing, not eating, and flank-watching. Stage 2 is the exciting part- it begins with the mare’s water breaking, and ends with a foal on the ground! This stage of labor should last NO MORE than 20 MINUTES. Don’t forget about Stage 3: passing the placenta. The docs will appreciate if you save that stinky sucker in a bag or bucket until they can get out there to evaluate it.

Mares rarely need help with labor, but it’s important to know what is normal so you can identify when something goes wrong. Might I point out that cats NEVER need help having kittens (or so I’ve heard). This is where the 1-2-3 rule comes into play. A normal foal should stand within 1 hour of birth, nurse within 2 hours, and the mare should pass her placenta within 3 hours. If the foal misses any of these milestones, what should you do? You guessed it- call the docs!

Well, that’s my story. Of course there is no way to put into words the best part of the seminar that you missed: me! But you guys are such quick learners, you are all going to do great!