So you want to become a cat breeder… now what?
by Carissa Altschul
Disclaimer: Any medical advice given in this article should be referenced with your vet before beginning treatment. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect any official policy or position of the Cat Fanciers' Association or the Persian Breed Council.
Things To Consider
Before you even start searching for your first cat to breed, there are number of important details to consider. First, especially in light the shaky economy, is finances. In Persians, a nice show quality cat generally starts around $1500 and can go well over $3500 (depending on pedigree, titles, ect.) This is for a single cat. A basic program needs 1 male and 2-3 females. Most would-be breeders assume they will only need a single female and acquire stud service for her, but you will quickly find out that stud service is not the norm in the cat fancy. Those breeders that do allow stud service are generally not the homes you would want your female to be living in to be bred. Additionally, there is the cost of care, upkeep, and showing. Breeding cats should be feed premium foods, which generally cost between $1-$5 a pound. Breeding cats also do better when the dry “kibble” food is supplemented with a raw meat diet. A good quality meat can run from $1-$5 a pound (and this varies wildly in availability). There are also bowls, litter, litter pans, and medical supplies to consider. Vet visits are a must, whether is a check-up with a new cat, or the inevitable illness. Certain medicines should be kept on hand to quickly deal with the smaller problems that might come across. On average, the upkeep of a single Persian can run about $50 a month – that is assuming there are no major medical problems such as a c-section (an emergency C-section can cost $2000 easily). If the cat is being shown, an additional $200 per show week (minimum) must be factored in. (Most shows require travel, and many will require overnight stays in hotels. This all adds up!)
Next, you have to consider your home environment. The cats will need their own space. Plus, you will need to have an isolation area for any new cats that come into the home environment. Ideally, cats should be housed in a part of the house with their own ventilation, but should this not be possible, you will have to consider how you will keep them in their home in a healthy and safe environment. Whole male cats have a very strong odor to their urine that can quickly spread to the entire home (even if they are using the litterbox and not spraying,) so you will have to consider how will ventilate your home so that doesn’t happen.
There is also the consideration of what laws regulate the area in which you live. Most cities have limits on the numbers of pets that can live in a household. While most breeders operate “under the radar,” – and cities tend to leave them alone if they are not a nuisance - you should at least know what the laws are in the area in which you live.
Next, you will have to consider what you will do with the kittens you produce. Those friends you had before you bred the cat might have changes in their lives. They might decide that it’s just not the right time to have a kitten. They might also have found a cat elsewhere while you were going about the business of getting a breeding cat and raising the litter. (Most breeders don’t like keeping waiting lists because that is exactly what happens – the people who say they will wait rarely actually do wait.) It’s possible you might have a “special” needs kitten that will not be an “easy” keeper; then you end up having to keep that kitten yourself.
Finally, there is the emotional toll that raising any animal to consider. Will you be able to accept the possibility of kittens dying? Is your heart strong enough to mourn the loss of a kitten that you held in your hands and watched it take its last gasp and then be able to face the next kitten, the next possible loss? Breeding animals is heartbreaking… losses are inevitable, and sometimes unavoidable. Sometimes the losses are avoidable, but caused by a mistake you make. New breeders are bound to make mistakes that will cost the lives of the kittens they brought into the world. This is a harsh, painful reality. Beyond the loss of kittens, there is also the parting with the kittens you have raised when it is time for them to go to new home. Of course, you will develop an emotional bond with a kitten have raised since birth and letting them go isn’t as easy as it seemed it would be when you first thought of the idea of raising cats. Keeping too many kittens is a common mistake made by new breeders who quickly find themselves “over-catted” and overwhelmed by the work it takes to keep up all those cats. Even if you find yourself capable of coping the losses and letting kittens go, the third area that new breeders tend to encounter problems with is with the breeding cats themselves. They tend to keep them too long and then end up with a “top heavy” number of cats – where they have more cats that are not breeding than are, and again, this can lead to a situation where the breeder is overwhelmed by the number of cats they have to care for.
There are other concerns as well. If you have a significant other, it’s very important they are “on board” with the idea of breeding and raising cats. If you are showing your cats, someone often has to stay behind to care for the cats left in the room (especially if you happen to have a new litter at the time.) Cleaning litter boxes, vacuuming, scrubbing, and bathing cats might not really appeal to your significant other, and this can lead to issues far more complicated that just the cats. Also, if you have children, you have to consider the time the care of your cats will take from your children. Many families incorporate their children with the care of the cats, which can teach responsibility and respect for animals, as well as giving them a hobby that many children learn to love. In the show hall, older children can often be engaged as ring stewards (disinfecting judging cages between cats) and this can earn them extra money for whatever they might want to buy. However, if your children do not want anything to do with the cats, then they can be more of a source of friction than fun.