Becoming a cat breeder can be a rewarding challenge but it is not as easy as you would imagine. It should be a long and slow process while you learn as much as you can about your chosen breed, genetics, and feline management. You will not make money breeding cats. There are many great rewards, but money isn't one of them. In fact, many breeders tell me that you need to have very deep pockets in order to breed. Breeding cats cost a lot of money. Most breeders will not sell an entire cat to you unless they know you well and you are a registered breeder.
What is the difference between a registered and a non-registered (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). A registered breeder will have to abide by a code of ethics outlined by their chosen cat council, failure to comply can result in losing your registered prefix.
All breeding cats must be registered with the 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 I purchased last year died suddenly, there is no proof that 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.
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 in 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. Other councils are more lenient if you are a registered breeder.
In order to become a cat breeder, you will need to register a prefix (cattery name) with a cat council.
You will need to decide if your cats will be inside or outside, in pens. It is not recommended you purchase a large number of cats to start out with. It is better to have just one or two queens (entire female cats).
If you are going to have a stud (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.
If you do not have a stud, you will need to send your queen to another breeder for her stud to service her. This can be very expensive, and often difficult if you don't have a stud nearby.
Queens come into season as early as 4 months of age and continue to come into season until they are mated. A calling queen is quite noisy and can cause a lot of disruption.
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 can die, resulting in you needing to hand raise kittens until they are weaned. This requires bottle feeds every 2-3 hours, around the clock.
Do you have the time to care for the cats and kittens, ensure they have well looked after, regularly seen by a veterinarian, the cattery is kept clean?
Veterinary care can be 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.
It's not all fluffy kittens. Sometimes the worst happens and you can lose them. It's a sad reality of cat breeding, not all kittens will make it, no matter how hard you try.
Do you have somebody to care for your cats when you are sick or go away?
Finding homes for the kittens:
This can be bittersweet, 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 you have brought into the world? A large number of cat breeders stipulate that should you find yourself in a situation where you are no longer able to keep a purebred cat you have purchased, that it should be returned to the breeder. This way they can ensure that the cat is not sent to an unsuitable home or ends up in a shelter.
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 get to make some wonderful friends in the cat fancy.