This is written purely on the views of us at Stylisticat and should not be used or reproduced anywhere else without permission. This is simply taking into account our own views and morals on what is ethical breeding and what best guidance we can give to those who come to us looking for their first kitten in their breeding programme. We hope it answers our most commonly asked questions.
1. I’d like to start breeding cats – how do I start?
a. First of all, write down a list of all the reasons why you want to start – it’s pretty simple, you love cats and you love kittens so you’d like to be able to produce your own and break even for costs along the way or perhaps you want to try and make money?
b. Now list the good and the bad things – things you think that are important on each side.
c. The good times are wonderful - How do you think you would cope with the bad times?
d. Now you have to choose the breed that you feel you admire the most or if you like more than one breed then choose the breed which you would like to start with.
e. Study the breed standard of that breed well. Get to know what a ‘good’ example of the breed is and start to have a look at kitten adverts to see which ones you think are good or not.
2. Who can advise me on what kittens are good for me to breed from i.e. breed quality?
Find a Mentor. You can do this via TICA or by asking on Social Media Breed Mentor groups.
Remember social media is full of deception and not everything you see is true. Take everything you read with a pinch of salt.
3. How do I know if the breeder is a good person to buy from? Isn’t it best to judge by Facebook followers and likers?
a. Don’t be fooled. Just because someone appears ‘experienced’ because they have loads of kitten buyers commenting on their cats purchased from the breeder, doesn’t always mean they are a good breeder. Look at the timelines of the breeders. Do the cats with their kittens look clean, look like they feel safe and happy? – or do they look like they are scared of the person taking the picture? Remember many breeders have a lot of kitten testimonials via Facebook or other avenues because they produce several kittens on an annual basis – some in the region of more than 300 kittens a year. That’s a lot of buyers…but, the stance of breeding – is this really a cattery you want to morally look up to? Will this person have the time to help you and guide you if something goes wrong?
b. How many kittens have these breeders produced in the last year that you are aware of? Is it a kitten farm?
c. When was the last time the Queen had a litter before her most recent one? Are they breeding their cats ‘back-to-back’? The guideline is 6 months minimum per litter for a break unless there is exceptional circumstances, such as retirement from breeding after next litter.
d. Do the Queens and Studs appear to be hand selected and bought into the cattery suitable for purpose? Some cats are only in catteries because they were ‘super deals’, ‘moved along’, ‘required urgently i.e. a stud’, ‘part of an exchange’ etc. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes the above can be fantastic examples but always criticise the parents of the kittens you are looking at – after all your kitten has a good chance of looking like one or both of them when they are grown up. Some cats are bought on the basis that it’s all that someone can afford and they are working with poorer quality cats than those who save to import fantastic examples, which cost twice the price of those in the country already after shipping costs, taxes etc.
e. Do all the “Likers/ Followers” tend to be the same group of people? It is known that not all breeders like each other but what you will find in the social media world of breeding is that some breeders can work together to foster a ‘like for a like’ relationship, where the circle/clique support each others adverts and posts. You will often see a pattern forming between these breeders posts and be able to work out who is working with who. This should be useful to you when looking to obtain advice on the standard of a certain kitten that you wish to purchase as a breeder i.e. groups are often happy to compliment their friends kittens but slate others who are not within their clique. This is where you need a good, professional non-biased mentor who is happy to work independently.
4. I’m finding it really hard to source a kitten which has all the breed standard points. Where do I look?
a. Welcome to breeding. You will never get a cat with every single point of a breed standard – there is always something to work with but this is where is important to be selective and decide what you are personally willing to accept and what you deem is not allowed in your programme. Make sure you get advice on a kitten so that you can have help to identify what traits tend to stick in a programme and what is difficult to remove i.e. small ears when they should be large, or long tail when it should be short etc.
b. Choose what is important to you in that breed and then start selecting what ones you think are good. Always look at the lines – this means look at other cats which have been bred from to create the Queen and Stud of the kittens. Look at the Stud and Queen very critically. Also, remember that you will be looking to pair up your kitten with another one to mate, so you will be looking for something that would complement the other referring back to the breed standard. So if the kitten you buy has small ears when they should be large, you want to find the paired partner with big ears to try and improve that trait.
5. How do I know what I should be testing my kitten for in terms of health tests?
a. Every breed is different. Some breeds are more prone to certain health issues than others. This is where breeders should help you out to identify what you need to test for. Another source of information which is quite useful is Langfords – they have a breed selector and you can have a look at what you can test with them and what is known to affect the breed.
b. We test all our cats for PK Deficiency. You can see more on this below.
c. If buying a breeding cat we always have an upper respiratory panel and a faecal panel performed to rule out infectious diseases. Read about them below.
d. REMEMBER some tests you may need to do annually such as HCM testing. You must incorporate the cost of this into your breeding planned costs.
6. Can I make money breeding cats? What does it actually cost?
This depends on a whole host of factors that it is hard to define for each individual.
a. Our costs – something to consider is that a breeder can house their cats in a dog kennel if they choose and others can house them in acres. We say, “Some breeders choose to run their catteries at the bottom of the cost mountain and others choose to run them at the top. Where you choose to place yourself is entirely your choice and doesn’t mean that those ran nearer the top are any better than those ran near the middle, but they are definitely better than the bottom”. As long as your cats are well cared for and are fit and healthy for breeding then your costs come down to choice. It is also up to you what you sell your cats for, market influence obviously has an impact at that point though.
b. Relating to all the above points, if you have high-quality kittens who have been mated through hand-selected parents, tested for diseases and have a well-run cattery then there is no reason why you cannot charge more for these fantastic kittens, than those who do not test or import new bloodlines.
c. You have to make the right choices for you and your cats. A fancy kittening fibreglass box costing £300 is not really any better than a recycled cardboard box. You choose where you spend your money and through time you will learn what is worth spending money on and what is not.
d. If you decide to show your cats, the money you think you will regain from sales from having a champion cat is often eaten up by the physical costs of showing in itself. Showing is definitely for those who are passionate as it does cost a lot of money to do it consistently where travelling around the country and the world is involved. Many breeders competing in the classes will be friends but some can really dislike each other and it can be a very tense environment.
7. Can I have my Queens and Studs in the house – do I actually need ‘cattery housing’?
a. Yes, of course you can – but this comes with a firm ‘cat urine’ warning!! Females and males spray when they are in heat and some females actually spray when they are not in heat just because they have hormones in their body. This is why it is always best to spay a female and neuter a male who you have as a pet.
b. You may also end up with kittens far too early or too often as you can’t control when the male slips out a door into the other room – and it only takes a second in some cases!
c. You can keep Queens in the house and keep the stud outside if you wish to remain a small cattery. When I say outside, I mean in an insulated stud pen where they have an outside run and an indoor sleeping area, with litter tray, food and water bowls and a heater/ heat pads.
d. If you have a male in your home you will soon see the devastation of the urine sprayed in places you can’t find and the smell is just awful. Don’t take the chance! Males are usually okay in the house until around 6 months.
e. We have many males who don’t spray at all in their pens and others who have definitely marked their territory.
f. Always remember that keeping a male on your premises will involve a smell so do bear this in mind in terms of neighbours.
8. How often will my cat get pregnant?
a. You will have heard of a cat in heat or in season. Our youngest in heat was 5 months old (I’ve heard of even earlier!). After the first period of your cat calling (meowing very loud over and over), they may go back into heat every few weeks or months depending on the individual cat.
b. Care must be taken to ensure your cat doesn’t get pyometra if she’s calling on a number of occasions and not being mated.
c. Some choose to mate their cats around 9 months old if their cat has been calling repeatedly to prevent this from happening, some disagree with this method by saying the risk is negligible and the cat is too young because kittens are not classed as adult cats until 12 months of age.
d. A good age is 12 - 16 months old for a cat to have her first mating and on her second heat at a minimum.
9. I’ve bought a female so how do I look into Stud for her – do I just call someone with an advert when she is in heat?
a. B-I-G Mistake. Please don’t ever just ‘take your cat along’ to someone you don’t know. Try and plan your mating as soon as you have decided on a kitten! It can take months to find the right breeder.
b. Ideally, we would recommend you buying your own boy because you can test him and your cats will be fully associated with his smells and surroundings. For reasons on why we don’t stud or what we recommend for stud click VIEW MORE BLOGS and scroll down to "Why we don't offer Stud".
c. If buying a boy is not an option in the initial stages because you would like to try and test if you like breeding first, then we recommend you getting to know people through their catteries. You will be able to find out what cats have been health tested including their lineage and you will be able to have a well planned mating. Referring back to my earlier point, you will also need to search out a stud which matches your queen to ensure they compliment each other.
d. Breeding for the sake of breeding and not actually aiming for better kittens than the parents or good breed standard is often frowned upon in the breeding world so choose your words wisely. Everyone is watching on social media. Many sit with their claws out ready to swipe your legs from under you and trip you up before you’ve even began.
e. NOTE: Be very wary of using stud, i.e where cats come from that have been used at that stud already – are they from known diseased catteries?
10. Are breeders really good at supporting each other? Will I get loads of support?
Well if you got this far, you must be still interested in breeding despite the work involved.
a. The answer to that is – it’s just your luck. It depends where you buy your cats from and if the people around you ‘like’ that person or not – even though it’s absolutely nothing to do with you (why someone else doesn't like them). You may be pigeon-holed because you have cats from a cattery and this goes back to the group/clique I was referring to earlier. It is completely unavoidable in my opinion as it happened to us too. The longer you breed the more people start to see who you are and the effort you put in. You gain respect and you lose it at the same time depending on who you work with. It can be VERY petty and exhausting.
b. Some people will not buy kittens from certain lines so CHOOSE WISELY.
c. Some breeders have it in their contracts that they are not allowing breeding of their kittens to certain lines.
d. Some breeders will be completely unbiased and help guide you. These are rare gemstones. Keep them close and make sure you let them know how important they are to you and your programme.
e. Have you called up about kittens and had a breeder say to you – we have the best, don’t buy from them or them? That’s the breeders to avoid. They are already ‘bitching’ to you before you’ve even agreed to take a cat from them and through time, don’t think it won’t be you they talk about on the phone.
f. Choose those who remain professional. We have had phonecalls where we have been ‘set up’ and asked questions about another breeder who had kittens for sale at the same time. The phonecalls were clearly to try and get us to slate the other breeder for reasons unknown to us, but every time we have remained professional and tried to urge the person to get in touch with the breeder they have questions about them. As much as you have your own opinion on another breeder it is important that you keep it to yourself unless you have been asked about known problems in a cattery, then you may have to say to protect someone coming to harm. You will learn over time that there is so much time-wasting involved in cat breeding and it’s the people that cause it – not the cats!
g. We have a lot of good friends in the breeding world, some of them have become such good friends over time that we spend social time together. That is the flip side to the bad times – you will learn who you can trust, but it is a journey and takes a lot of self-belief and your own analytical skills.
h. Another point worth noting is that some breeders may have been breeding for a long time but still not actually know much about certain aspects of breeding – some simply don’t care. Do your research and you will arm yourself with knowledge.
11. What about contracts – what should my contract have in it and are they worth the paper they are written on?
a. Most contracts aren’t enforceable – without great cost anyway.
b. It is worth noting that it is given to you with the trust you will respect the conditions in it.
c. If you are sold a kitten without a contract and a ‘letter’ of sale, it is worth noting that you have nothing to go back on if there is a problem with your kitten down the line.
d. If a contract has a ‘sum’ attached to a clause, then it is enforceable at small claims court provided there is proof of fault. We have sums attached to very important parts of our contracts.
e. Do not leave a breeders premises ‘owed’ paperwork. Make sure all registration and testing certificates are in-hand. You may learn the hard way about making this mistake.
12. What about having the same cat appear in a cat’s pedigree? Isn’t that inbreeding and should be avoided?
This is often misunderstood and in simple terms, a breeder may double up on cats in a pedigree to try and ‘lock in’ a good trait by doubling up on the good quality. When doubling up on the good genes, the bad genes are also doubled up and can help a breeder identify faults within a line to try and eradicate them from their programme.
13. So anyone with a lot of cats should be avoided?
Definitely not. All I am saying is to make sure you visit and see for yourself the conditions in which they live in. If you are satisfied that the cats are healthy and happy, not pacing back and forth continually in a pen, kept in sanitary conditions then you can make an educated decision. Some larger breeders have staff to help them keep their cats clean and happy. Some do not but work all hours to ensure that they have the above. Some work all hours but have so many cats that they do not receive any human interaction and become ‘damaged’. This can pass on to kittens.
14. Are there any ways you quickly identify what will be worth looking into in your pursuit of a new breeding cat?
a. We look at the pictures initially:
i. Is the mum healthy looking – a good weight?
ii. Does mum appear happy with the breeder taking pictures or does she look scared of the person?
iii. Is the bedding covered in old faeces, urine, litter and food? Does it look clean – take your eyes away from the kittens in the picture and look around?
iv. Are the third eyelids over on the mum or the kittens (often a sign of an underlying problem)?
b. We look at videos if we can’t visit:
i. Are the kittens scared of being handled or do they appear friendly?
ii. Is the mum friendly and loving to the breeder in the video (Socialisation identification)?
iii. Is there any runny eyes or nose or sneezing heard (disease identification)?
15. What if I don’t like it once I have kittens? What if I can’t afford to keep breeding or look after them properly with all the tests?
Usually the breeders will take your cats back or help you sell them on again. This is why it’s important to find a good breeder to buy from.
16. I got some prices for the tests you recommended and I don't know how I would break even when I sold on my lower generations or SBTs!
Many breeders don't test for this reason but that doesn't mean it's okay. It is possible you could reduce the frequency of testing but still carry out regular testing. i.e. reduce testing from annually to bi-annual. At least in this instance you are doing the best you can.
17. How do I know what’s good quality/ standard when they are small?
You will develop a critical eye once you get more experience with the breed. A mentor will help you. It is advisable not to buy a kitten for breeding until they are at least 10 – 16 weeks old and you can properly analyse their development against their standard. You may find that you will have a good line come from a breeder which already has a waiting list against it for breeding kittens. This is usually a good indication that the kittens will be good quality.
Remember: A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor...
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All about Stylisticat, written by Kayleigh McIntosh-Lowrie