How to become a cat breeder – some thoughts focusing on ethics

This page is in two parts. The second part, half way down the page, I wrote about 12 years ago. In that section you can tell that I dislike the idea of cat breeding for the simple reason that we have too many cats in shelters. We don’t need to artificially create more. However, people need to be tolerant of other people’s desires and wishes. I think ethics is the first and foremost issue with respect to cat breeding. It needs to be done as ethically as possible within the context that it is, arguably, inherently unethical.

Blue British Shorthair at a cat show
Blue British Shorthair at a cat show. Photo: Pixabay.
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As I mentioned below, it is fairly easy to set up as a cat breeder in terms of the practical obstacles and finances (at a basic level and relatively speaking but depending upon how professional or extensive you want the operation to be). However, there are certain issues and it can be quite complicated. For example, what about genetics? Breeders need to know cat genetics and this is a complicated subject. I feel fairly sure that a lot of cat breeders don’t know enough about cat genetics. You’ll need a website too. That’s beyond most people. And you’ll need to maintain it and continually build it (a blog section) if you want it to be picked up by Google and the other search engines. Otherwise, it will be more or less invisible.

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Lynne Moorman and Tarek at the Sydney Royal show in 2019
Lynne Moorman and Tarek at the Sydney Royal show in 2019. Photo: Lynne Moorman (believed).

You will need to be registered with one of the cat associations. The three big ones as I see it are the CFA and TICA in the USA (TICA is international) and the GCCF in the UK. Internationally there is the WCF (World Cat Federation) and the Fédération Internationale Féline (FIFe).

Probably the best thing to do is to go to some cat shows and meet the exhibitors and get talking. This should get you into cat breeding in a fairly pleasant way and you can go from there. Certainly, you’re going to have to contact one of the major cat associations and discuss the matter with them. They should provide all the advice you need.

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I can remember a story about neighbours complaining about a cat breeder operating from home (as most of them do). There were complaining about the noise that the female cats made when calling for a mate. This is caterwauling. You have to keep cats that are not neutered and spayed. Therefore, their behaviour is raw cat. It is unmodified by the sterilisation process. Normally breeders keep their breeding cats in cages. I don’t like that idea but cat breeders accept it.

Most cat breeders are hobby breeders. They do it at a fairly low level to make a bit of pocket money. I would expect many of them not to be dependent upon the income as their sole source of income. I spent 10 days with A1 Savannahs years ago. They had a very big operation with many enclosures. It was more like a factory than a hobby. It depends upon your objectives.

Informal breeding of non-purebred cats

Ironically, everything that I have said above and below relates to breeding purebred cats. There are a reasonable number of people who informally breed non-purebred cats. They just have two cats, a male and female, and they don’t get them neutered or spayed and they let them mate. They then sell the cats to neighbours to make a bit of pocket money. There is absolutely no method to this at all. As I said, at a basic level cat breeding can be very inexpensive and straightforward because cats are very good at procreation 😢.

I can remember my neighbour when I lived in a block of flats. She behaved incredibly unethically and allowing her non-purebred cats to mate. When one of them was born blind, she wanted me to adopt the cat. I couldn’t do that at the time because I had just adopted my own cat. And I lived in a flat with limited space. She conveniently lost the cat in the undergrowth around her flat where he died. The thought haunts me to this day. Now on the topic of ethics, what follows is more of the same.

My earlier thoughts on becoming a cat breeder – focusing on the ethical side

It is relatively easy to start if you want to become a cat breeder at a basic level or it may seem so because, for instance, you don’t need to find premises as you can work from home. Basically, all you need to get started are two cats, a male and a female, that are unaltered (neither neutered nor spayed). You can buy them from an established breeder. Or you can buy a female and hire a stud boy. All-in-all it is a business that is pretty easy to get started in and the start-up costs are relatively small. And you can work part-time and fit in everything else around the business, really nicely. No problems then….

…The major obstacle to becoming a cat breeder is not so much the mechanics or the money but the ethics. And I think you need to look ask some wide-ranging and tough questions before you get off the ground. These are the questions I would ask. But note that these are the questions of a person who dislikes cat breeding and is an animal advocate. I am with PETA on this topic. They are against breeding. If we are honest it goes against all ideas of animal welfare.

Breeding melanistic F4 Savannah cat in his cage
Breeding melanistic F4 Savannah cat in his cage at A1 Savannahs. Photo: MikeB
  1. Can you reconcile bringing more companion cats into the world when humankind is euthanizing between millions of feral and stray cat every year in the United States alone (we don’t have reliable figures so this is a wide range)? The figures will be less in say Europe and the UK but they will be large numbers nonetheless. The lack of reliable numbers tells us how unconcerned we are about it.
  2. Are you doing it purely for money or do we wish to contribute to the chosen breed (i.e. are you thinking wider than self and are you thinking about cat!)?
  3. Will you test for genetically transmitted diseases such as HCM (heart disease) and breed to avoid them. Take for instance the Maine Coon which is predisposed to HCM. A good percentage of cats of this breed develop HCM. The breeders seem to accept it. This looks wrong to me. Nearly all breeds have inherited illnesses.
  4. Following on from the above, once started will you have sufficient self-discipline and a sufficiently ethical approach to stop breeding a cat when and if the cat has a genetically transmitted disease and thereby suffer financial loss?
  5. If and when your cat or cats are found to be carrying a defective gene causing disease, will you have the moral courage and self-discipline to inform other breeders?
  6. Will you commit to only breeding for health and personality, with appearance coming third in priority, even if this means losing awards and falling profits? Note: this almost impossible to achieve as the breed standards guide on appearance and must be followed. These guides sometimes work against health.
  7. Will you employ the services of a vet when required? Veterinary costs must be one of the major expenses for a breeder
  8. If you breed an ill cat and sell the cat innocently to a breeder and subsequently find out about the illness, are you able to tell the buying breeder, reimburse and neuter the cat?
  9. Are you able to talk to other breeders about genetically inherited diseases in a reasonable manner and praise those breeders who are open about this difficult subject?
  10. Do you love animals and cats and, in any decision making concerning the business, will you always place as first priority the welfare of the cats in your charge?

If yes, to all of the questions above, you have, in my view, the correct attitude to cat breeding. At that point in the process of how to become a cat breeder, it must then be all about learning about the breed, meeting with fellow and experienced cat breeders (at cat shows, for example), contacting the CFA if in America (or TICA) or the GCCF if in the UK and asking questions. The CFA have a mentoring service, for instance.

All the usual business start-up work should apply, to a degree at least, such as a business plan. What is the market like? Advertising? Website? – can I build one and how much will it cost? What are the profit margins? (small unless you are a big-time breeder with tons of “success”. And the more ethical one is the smaller the margins are and there lies the rub). How big do I want to be and will I need outdoor cages etc..?

I am not a breeder myself, just a concerned person who has met breeders and thought about this. The kind of questions I ask here are not necessarily comprehensive, they are not meant to be, but the biggest obstacle by far in working out how to become a cat breeder is answering in the affirmative the above questions or questions like them.

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