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 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. These are governing bodies which 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 will need to be registered with a cat council.
Backyard breeders are not registered, they don’t have anybody to answer to and usually don’t 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 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.
Do your homework before you become a cat breeder. Speak to people in the cat fancy, research the breed, and set up your home.
The very best way to start out is as a cat exhibitor, you will get to meet breeders, stewards, and judges, all of whom will be able to advise you on showing, breed standards, and breeding. This provides you with an opportunity to find a mentor, which in my opinion is an absolute must for a breeder starting out. A mentor will be there to help you along the way, advise you on all aspects of breeding.
Contact your local council and find out if they have any restrictions on the number of cats you can keep on your property. Some councils have come down very hard on breeders and imposed unrealistic rules about numbers of cats that people can have. The onus is on you to make sure you find out and comply with local council regulations.
Register a prefix:
In order 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 a very old pedigree showing cattery names of generations of cats that made up our pet Siamese cat’s lineage.
Once adopted, most new kitten owners will choose a pet name for the cat as most registered names are a bit of a mouthful.
In-house or separate cattery:
You will need to decide if your cats will be inside or outside, in pens. Do not start out with a large number of cats. It is better to have just one or two queens (entire female cats).
If you are going 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 cost of most purebreds 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 mount up and many breeders are lucky to break even.
- Breeding cats – The cost of a breeding cat can be in the thousands, especially 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 her own stud (entire male cat), she will have to pay fees for the use of a stud which can be quite high (hundreds, if not thousands)
- Stud house – Breeders who choose to have their own stud will need to provide separate accommodation for the boy to prevent accidental matings as well as avoid spraying (which is common among studs) inside the house
- Cat equipment – Food bowls, food, scratching posts, bedding, cattery, nesting boxes
- Parasite control – Flea and worming medication for breeding cats and kittens
- Veterinary care – General care, accidents and emergencies, spaying and neutering kittens, vaccinations, microchipping, emergency c-section
- Genetic health testing – Some breeds have the potential to carry conditions such as polycystic kidney disease and hypertrophic cardiomyopathy which are genetic, and 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 prior to mating)
- 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
When the queen is pregnant, she will need extra attention, premium quality food, and veterinary check-ups.
Breeding is a 24/7 job. You need to be on hand 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 you will need to hand feed the kittens until they are weaned. This involves bottle feeds 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 (feed, clean litter trays, clean the cattery, play time, love and attention)
- Keep a watch other the mother to ensure her kittens are cared for
- Socialising the kittens so they are used to people
- Regular veterinary visits for health check-ups, vaccinations, desexing
Veterinary care is expensive, emergency c-sections, care for your breeding cats and their litters, medical and genetic testing to ensure that the cats are suitable to breed with. 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.
Do you have somebody to care for your cats when you are sick or go away on holidays?
Finding homes for the kittens
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, to 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.
It’s not all bad, there are some wonderful rewards to cat breeding. Playing your part in maintaining the standard of your chosen breed.
You will make some wonderful friends in the cat fancy.