Cat breeding as a hobby can be wonderful, I have found it so rewarding and would recommend this as a hobby to anyone who is willing to go into it with their eyes wide open.
If you are considering buying a breeding cat and are going to breed a litter of kittens then I thought I would share with you a few words of caution. Below are some of the things that you will need to be aware of when considering cat breeding as a hobby.
Going in to Stud
Now obviously it takes two to tango and if you want your cat to have kittens then she is going to require the attentions of a boy. As a breeder you will need to find a suitable stud cat and take time off work to travel up with your girl when she comes in season. You will need to leave her there a few days and then repeat the journey to collect her. Did I mention, before you can even go into stud you will also need to ask your vet to blood test your girl for FeLV and FIV?
I can almost guarantee that your girl will insist that the time is right on a weekday so you will need to take some time off work to take her to stud and also collect her. Don’t forget you will also need to pay the vets blood test fee, fuel costs and also the stud fee.
Your Cat is Ready to Have Kittens
Being prepared for your girl having her kittens is always wise. Do some research so you have an idea of what to expect and this way you can be on hand to give your girl any assistance should she need it. You will know within a few days either side the day she will be due to have her kittens. Booking the time off work in advance will enable you to be with her when the time arrives.
It is always wise to have a kitten birthing kit, the phone number of your vet and your credit card on hand in case you have to dash off to the vets in the need of a caesarian section. It can be an expensive business but hopefully your girl will manage without a vet and will give birth to kittens without help.
Hand Feeding Kittens
Now hopefully this is something that you won’t have to do, well at least not with all your kittens each time you have a litter anyway. Sometime you will have to hand feed your kittens or perhaps just top up one or two that are struggling to get enough milk from their mum. A new born kitten needs feeding every hour, all day and all night. This is extremely tiring and you will need to take some more time off work if this happens. If you do need to hand feed then you will have to do this for at least three weeks, the frequency of the feeds decreasing as the kittens get older. You cannot start weaning your kittens until they are at least 21 days old.
Hopefully there will be no need for time off work for weaning kittens, you can do this before and after work three or four times a day. Weaning your kittens is something that every cat breeder needs to do. Milk alone will not be enough to sustain the kittens as they begin to get older. Each kitten is different and some more or less wean themselves while others can be a nightmare to wean and seem to believe you are trying to poison them no matter what you tempt them with.
I won’t go into the various techniques of weaning kittens now but what I will say is be prepared for a battle of wills! I can almost guarantee you will have at least one kitten that will simply refuse to eat. It can be a messy and time consuming and once you do have some success with getting the food in the kittens be prepared for the food coming back out the other end!
Litter Training Kittens
Another task that all but the most fortunate of cat breeders have to go through is litter training. Litter training can be very hard to crack for any breeder but particularly the new breeder. It is a messy business, will no doubt cause damage to your carpets and flooring. Teaching all your kittens the appropriate place to do their business can be very time consuming. Like with weaning kittens, I can almost guarantee you will have at least one kitten that will simply refuse to use litter trays. This kitten (probably the same one who accused you of trying to poison him) much prefers to use the spot behind the TV or the sofa. When this happens then I am afraid it means more time off work as if you don’t stop this behaviour quickly it will become a hard habit to break. You will need eyes like a hawk and the patience of a saint to crack litter training and to do this before and after work alone, well frankly you are kidding yourself!
All kittens need to have at least the core inoculations which are cat flu and feline infectious enteritis. Your kittens will need to visit the vets once at nine weeks old and again at twelve weeks old for their second set of inoculations. Sometimes the kittens can be off colour after starting the course but with some T.L.C they usually bounce back fairly quickly without the need for further veterinary treatment. Occasionally though this is not the case and an adverse vaccine reaction can result in fatalities which of course are devastating. Chances are you will be able to go the vets for the inoculations out of your work hours so all going well no need for further time off work. The cost of inoculating your kittens is approximately £50 per kitten. Take your credit card somehow it seems less painful than handing over cash!
Finding Homes For Kittens
Finding homes for your kittens is not easy as a new breeder in fact it is not easy sometimes as an established breeder! By far the best method as far as I am concerned is by advertising online. You can advertise on your own cat breeders website if you have one which enables you to add various photos and details of your kittens. If you do not have a website and even if you do then I would also recommend you also advertise on specialist cat websites such as Siamese Cat Breeder and Oriental Cat Breeder. There are also other pet and cat websites that you can advertise on with the vast majority being free to advertise on. Don’t forget to ask your cat club to advertise your litter on their website; this can also be another good way to find homes for kittens.
Offline advertising, to be honest, is a waste of time. Most people looking for a pedigree cat are not going to be on your doorstep so unless you can afford to advertise on TV or in the national newspapers then really my best advice is forget offline advertising. If you put cards up in shop windows chances are the only people to contact you will think your kittens are free to good homes and will probably expect the kitten delivering. Trust me I have seen this happen! There is one exception to my aversion to offline advertising and this is word of mouth. Let as many cat breeder friends, the owner of the stud and breeders and exhibitors you meet at shows know that your girl is due kittens. You will be surprised at how many people will pass your details on to people looking to buy a kitten.
Kitten Pedigrees and Registrations
When you breed a litter of pedigree kittens you of course will need to produce a pedigree and also a registration document for the kittens when they eventually start to leave home. Now it is to be reasonably be expected by anyone buying a kitten advertised as pedigree to expect of professionally created pedigree and accompanying registration document from a bona fide registration body such as the G.C.C.F. Registrations cost money I am afraid so you will need your credit card once again for this.
Personally if I could afford one I would have a personal assistant for this job as completing paperwork is not something I envisaged when I started breeding cats. Sadly I cannot afford a any kind of assistant so I have to complete the paperwork for registrations and produce a professional pedigree myself. This has to be done for each of the kittens and it is also recommended to insure your kittens when they leave home which is more paperwork.
You can use specialist software for creating pedigrees or you can complete a pedigree template in word or excel manually. Either way the software costs money but has to be better than completing the pedigrees by hand. If you are lucky you already have the word or excel so no need for the credit card here.
Well everything has gone well, there have been no fatalities and you have six perfect homes lined up! You have sorted out all the inoculations, the registrations and pedigrees are all done and after an hour on the phone you have finally managed to sort out the free kitten insurance.
However the kids now hate you with a vengeance because you are selling the babies. You are also heartbroken because you have bonded with the kittens, your head tells you they need to go but your heart is singing keep them, keep them all! Your husband is threatening divorce if they don’t go, he says it’s either him or them. Though tempted at such an opportunity it really would be unfair to let down the new families at such a late stage so unfortunately the husband will have to stay but you have made a mental note for the future.
Damage to House
Cats are generally well behaved and as cat owners we can live with a bit of stray fur or the occasional smelly litter tray as after all these can both be cleaned up. A good scratching post and keeping on top your cats claws with regular clipping will preserve your furniture and wallpaper. Some toys for entertainment, stimulation and exercise and a cat is usually fairly low maintenance.
Kittens on the other hand are an entirely different story!
Kittens just like babies need to be taught what appropriate behaviour is in a home they are sharing with people. Until you have managed to teach these valuable lessons please be prepared to live with a combination of kitten vomit, faeces and urine deposited in every conceivable location of your house including but not restricted to shoes, clean washing and your bed but strangely somehow never in the litter trays. Accept the fact that scratching posts are viewed as being for grown up cats where as wallpaper and leather suites are cool and are fair game really! Toys are generally for eating as a means to engineer a visit to the ‘out of hours vet’, the kittens do this because watching your face as you hand over to the credit card to the vet (again) is priceless!
Cat Breeder Last Words
So the kittens have finally left home and the kids now hate you. Your husband is slowly beginning to forgive you, however the brown stuff is definitely going to hit the fan when the credit card bill arrives. The house is a mess, your boss wants rid of you because you’re never in work and to top it all of the cat is screaming her head off in full blown call and wants more kittens!
Cat breeding is not easy. It is expensive, time consuming and can also be heartbreaking. However it can also be so rewarding, not in a financial sense as let’s face it costs a fortune to do it properly. Breeding cats is rewarding with the time spent with the kittens, weaning, litter training, socialising and training them not to be little hooligans. Plenty of laughs and tears along the way of course, but isn’t that what life’s all about?
I am sure some of the established breeders have cautionary tales of their own to add. Or maybe you are a new breeder that is not yet ready to run for the hills quite yet and have questions about cat breeding as a hobby.
Please add your comments and questions below.