Cat Breeding: an introduction

Discover the main things to consider when deciding whether or not to become involved in cat breeding

Cat breeding chocolate british shorthair

Cat breeding is an incredibly rewarding, challenging and sometimes heartbreaking activity. This article is intended to be an initial introduction to the basics of what is involved, and is really for anyone who is wondering whether they should become involved in cat breeding.  We breed British Shorthair cats, but this advice applies to anyone who is considering any breed of cat.

Here are just a few things to consider before you decide…

Cat breeding: time

The very first thing to consider is whether you have the time available for cat breeding. It can be very demanding!

  • You will need to know when your girls are ‘calling’, which means when they are ready to become pregnant. This involves keeping an eye on them every day to watch for any changes in their behaviour. With some cats it is very obvious, and they will miaow so loudly that they will disturb your neighbours! With other cats, there can be almost no signs at all….this can be dangerous because it is not good for a cat to have multiple calls, so you do need to give them a lot of attention.

  • When you have a cat that is due to give birth, you will need to be with her in case of any emergencies. Cats can deliver any time from day 60 to day 70 of their pregnancies, so you could be in for 10 days of ‘kitten watch’! This means not a lot of sleep! And then when the kittens finally do arrive, they usually come in the middle of the night!

  • Raising and socialising kittens requires interaction throughout the day

  • If one of your cats ever gets poorly, you will need to be around to take care of them (although, of course, this is the same with any pet)  


Cat breeding: finances

There are a huge variety and quantity of expenses involved in cat breeding: make sure you have a good source of income so that you can afford to do it!


Cat breeding: a Stud boy

If you have the time and the resources available to you, the next thing to consider is whether you will have your own stud boy, or whether you will go out to stud. Going out to stud means using somebody else’s stud boy. There are pros and cons to each option.

  • Having your own stud boy is incredibly rewarding, and is much safer for your cats….but a stud boy will almost always spray or urinate to mark his territory so you need to be prepared for that. A stud boy will also need at least 3 girls to keep him happy...or his testosterone levels will drive him crazy! You will need to socialise your stud boy every single day, or he can become frustrated and aggressive

  • If you choose to go out to stud, you will not have to care for your own stud boy. There are drawbacks to this though

    • Many girls stop calling because of the stress of being put in a cat carrier and transported to a new environment. This can mean a long journey for you, a stud fee paid (usually around £200-£300) and then another long journey to take her home, only to try it all over again a couple of weeks later!

    • Any stud boy who is at ‘open stud’, which means other people can bring their girls to him, is at a very high risk of carrying multiple infectious conditions. This means that there is a serious risk to the health of you girl….and even worse, if your queen did get sick, she would likely also be pregnant, and then you would have a sick pregnant queen, and then likely sick kittens too.


Cat breeding: space

The next thing to consider is whether you have enough space. If you want to have your own stud boy you will need space for him, and at least 3 girls. If you decide to go out to stud, then clearly you can have just one girl, or more...however many you feel you have the space and the time for. When considering the issue of space, bear in mind that it is far better for cats if they do not have to share a litter tray. If you are going out to stud, it is absolutely essential that you can quarantine your girls for at least 4 weeks, but preferably longer, on their return. If you do not do this, and one of your girls picks something up, it will infect all of your cats and be very difficult to eradicate. So think about how you want to keep your cats, and how much space you have available to you..then decide how many cats you have space for, and stick to that number! Overcrowding is very bad for cats and kittens - it causes stress and stress affects a cat’s immune system, making them more prone to serious illness. You do not want sick kittens….there is simply no point in bringing animals into this world to be born into sickness and suffering.


Cat breeding: attachment

The next thing to consider is how you will feel when your kittens leave you to go to their new homes. Some people find this very difficult, in fact some people find it impossible! So be honest with yourself about how you would feel saying goodbye to your beautiful kittens.


Cat breeding: stress

Cat breeding is a wonderous, fantastic, inspiring and joy-filled activity. But it is also heartbreaking and stressful. There are moments where you are making decisions that you know could literally mean the difference between life and death. And usually it is when you have been awake all night and not had a wink of sleep. These moments are hard, and they do not get any fact they seem to get harder each time. Fortunately, the positive times hugely outnumber the difficult times...but be prepared. If you do not like stressful situations, if you don’t function well under stress, or you don’t think you could handle the heartbreak, then be honest with yourself about that: cat breeding is not for everyone.


Cat breeding: choosing your breed

If you have the temperament and the resources to become involved in cat breeding, then the next step is to choose your breed. I am a big advocate of following your heart with this….do your research but ultimately just follow your instincts and what is meant to be, will be. Things to consider are:

  • the availability of the breed of cat in your country,

  • the temperament of the cat,

  • the average litter size of the cat,

  • health problems of the breed,

  • health tests that would be required for the breed

  • what body you will register your kittens with.


Cat breeding: choosing your cats

Choosing your  cats may seem like the easy bit…...but trust me, it isn’t! There are a plethora of kitten adverts out there on the internet. When you start out all of the adverts look very similar. In time and with experience you will start to realise that, unfortunately, this is far from the truth. Some things to consider are:

  • Your cat must be registered with an official registering body like GCCF, TICA or FIFE

  • Your cat must be registered on the ACTIVE or BREEDING register, otherwise you will not be able to register any kittens from your cat, which would be a disaster

  • If a breeder is advertising the entire litter as active/for breeding, run a mile! There is no way that every kitten in a litter is ever a good enough example of the breed to be suitable for breeding. Anyone who tells you different is seeking to make a profit at your expense

  • Your cat should be a very good to exceptional example of the breed. You can look up the breed standard for your chosen breed which will tell you what the ideal cat should look like

  • Your cat should come from a mother with good maternal instincts

  • Make sure your cat is genetically healthy AND free from any infectious conditions. This is essential. Take your time, research health issues in your breed and the signs of infectious illnesses. Find a breeder who prioritises health and ask them about their cleaning regime and how they minimise the risk of viral and bacterial infections. Infectious conditions that you should research include:

    • Feline Coronavirus (the cause of FIP)

    • Cryptosporidium

    • Tritichomonas Foetus

    • Ringworm

    • Campylobacter

    • Chlamydia

    • FIV

    • FELIV

    • Feline herpes

    • Upper Respiratory Tract infections

  • Do not be impatient: put the research in and be willing to wait for a kitten from your chosen breeder. Do not buy the first kitten you find online that is available, just because he or she is available.  If you bring an infectious condition into your home, it will be incredibly difficult to eradicate. Always quarantine new cats for at least 4 weeks, preferably longer. Investing time and patience at this stage is absolutely worth it.


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