The vast majority of breeders just drift into breeding - some set out
to have a bit of fun with one queen, some are intent on making money
(I'd be very surprised if they have ever opened this book, or indeed
any other book on animal husbandry!), some have one litter more or less
by mistake - and find they like it. Of all those owners who rear one
litter of kittens, less than forty percent rear a second, and of all
those who join a pedigree cat registering body only about 20% are still
breeders after 3 years.
One or Two Litter Breeders
The huge turnover in breeders has a multitude of causes, not least
amongst them being 'one litter for the children'; or finding that they
love rearing the kittens so much that they can't bear to part with them
(instantly their 'cat capacity' is all filled up!).
Failing to achieve instant success on the show bench, sometimes because
the breeder from whom they made their initial purchase misled them
about the quality of the kitten or because the other exhibitors at
their first show were so horrid to them, also cuts short breeding
A disaster with their first litter, through ignorance, lack of
assistance, or through having been sold a kitten with a poor health
prospect (eg flu, Coronavirus or leukaemia shedding); so that the first
litter they attempt to raise has endless expensive and distressing
problems is also a sure 'turn off'.
Hitting the Two year Barrier
After 2-3 years, those breeders who have rapidly bred and kept a lot of
kittens may be beginning to have real health and management problems in
their cattery. This is particularly so when insufficient time, thought
and effort has been expended in the establishment of pens, runs etc.
These problems cannot be solved without a serious analysis, and honest
assessment of the situation, and the expenditure of money on better
facilities. Desexing the cats, and finding homes for them is
frequently an answer to this problem, and is really a blessing for the
welfare of all those kittens which they subsequently did not breed. If
you think you might be approaching this crunch point soon, start
assessing your situation now.
*If you don't have
even a kitten pen
, save up and buy one, or if you are handy,
*If you have
started out with kittens of more than one breed,
Desex the members of the breed in which you have the least interest,
those you find hardest to sell, those you have learnt over time,
are not of show quality. If possible, find these cats pet homes. Simply
try to reduce the population down to a size where you are comfortable
caring for it, and learn from your initial over-enthusiasm, that you
*Ask for some help
- not everyone in the Cat Fancy will be mean to you, indeed, many may
see you as a potentially sound breeder who just got a bit carried away.
There are appalling disasters every couple of years amongst such new
breeders - make sure that you don't become one - think of your cats.
Planning to Stay for the Long Term
If you are just setting out as a breeder, try to avoid ever reaching
the 'crunch' point, make some ground rules for yourself to govern the
growth rate of your cat population. If you have cleaned up your act, as
suggested above, you might now consider how to proceed to avoid the
same problems recurring. The following are some suggested rules which
you might adopt, they may be modified or supplemented to suit your
1 Decide what your
maximum number should be
, work all your choices within this
constraint, less one (in case you breed a kitten so stunning that
everyone gets down on their knees and begs you to keep it!)
2 Don't buy a new
kitten on impulse
: all new stock purchases to be carefully
considered, well planned, and the very best quality you can afford
3 Don't buy a new
breed unless you plan to change your main emphasis
to a new
area: a new breed almost invariably means that you can see ways that it
can be improved, that you can breed a better specimen - this means your
population expands at a faster rate
4 Don't just have
litters for the sake of it
, plan every one carefully, have a
list of objectives that a mating might achieve:
introduces a new colour/pattern/hair
tests to see whether your cat is carrying a particular recessive, hair
length, pattern, colour (or even a defect)
possible upgrade of characteristics eg type, eye colour, ear placement
likely to produce better temperament kittens
test mating with another line, with long term view to buying a stud, or
to choose complementary lines to broaden your own line.
correction of breed fault in your queen
hopefully to produce a show winning litter, containing breeding quality
Choices of matings which fulfil more than one objective are obviously
most satisfactory, but don't be afraid to occasionally go for the wild
card mating - it may be disastrous, but it may also exceed your wildest
dreams. This is a good mating to try when kitten sales are good, and
you know that the progeny will sell quickly, whatever the show quality.
5 If you are going
to buy a new kitten, reassess your existing population
. Is there
a kitten at home which you don't need to keep, or a cat which you no
longer think good enough? Aim to replace an existing breeding cat
and find the retiring one a good home. This becomes an essential
strategy when you are approaching your maximum number
6 Never buy or
breed a new kitten to keep without first deciding where it is going to
. Will it make your queen colony too large? What will you do
if she turns out to be a witch that won't live with other cats? Will it
mean that you must acquire another kitten pen - and where is it going
to go? Even more importantly, if it is a stud-to-be, do you HAVE THE
MONEY AND THE SPACE TO PUT UP HIS STUD HOUSE BEFORE HE IS 4 MONTHS OLD?
7 Never keep a
small, specially appealing or runty kitten
- particularly one
that you have practically hand raised. I have found that these little
fur persons are very appealing to the kitten buyers - just pop them in
with another full price kitten, just for the cost of their vaccinations
- its good PR and ensures they are properly cared for.
8 Each time your
cat population increases for the medium term, buy an extra carry basket
- otherwise what will you do if you have to evacuate?
9 Don't be afraid
to run on a couple of promising kittens for a few months
one or neither - don't keep them both.
10 Remember to
consciously reduce your numbers from time to time
consolidating your line into two or three cats - if the line is worth
having you will have sold progeny to other breeders, and the risk of
losing what you have achieved is reduced as you can always buy/mate
back into your own line.
11 Tell yourself the
be dispassionate about your achievements, if you don't
win much at all, it isn't all the judges' bias. Don't kid yourself that
the poor brood queen will be OK next time - desex her. Count all the
adult cats - don't let your eye skim past the 5 or 6 geriatrics out the
back - they still have to be fed and cared for - and feline old age can
incur costs - they are still part of the total population count.
12 Recite this
whenever you are tempted to make a rash or unplanned move.
Quality, not quantity
. Quality, not quantity.