Becoming a Cat Breeder – What You Need To Know

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  • Becoming a cat breeder can be a rewarding challenge but it is not as easy as most people think. Cat breeding is a long and slow process while you learn as much as you can about your chosen breed, genetics, and feline management.

    Most breeders will not break even, but there are many great rewards. Breeding cats cost a lot of money to purchase and housing, food, and medical bills all add up.

    Registered vs backyard breeder

    A registered breeder is registered with one of the cat councils. Cat councils are governing bodies that oversee the registration and breed standards of purebred cats. There are usually one or two cat councils per state (in Australia).

    Registered cat breeders must abide by a code of ethics outlined by their chosen cat council, and a failure to comply can result in losing your registered prefix. All breeding cats must be registered with a cat council.

    The most well-known cat councils include the Cat Fanciers Association (CFA), The International Cat Association (TICA), and Fédération Internationale Féline (FIFe).

    In comparison, backyard breeders are not registered with a cat council. They do not have standards to abide by and may not have the necessary knowledge required to become a breeder.

    Almost all breeders will sell a kitten with a health guarantee, which covers you for a multitude of medical problems. One example is a kitten of mine who suddenly died. There was no reason to believe the breeder was at fault, it was a rare form of anemia. Without hesitation, the breeder replaced the kitten, which put her out of pocket by several hundred dollars. Not many (if any) backyard breeders would do that.

    How to become a cat breeder

    Do your homework before you become a cat breeder. Speak to people in the cat fancy, research the breed, and set up your home.

    Showing cats:

    The very best way to become familiar with the cat breeding program is as a cat exhibitor. As a cat exhibitor, you meet breeders, stewards, and judges—all of whom can advise you on showing cats, breed standards, and breeding. This provides an opportunity to find a mentor, which in my opinion is an absolute must for a breeder starting. A mentor will be there to help you along the way, advising you on all aspects of breeding.

    Council regulations:

    Contact your local council and ask if they have any restrictions on the number of cats you can keep on your property. Some councils have imposed strict regulations limiting the number of cats breeders can have. The responsibility is on the breed to ensure compliance with local council regulations.

    Register a prefix:

    To become a cat breeder, you will need to register a prefix (cattery name) with a cat council. All kittens will carry the prefix name. For example, a cattery by the name of Holmat Burmese might name a litter of kittens the following:

    • Holmat Brown Delight
    • Holmat Lily

    Below is an example of an old pedigree showing cattery names of generations of cats that made up our pet Siamese cat’s lineage.

    Cat pedigree papers

    Once adopted, most owners will choose a pet name for the cat. Most registered names are a bit of a mouthful.

    In-house or separate cattery:

    You will need to decide how your cats will be housed. For cleanliness, medical, and behavioral issues, it’s recommended to prepare crates, pens, or rooms for housing your cats. It is also recommended to start with a small number of cats—just one or two queens (entire female cats).

    Stud house:

    If you plan to have a stud/entire male cat (and this is not recommended for a novice breeder), he will need to be housed in a separate area so that he doesn’t have around-the-clock access to the girls.

    Do breeders make money?

    With the selling price of most purebred cats starting at $1,000, it’s easy to assume that breeding can be quite a lucrative business—but that is not the case. Set up and ongoing costs compile, and many breeders are lucky to break even.

    Setup costs:

    • Breeding cats: The cost of a breeding cat can be in the thousand. This is especially true for less common breeds or when importing, which is often necessary due to small gene pools in certain regions (such as Australia).
    • Stud fees: For the breeder who chooses not to have their own stud (entire male cat), they will have to pay fees for the use of a stud. The use of a stud for breeding can cost hundreds to thousands of dollars depending on the breed and availability.
    • Stud house: Breeders who choose to have their own stud will need to provide separate accommodation for the boy to prevent accidental mating and avoid spraying—a common occurrence among studs.
    • Cat equipment: Food bowls, food, scratching posts, bedding, litter, litter boxes, and nesting boxes are only a few supplies you’ll need to purchase throughout the lifetime of your cattery.

    Ongoing costs:

    • Food
    • Litter
    • Enrichment items

    Medical:

    • Parasite control: Flea and de-worming medication for breeding cats and kittens.
    • Veterinary care: General care, accidents and emergencies, spaying and neutering kittens, vaccinations, microchipping, and emergency c-sections.
    • Genetic health testing: Some breeds have the potential to carry conditions such as polycystic kidney disease and hypertrophic cardiomyopathy which are genetic. Breeders must test all cats to ensure they are not producing affected offspring.
    • Testing for diseases: Along with genetic testing, it is also important to test all breeding cats for transmissible diseases such as feline immunodeficiency virus and feline leukemia virus.
    • Blood typing: To determine the blood group of both the queen and the stud before mating.

    Other:

    • Insurance
    • Website/advertising
    • Registrations: Council, cat registrars (register to become a breeder and fees for every litter registered)
    • Cat show fees
    • Cat show equipment: Show cage, curtains, and grooming equipment
    • Time off work: To care for the queen before and after she has given birth or hand-raise orphaned kittens

    Ongoing responsibilities of being a cat breeder

    When the queen is pregnant, she will need extra attention, premium quality food, and veterinary check-ups.

    Breeding is a 24/7 job. Breeders need to be present when the queen is ready to deliver her kittens and step in if there is an emergency. Sometimes things go wrong and the queen passes away, which means the breeder will need to hand feed the kittens until they are weaned. This involves bottle feeding every 2-3 hours, around the clock for 6 weeks.

    Do you have the time to care for the cats and kittens?

    Breeding is time-consuming and involves:

    • Caring for adult cats and kittens including feeding, cleaning litter trays, cleaning the cattery, playtime, love, and attention.
    • Watching over the queen to ensure the care of her kittens.
    • Socializing the kittens so they are used to people.
    • Regular veterinary visits for health check-ups, vaccinations, and desexing.

    Cost:

    Veterinary care is expensive. Emergency c-sections, care for your breeding cats and their litters, and medical and genetic testing to ensure that the cats are suitable to breed with all add up and reduce overall profit. Certain breeds can inherit medical problems, for example, polycystic kidney disease is found in Persian and Exotic cats and all breeding cats must be screened for this.

    Care:

    Breeding cats takes hours of care a day for routine feedings, cleaning, and socialization. When you are sick or go away on holiday, you’ll need to invest in trusted care for your cattery and your cats. If caring for kittens is needed during this time, extra vetting of your sitter and suitable credentials for kitten care will be required.

    Finding homes for the kittens

    Do cat breeders make money?

    This can be a bittersweet time. It is fantastic when you can find the perfect loving home for the kittens you have brought into the world. It can also be time-consuming and frustrating. Devoting your weekends to waiting around for people to come and see kittens, only for them to not show up.

    Are you prepared to take back any cats? Many cat breeders stipulate that should you find yourself in a situation where you are no longer able to keep a purebred cat, you must return the cat to them. This way they can find a suitable home for the cat.

    It is your responsibility to interview all prospective buyers to ensure the kitten is going to the right home.

    The rewards of being a cat breeder

    While it can be challenging at times, there are many wonderful rewards to cat breeding. By safely and responsibly breeding cats, you play an active role in “the welfare of all cats” and “the promotion and improvement of recognized breeds of cats,” as stated in CFA’s mission. Whichever breed of cat your choose to breed, you’re playing your part in maintaining the standard of your chosen breed. Plus, you’ll make some wonderful friends in the cat fancy.

    Frequently asked questions

    Are you concerned about damage to your home?

    Owning any cat comes with the responsibility to clean up after them. Most breeds of cats will shed, may have a hairball every now and again, and will need you to clean their litter boxes. When breeding cats, you can expect these responsibilities to be multiplied by the number of cats you own. If you have a stud (male cat) you may have to clean up after spraying if he is not properly separated from the females. Once you have successfully bred your cat(s), a litter of kittens is no easy feat to clean up after.

    Are you prepared for the emotional rollercoaster ahead?

    Giving birth can be risky for any cat. The processes of delivery can come with complications, ill kittens, and/or the death of the queen and/or kittens. Breeding cats also comes with the stress of daily ownership and responsibilities and the bittersweet goodbye of homing the litters. In return, a cat breeder can get fulfillment from upholding breed standards, educating new owners about care, and making many friends in the cat fancy community.

    How do new breeds come into being?

    New characteristics in cats may come about due to a spontaneous mutation or via intentional breeding. Once new characteristics of a cat are developed, there is a process for the breed to be accepted as a registered and recognized cat breed. First, there must be a minimum number of breeders working with the new cat “breed” and they must demonstrate that the minimum number of cats in the breed has been met. In the case of the CFA, the breeder then petitions the CFA to allow the cat to be considered a breed. If accepted, the breed starts in the Miscellaneous class, the class all new breeds of cats begin. Through shows and consistency in breed, the breed may be moved to the Provisional class and eventually the Championship status. this process may differ between cat registries.

    I own a purebred cat – should I breed her and sell the kittens?

    The process of breeding and delivery of kittens is risky for mom and her litter. Unless you are an experienced cat breeder, veterinarians recommend spaying and neutering your cat by five months of age. Spaying and neutering your cat will prevent life-threatening conditions, risky, unplanned pregnancies, and you will be playing your part in stopping the overpopulation of kittens and cats on the streets and in the shelters.

    How much money do cat breeders make?

    With the selling price of most purebred cats starting at $1,000, it’s easy to assume that breeding can be quite a lucrative business—but that is not the case. Set up and ongoing costs compile, and many cat breeders are lucky to break even.

     

    Author

    • Julia Wilson, 'Cat World' Founder

      Julia Wilson is the founder of Cat-World, and has researched and written over 1,000 articles about cats. She is a cat expert with over 20 years of experience writing about a wide range of cat topics, with a special interest in cat health, welfare and preventative care. Julia lives in Sydney with her family, four cats and two dogs. Full author bio