Non-Profit Business of Breeding Cats
see that pedigreed, pet kittens are sold for $550 or more and assume that
breeders must be making a profit. It's hard to understand how expensive
breeding is without actually trying it. Reputable breeders will NEVER make
money, this is a hobby.
I hope this
outline will provide insight to pet owners who question prices & profits
decides they want to breed, they will usually have been the owner and
exhibitor of a show alter (pet). We began breeding after 2+ years of
showing, networking and learning about Maine Coon Cats. I’ve found
this experience essential to have reputable breeders willing to work with you.
Many people buy and show an alter from a local breeder, develop the desire to
breed and that same breeder then becomes their mentor and possibly supplier of
the first breeding cat. Not a necessity, but typically the case.
The same applies to finding a stud (stud
service see expense #4).
one year of prior networking (showing minimum $1500 and purchasing at least
one spayed/neutered pet kitten to show at $550).
at least one very good female kitten with breeding rights from an established
breeder, the prior networking is essential. Reputable breeders will not
sell a cat with breeding rights to someone new to the world of pedigree cats.
So after time is spent showing an alter, finding a female (queen) who is
registered and has an excellent pedigree can still be a task. In addition, the
queen needs to be an outstanding example of her breed, absolutely sound and
cosmetically much better than pet quality. Outstanding examples of the breed
don't grow on trees and so the price of a breeding queen is much higher than a
pet quality kitten.
most breeders require that this girl be shown to the status of at least a
Champion. To get to this point, the cat will need to be shown at a
minimum of a few times as a kitten, so it will be acclimated to the showing
experience, and then as an adult. A local cat show, where hotel
accommodations are not needed, will still run approximately $200 per weekend.
Expense #2: one
female kitten with breeding rights & shown to a title $2000 & up.
time a breeder buys a new kitten or cat for breeding she must make certain
that cat is healthy and won't transmit any diseases, parasites, or genetic
defects to the kittens (or to other cats already living in the home). The
veterinary testing includes a physical exam, stool exam for parasites, and
blood tests (FIV, feline leukemia). When you start with a kitten, that
baby will need its annual vaccinations, at least rabies, in addition to the
testing. Additionally, if the breeder hasn’t done so, I microchip all
of my cats.
Initial, Routine veterinary health screening and, micro-chipping about $125.
breeder must both purchase an excellent stud and build him stud quarters, or
he/she must locate a breeder with an excellent stud who is willing to provide
stud service. A responsible stud owner will want to protect her stud from
possible exposure to disease. Therefore, even though you had a thorough vet
exam of your queen when you first bought her, you will probably be asked to
repeat at least the blood tests and show the test results to the stud owner
prior to each and every breeding. Also, most stud owners will ask that
the queen come to the male’s home for breeding. That means travel, driving
or flying, food for the cats, etc….
stud outright not only costs the initial expense of the purchase price,
typically a minimum of $1000 (plus the vet care, etc…as with a female), but
most breeders want their male cats to be shown to the title of Grand Champion
or higher. To do this takes even more shows, which means more expense.
And if the title wasn’t a requirement, the only way other breeders would
want to use your male (which could provide some inflow of money), is if he’s
known on the show circuit. That cost would be two to three times as
great as it was for a female. And most important, the upkeep of a stud
male is also much greater than a female.
#4: stud service and
further health testing of queen, at least $700 per breeding. It's MORE
expensive and much more work to keep your own stud, so this cost is assuming
you can find a good stud to use.
must pay to register their cattery name with at least one cat association ($50
for CFA and $50 to TICA), must register their new breeding queen ($15), and
must register each litter produced ($10to each association). There will be at
least one litter per year and at least one kitten kept and registered per year
thereafter. In TICA, there are also membership dues to belong to a breed
group. This cost is $35/year.
registration fees, at least $155 the first year and at least $65 per year
must buy two or three textbook type reference books to help her learn what she
needs to know about making breeding decisions, veterinary screening, genetic
screening, rearing kittens, caring for females in heat, caring for pregnant
and lactating females, common feline diseases, feline nutrition, and much
more. Visiting the library is not sufficient because the library is unlikely
to have books that are up-to-date on feline husbandry - or may not have books
on that topic at all.
also participated in Cornell’s Feline Genetics Course, on-line, $375.
reference books/classes, about $500 the first year and at least $25 per year
needs special equipment to rear litters of kittens. At a minimum, the breeder
needs a heating pad safe for kittens to keep them warm ($40). Hypothermia is
the leading cause of death of young kittens. Also needed are clean rags for
bedding and disinfectants ($20), feeding tubes and feeding syringes for weak
or sick kittens ($5), KMR kitten formula (there is a kitten who needs
supplementation or who threatens to need it in almost every litter, $20),
cardboard kittening box (cheap), at least two small litter pans for built for
kittens ($15), an accurate scale to weigh kittens every day ($15 to $100),
first aid and kitten delivery kit (latex gloves, betadine, kaopectate,
millions of paper towels, eyedroppers, etc., about $30).
Expense #7: kitten
rearing equipment, about $145 to $230 for first litter and at least $30 for
every subsequent litter.
needs to advertise kittens, promote her cattery, promote her breed, and
network with other breeders. Advertising of kittens can be done various ways,
but will cost an absolute minimum of $100 per year if you are very lucky.
Most catteries now have as their primary form of advertisement, a
webpage. These can be professional or not. A professionally
designed site can run upwards of $500.
promotion and networking is not only to help the breeder advertise long-term,
but to altruistically help the breed, to enhance the breeder’s education,
and to provide the breeder with contacts that will help him/her achieve
breeding goals far into the future. To do these things a breeder must join at
least one cat association and at least one breeder's club at a cost of about
$50 per year in dues.
advertising is done in person at cat shows and on our website.
advertising, breed promotion, networking, about $160 per year minimum.
must have a sales contract and other cattery forms, a cattery brochure with
which to answer written inquiries, business cards, and must take photos of
breeding cats and all kittens for cattery documentation, advertising, and
other purposes. The breeder must make many phone calls, including long
distance phone calls, as a courtesy in returning calls received from kitten
clients and even those merely curious about the breed. The breeder must also
do long-term follow-up on every kitten sold, telephoning new owners regularly
to answer questions and nip problems in the bud. All these forms of
communication come at a cost that is hard to estimate accurately, but I would
say at least of $50 per year. Luckily, with the advent of the worldwide web,
email saves time and money towards communication.
Expense #9: forms,
phone calls, and other modes of communication, about $50/year.
breeders can be found exhibiting their cats at (a minimum of) a few cat shows
per year. Showing your cats is a tool used to verify you are producing
pedigree cats that meet the breed standard. Entering one cat into a
single show, in TICA, runs at least $60. In addition, there is almost
always travel involved. Driving 3-4 hours is an average distance to
attend a show; therefore 1-2 gallons of gas ($50), hotel for two nights ($120)
and food ($50) are the minimum expenses. Not to mention supplies such as
shampoos, cages, combs, etc..
Showing, supplies and the travel associated with, a min. of $2000/year.
MAINTENANCE OF ADULT CATS
litter, routine veterinary bills, and other basic maintenance costs will vary
depending on the quality of the food and litter, the number of toys and
special furniture items purchased for the cat(s) and more. It costs more than
$500 per year to maintain one healthy adult cat - and it can average as much
as $2000 per cat per year, especially as cats age.
Routine care for breeding cats (lets say just one queen) and a couple of pets
(remember those you purchased as show alters), $500/cat/year x 4cats = $2000
COSTS PER LITTER
you have the kittening equipment and other overhead expenses taken care of,
there are additional costs incurred per litter. They include:
be vaccinated right before she is bred or in some cases during the pregnancy.
That's at least $20. We also test our cats for FIV & Feline Leukemia
prior to every breeding. Those tests run $35. In addition,
our breeding cats are screened for HCM (Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy) & HD
(Hip Dysplasia). The HCM screening is done annually, at $300.
The screening for HD is done at least once in the cat’s breeding career at
runs $200. And today, DNA tests are becoming available for some genetic
diseases. Those run $60 per test.
Essential Veterinarian Care/Assessment, $700 per girl prior to breeding
will eat up to twice as much as usual during her pregnancy and up to three
times as much as usual while she is nursing the kittens. She needs special
premium quality food that is approved for pregnancy and lactation. That is two
6-ounce cans per day for 9 weeks of pregnancy and 3 cans per day for at least
8 weeks of lactation. Each can costs about 50 cents for premium food, so that
is 63 days X $1.00 + 56 days X $1.50 = $147.00.
Feeding the queen, $147 per litter
die within hours if they don't get enough to eat because of a feeding problem.
So you need to keep emergency formula, feeding tubes, and feeding syringes on
hand. The formula needs to be purchased fresh nearly every time you have a
litter, so that's $20 per litter.
will begin to eat solid food at age 4-6 weeks and will be eating almost
entirely solid food at age 8 weeks. At age 8 weeks, each kitten eats about two
3-ounce cans per day of premium food rated for growing kittens and will eat
perhaps 1/8 cup of dry premium kitten food each day. What they don't eat, they
spill soil, scatter, or play with until it must be discarded. The kittens will
stay with the breeder usually until age 12 weeks - and sometimes for much
longer. So that's a minimum of 3 cans X 4 weeks X 55 cents per can = $46. Then
the dry food adds up to 1/8 cup X 5 kittens X 55 days = 34.4 cups. So that's
about three 8-lbs bag of premium kitten food per litter, at $15.00 each.
Total food for kittens is $46 + $45 = $91.
will require three vaccinations, the first when their eyes open, a second at 6
weeks, one at age 9 weeks and a final at 12 weeks. Those cost $10 each if the
vet does it or $3 each if the breeder does it. So that's five kittens X 4
vaccinations X $10 per vacc = $200, or alternatively it is $30 if the breeder
does his/her own vaccinations.
Expense #16: For our average
litter, of five, vaccinations can run as low as $30 (breeder providing) or as
high as $200 (if the vet is providing them).
We spay each female kitten
prior to adoption. We believe this is responsible breeding that prevents new
owners from unintentionally failing to spay female kittens in time to prevent
accidental litters. Breeders aim to preserve their breeds but they also wish
to avoid adding to the numbers of homeless cats on the streets and in
shelters. The discounted rate, with our vet, averages $125.00 per kitten X two
kittens = $250. NOTE: The reason there are only two kittens spayed, and
not five, is because the breeder nearly always keeps one kitten from each
litter to see if it will have potential as a future breeding or show cat.
The neuter cost for the males is not factored in because our male kittens are
placed on an altering agreement. In the Maine Coon Cats, there is question as
to whether early neutering in males causes harm later in life (with regard to
an increased rate of growth plate fractures, etc.) so we don’t take the
chance; we require proof of neutering between 7-12 months before giving the
registration papers to the owners.
Expense #17: Spaying female
kittens prior to placement, $250
In virtually all litters there
is at least one kitten who during his 12 weeks living with the breeder
requires veterinary attention due to an umbilical infection, failure to thrive
normally, getting poked in the eye, falling off a table the wrong way,
developing an upper respiratory infection, developing a minor eye infection
during the period when the eyes are starting to open, needing a re-examination
after neutering, being born with a minor birth defect, developing a mysterious
limp, swallowing a foreign object, or many other possible calamities. Kittens
are like small human children. They have a talent for getting themselves into
scrapes or picking up bugs. The veterinary costs typically vary from a $35
exam (to be on the safe side) to $300 emergency surgery or treatment
Expense #18: A vet visit for a
minor problem with a kitten, $35
the queen requires a C-section to deliver her kittens or may require treatment
after the birth of the kittens due to diarrhea, intestinal obstruction,
mastitis, hemorrhaging, uterine infection, or other complications. The costs
associated with treating these problems may run up to $1000 for an emergency
off-hours C-section. Also, if C-section is required up to half of the litter
may die due to side effects of the anesthesia. Kittens may also be lost due to
the effects of complications on the queen's milk production.
litter was taken by C-section and it ran us $300. Two of the six kittens
#19: Possible C-section, minimum $300
will require at least one precautionary prenatal or prenatal veterinarian
examination, $35.00. In addition to the exam, we perform an
ultrasound ($125) and/or X-rays ($75) to determine pregnancy and the number of
kittens. This is done for every litter we have.
Prenatal Veterinarian Assessments $110
must be registered and the one kitten who is kept must be individually
registered with both TICA & CFA.
replenish, repair, replace some of the kittening equipment each litter (see
part I), $30.
Each of our
kittens is checked by our veterinarian (usually free of charge), microchipped
($30), given a health certificate (also free of charge) and tested for FIV
& FeLV ($30). $60 per kitten. Not all breeders do this.
Possible Exam, microchip, health certificate and blood test, $60 x 5 = $300.
keeping track, these are the costs to get started (including acquiring and
caring for alter pet(s) and a single queen for one year) and produced the
FIRST litter, in best case scenario where all goes well, a C-section is NOT
needed, and the breeder does her own vaccinations = $11658 (and that
doesn’t even include cat litter!)
INCOME FROM ONE LITTER OF KITTENS
breeder keeps one kitten and sells four, the income is 4 X $550 = $2200
$550 per kitten is spent very fast… $11658 - $2200 = $
much less than our first year losses, since our queen developed a uterine
infection during her first pregnancy, lost that entire litter, needed a
C-section for the second, and we had only two kittens to sell.
remember that due to the occasional accident of nature, you may also end up
with a kitten with a special health or behavioral problem, to which you must
give a lifetime of love and good care or sell at a reduced cost (usually that
means for free).
ECONOMIES OF SCALE?
say, maybe if a breeder buys more than one breeding queen and starts raising
more litters per year, THEN a profit can be made. Unfortunately, it
turns out that with cats the more breeding cats, the higher the cost climbs.
all, there won't be a best-case scenario with all the litters produced by
every cat; breeders are usually more in debt from some cats than others. A
percentage of the breeding cats purchased will also turn out to be unbreedable,
die unexpectedly, develop pyometra or have their reproductive lives cut short.
number of cats climbs beyond one or two, it becomes nearly impossible to
continue using stud service. Multiple queens can't ALL be shipped long
distances on a regular basis. Also, the stud service provider may be unable to
offer the stud services needed when the queens are in season. They have cats
of their own which need breeding.
a stud is purchased.
That means special stud housing that will cost at least several hundred
dollars in materials and several hundred more in equipment (e.g., special
cleanable surfaces, cat tree(s) and other niceties for the studhouse). Now the
stud must be maintained year-round whether he is siring litters or not.
queens have been purchased, problems may arise with them all co-existing. In
some cases, an unhappy cat can be confined to a room, separate from the stud
quarters, or she may just need to be spayed and adopted out to keep the peace.
breeders find home remodeling a necessity. With multiple breeding cats and
several litters of kittens born per year, separate rooms are needed to isolate
not only a stud, but young fragile litters. Cleanable, bleachable surfaces are
essential for disinfecting because having litters around all the time greatly
increases the risk of infectious disease. It becomes extremely difficult to
keep carpets clean in a house of multiple cats, especially with young ones
underfoot all the time, and is why many breeders choose to replace the carpets
with Pergo or tile or similar cleanable surface. Old furniture is also usually
replaced with furniture that is easily to clean and doesn’t show wear.
Yes, it is
possible to keep a home sanitary and odorless when having multiple healthy and
happy breeding cats, but it requires money and time.
multiple cats and multiple litters there will, despite the best of vaccination
and quarantine systems, occasionally be epidemics. These may be minor or they
may be serious, but they always mean large vet bills. It's very much like
running a day-care center full of young children who succumb to every new
virus and bug that's out there. A common, minor case of upper
respiratory running through the house will cost at least $50 in antibiotics
for everyone. Another common, yet worse, case is ringworm in a cattery.
Good breeders, even with excellent sanitation in the cattery, occasionally
bring infectious disease home from cat shows, the vets, etc…to properly
treat ringworm, all cats in contact with the infected cat should not only be
cultured, but treated over a long period of time. Proper treatment will
last months (at the least) and cost thousands of dollars. Additionally,
the cattery must be “closed” which means no cat or kitten can leave during
the infected time. A breeder recently quoted her costs to properly treat and
test at $10,000.
So why do
breeders bother to breed multiple cats and litters?
Because we want to keep the breed going and also hopefully improve the breed.
Accomplishments are small when breeding only one cat.
is it worth the money?
Because we love our cats more than our money (which is a good thing because
after all of those expenses there isn’t much).
is a modified version of Dr. Cris Bird’s essay “Where
The Money You Pay for a Kitten Goes”. Dr. Bird breeds
Siamese cats under the name Sarsenstone cattery and has given written
permission for the editing of her essay.