So You Want To Start Breeding
This article is not intended as a guide to breeding cats as there are many good books written about that subject, written by vets and experienced breeders. Instead, its aim is to mention points which may not be obvious when you visit the breeder to buy a kitten. Firstly ask yourself why you want to breed. Let's talk about a few of the points you may raise.
"Every cat should have a litter before it is neutered"
This is a total myth. cats do not need a litter of kittens or even come into heat before they can be neutered. Cats neutered before they come into heat live just as long as any other cat - probably longer since they won't try to escape to meet the man of their dreams! they do not feel unfulfilled if they have not given birth.
" I want to educate my children about life"
Then why not foster a pregnant queen form the local cat shelter?
" I want kittens to help pay for my queen"
Very few people make any money out of breeding cats, because there are so many hidden extras. Most people need money to support the cat rather than the other way around! So why do we want to breed pedigree cats? The answer should be to breed a perfect specimen, which conforms wholly to the standard of points. Of course this perfect cat will never be born - just as well, since if it ever arrived, then the rest of us might as well stop showing.
Breeding can be very fulfilling, at times very joyous, and other times heart-breaking. Breeding is also very expensive and time consuming. It will mean sacrificing holidays so that you can be home when the kittens arrive in case of any problems. It may mean long nights sitting with the queen when she starts in labour, rushing to the vet at odd hours of the night (hopefully not too often) and being able to keep calm when a problem arises. It may mean long drives across country at very short notice, when the queen visits the stud cat.
When you look to purchase a breeding queen, visit several breeders. Everyone has differing opinions on all aspects of breeding and it is worth listening to experienced people. Choose an out-going girl, not a timid cat, since she may be nervous when she visits the stud cat. Above all, be guided by the breeder about which cats are breeding quality, and which are pet. Ask the reasons for the choice. Ask about suitable stud cats for the queen. Its not much good living in Cornwall if the only suitable stud for that cat lives in the north of Scotland. You must consider the financial aspect of breeding.
Firstly you must purchase a breeding quality girl. Feed her on a good balanced diet, give her lots of attention. She should not be mated before the age of one year, unless she has come into heat three times, in which case she can be mated slightly earlier. You should look for a suitable stud. Hopefully, your breeder will have given you some advice when you expressed an interest in the queen, and has remained helpful since the purchase. Don't wait until the queen is calling before contacting stud owners, start talking to them early on, months before if possible. They will want to see your pedigree to see that the two lines are compatible, and your registration documents to prove that the queen is on the active register.
There are expenses even before your queen goes to stud. It is advisable to have the queen boostered prior to mating, if her annual booster is due in less that six months time. The cat should also be wormed. Finally, most stud cat owners insist that the cat should be tested for FeLV, FIV and perhaps FIP, JUST BEFORE she is mated. This means a mad dash to the vet's for a blood test on signs that she is coming into heat. Blood tests can cost anything from £15-50, and will be required every time your cat goes to stud - even if it is only three weeks since the last test, as can happen if the queen doesn't become pregnant on the first occasion.
Stud fees vary, depending on the cat, do ask before you take your queen to visit the stud. Agreements should be made between the queen's owner and stud cat owner about the fee in advance. This should include a clause to determine price/ repeat mating if the queen fails to become pregnant or gives birth to no live progeny.
Next you will need a kitten pen. These vary in price from about £50 to several hundred! A kitten pen is essential for those early weeks before the kittens have been weaned and litter trained, otherwise control of you new additions will be very difficult and messy.
The queen's food consumption will increase during the lat few weeks of pregnancy and when the kittens are born. Cat litter use will also increase dramatically.
Occasionally, one of the cats in your household may come down with a 'bug' of some form. This can turn into a major problem with kittens, and many vets advise keeping the queen and her kittens away from the rest of the household if possible. However, if the kittens do become even the slightest unwell, they must not be allowed to go to their new homes. This may mean keeping them longer than you anticipated, and vets' costs could increase dramatically.
The kittens must be fully litter-trained and inoculated before they leave for their new homes. This means giving two sets of injections for Enteritis and the cat flu viruses. You may also wish to include other vaccinations such as chlamydia and FeLV. For each kitten, this can easily add up to £100. Added to this, the cost of feeding, registering and insurance (optional), the money soon mounts up. Remember, you can't ask your queen just to have three kittens - could you cope financially if she had eight?
Then you must find suitable homes for the kittens you wish to sell. The first couple of litters, you may have friends who want one, but the likelihood is that you may need to advertise. The Club holds a breeders list, which anyone who has been a member for at least 12 months can join for a small fee, and you may need to advertise either locally or in one of the cat magazines. Vet potential owners carefully. Remember, you want the best possible for your kittens.
And the story doesn't end when the kittens leave home. What happens if at some time, the new owner can no longer keep the animal for some reason? Do you have the facility to take the cat back or pay for it to stay in a cattery until you find a new home for the animal? Often, this is the reason that pedigree rescue is required - the breeder simply is unable to take responsibility for an animal they bred, which now needs help. Think about it! As was mentioned at the beginning, breeding can be very fulfilling as well as great fun. But it should not be entered into lightly. Take your time to think about all aspects - financial, time management, the ability to find homes for the kittens, to name but a few.
The GCCF has lots of useful information about owning and breeding including a Code of Ethics for Breeders & Owners. You can download this document here (pdf)
ARE YOU WILLING TO BE A RESPONSIBLE BREEDER?