If you're serious about wanting to become a breeder (and I don't mean having one or two litters just for fun) - and we all had to start somewhere - then read on. If you still want to do this at the end of this page, then you're probably well on the way to understanding what is involved, and you're going into it with your eyes open. If you don't want to do it, then you have the sense to stop before you are in a mess: well done!

Breeders do breed for fun - we would be lying if we pretended we didn't, and some attempt to breed for money, but my opinion of that is low: unless you're breeding an expensive breed you can only make a profit if you short-change the cats on welfare and feeding. Cat breeding is a hobby, not a business.

When you go to visit kittens the house is clean and tidy, the kittens are chubby and happy, their room is clean and neat and their litter trays are immaculate (or they should be!!). It's all so sweet, and it looks so easy. It's not. It is a constant round of cleaning, feeding, clearing up and trying to have a life at the same time. The bonus is the kittens who are glorious, but don't ever imagine it's easy!

One-off litters:

"I wanted to have one or two litters for the children..."

So you want to put the entertainment of your children above the welfare of your cat. Who are we kidding anyway, this is not for the children, it's for you, or are the children really going to pay the vets bills, clean the litter trays three times a day, feed the kittens at least 5 times a day when they wean, wash bedding every day, and generally care for your cat?

"I wanted the children to experience it... "

But they're not going to experience it. They're not going to have their lives put at risk (and pregnancy IS risky), have an uncomfortable pregnancy, followed by an extremely painful labour and then weeks of caring for the kittens, feeding them and washing them constantly. The cat is the one who experiences that, and unlike humans cats are COMPLETELY INDIFFERENT to whether they have kittens or not. Given the choice they would probably say 'no thankyou' since having babies is exhausting, extremely painful, increases the risk of mammary cancers, and shortens the cat's life.

If you really think this is something your children ought to experience, look at it from the cat's point of view: how is your little queen going to feel about having your children constantly tampering with her kittens? Most mothers are very protective and get easily upset if they feel their babies are being over-handled. If you're not going to let the children play with the kittens (like toys) what is the point, as they're not going to experience anything more than they would experience visiting the kittens of a good breeder near you.

Do you know anything at all about breeding, husbandry, the sorts of illnesses that entire females can experience, the difficulties that neo-natal kittens might get into? Do you know anything about the following:

  • Feline Leukaemia
  • Feline AIDS
  • pyometra
  • intussusception
  • eclampsia
  • uterine inertia
  • uterine torsion
  • FCK
  • retained placenta
  • etc. etc. etc.

Have you thought about how to find a good stud cat, and what it is going to cost in blood tests and stud fees?

Are you prepared for your little darling to shriek her head off for 6-8 months until she is old enough to be mated, or will she just be allowed out to have it off with the local tom, and get pregnant before she is fully mature, and probably get feline AIDS into the bargain?

Are you going to be there 24 hours a day when your cat is due to kitten, staying up maybe three or four nights in a row in case she starts (they nearly always have them at night)? Can you be there day and night for the next 4 weeks in case she dies or has no milk, and the kittens have to be hand fed?

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The following is a compilation of articles and long messages that I and other breeders have written as responses to people who have approached us about buying a kitten for breeding (or breeding from a kitten sold as a pet). It may be repetitive in places, but I haven’t had time to edit it into one long article. Please don’t feel I’m trying to put you off, but it’s all stuff you need to consider before deciding whether breeding is for you.

If you have any intentions of breeding, you MUST make sure that you have discussed this with the breeder of the kitten first, before getting into the position of buying a kitten from him/her. Some lines are 'protected' so the stud owner may specifically prohibit breeding from the resulting kittens for a variety of reasons. I have bred pet Burmese whom I would absolutely not allow to go for breeding because I knew of problems in the lines that might mean breeding difficulties for future offspring. This made no difference to the health of the kittens I was selling, but they were not from lines that I would be happy to see in the general breeding gene pool.

If you're planning on breeding there are a whole bundle of simple practical things that you need to consider first, such as the fact that you MUST be there 24 hours a day when the queen is due - you cannot be going out to work as you can't predict exactly when she'll deliver, and complications are not rare. Also, from about 4 weeks old, you need to be there to do feeds for the kittens during the day as well as am and pm, and you may also have to hand feed the entire litter every 2-3 hours if something happens to the queen, or if she has no milk, again not compatible with working away from home. You can't take a holiday when the queen is coming up to full term in case something goes wrong, and you can't go away when you have kittens (for 13 weeks) because they need constant care and attention -- a kitten can get ill and die within 24 hours!

You will need to know quite a bit about diet and what is the best way to feed a pregnant and nursing queen, and the healthiest way to raise kittens. Not all cat foods are good for your cat! It also helps a lot if you have an experienced breeder nearby who can come out and be a midwife the first time, so they can tell you if everything is going as it should, or if you need to call the vet for a caesarian before the queen is too weak to recover from it. Would you know how to spot failing milk or mastitis in a queen before it was 'too late'? There's so much to be aware of!

I have a novice Siamese breeder under my wing at the moment who has just raised her first litter. The one thing I didn't think to tell her was: 'don't take them to your daughter's school for show-and-tell when they're only 4 weeks old!!!!!' I was aghast! She was lucky not to lose them, and the queen was VERY distressed -- never mind the appalling consequences of a class full of 10-year-olds all going home and DEMANDING that they also have a litter of (unwanted, moggy) kittens, bred from the local Tom who probably carries every incurable disease under the sun.

Sometimes the kittens who are cute and darling one moment are little monsters weeing all over the furniture the next! I know I sound discouraging, but I'm really not, and I'm as keen as anyone to get new Tonkinese breeders going. However, it's far better to go into it with your eyes open and do the best possible job right from the start, than find yourself in the middle of a disaster with your beloved queen dying.


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Question:

Hi, My seal point was bought as a pet, and as such is not considered as eligible to breed.

However, I have decided to do this once only as members of my family would like a kitten, and I want to 'have kittens' once before she is neutered. She will be ready to mate in May 2003.

I will go down the route of mixed breed if a stud cannot be found, but would prefer not to. I understand testing of my cat is needed and I am willing to do all that is required to ensure the health of the cats concerned.

Maybe you could help?

Answer:

You must not on any account breed from your girl, as that would be a serious breach of trust as well as of the legal binding contract that you entered into when you bought the kitten. You bought her knowingly as a pet and not for breeding, and you agreed that at the time of sale. You can't change your mind without the permission of the breeder. If members of your family want a kitten they should go to a reputable breeder and buy one, not look for freebies from you. If you breed from her you are in fact breaking the law—sorry to be blunt, but you need to know—and some breeders would prosecute (I know several who have!). As a breeder I would be absolutely livid if I found out that someone I had sold a kitten to on the clear understanding that she was not to be bred from, had decided to go against that contract.

Contracts aside, there may be many reasons why your kitten was not sold as a breeding cat: the breeder may have had worries about the line in that any kittens may have a genetic defect carried, but not manifested, in the mother. Also, you may not be best placed to tell whether the girl is big enough to breed—it's often difficult to tell, but you should ask your vet.

Unfortunately there will be a problem with a registered stud. Stud owners are absolutely not allowed to let queens on the inactive register come in to stud, or they will get into terrible trouble with the governing council and the breeder of the kitten, so I suspect that way would not be open to you in any case unless you get the breeder's permission. Have you approached her original breeder about this? You may find that she's not entirely unhelpful.

98% of unneutered tom cats carry leukaemia and feline AIDS (just for starters). So, if your girl is allowed to mate with one it is likely she would end up dying from one of these diseases (the Leukaemia vaccine is only about 80% effective). So, it is obviously preferable if you can find a proper stud. Test fees are about £40, and stud fees are £100 upwards.
Is your girl a modern show-type Siamese, or an old-style one? The show type cats are far more difficult to breed from as they are likely to have difficulties that a heavier and more solid cat would not experience. Very high proportions have uterine inertia, which is lethal unless caught early—either way the kittens usually do not survive. This may be a reason that the breeder put her on the inactive register, if she knew that there was this problem in the line.

The following is what I say to anyone (not just you) who comes to me to ask about breeding with their girl (even one on the active register). When you go to choose your kitten, it's all wonderful and clean and cute and you really have no idea what has gone into keeping everything that way. Constant litter-tray cleaning for 12 weeks, perhaps dealing with vomiting and diarrhoea running through the whole litter perhaps more than once during that time, finding puddles of piddle everywhere, maybe the breeder has had the heartbreak of kittens dying too—it's not the way it looks to the short-term visitor! If I sell a kitten to a novice breeder I make sure that I can be available for their first litter(s) as a midwife and to help them keep an eye on things and spot conditions that they won't know about as a novice. You need to have an experienced breeder on hand if you go ahead or the risks are much higher.

Can you put up with your baby shrieking the house down on heat every other week for 6 months until she's ready to mate? A calling queen is very vulnerable to pyometra, and if it's not spotted, the queen almost always dies. Allowing your girl to breed could be a disaster—I'm sure you love her very much: are you prepared to risk losing her if she dies doing this? Most people don't know about all the things that could go wrong, and this is particularly likely with Siamese who are not a strong breed and often have birthing difficulties. This is why registered breeders operate a mentoring system to help new breeders learn the ropes. Once pregnant, the queen could have uterine inertia, and you wouldn't know how to spot it before it kills her by becoming pyometra. Do you know about uterine torsion, eclampsia and pre-eclampsia—all life-threatening? The queen could get a kitten stuck and die in kittening and then you're left with a dead litter and queen or kittens who have to be hand-reared—that means hand feeds every two hours, 24 hours a day for three weeks at least. Can you commit yourself to this if necessary?

Are you able to deal with 'blood and guts'—suppose the queen won't accept the kittens and won't clean them up when they're born or suckle them—can you tie off their cords and do all this for her? Will you be there with her 24 hours until the kittens are born to make sure none of this happens when you're out of the house?

Are you able to be at home full time from the last week of the pregnancy and on into the first three weeks (possibly more) of the kittens lives? If the queen dies, or has no milk, you will have to do 3-hour feeds every day and night for weeks until they can be weaned. Do you have a very good vet who is experienced with pedigree breeders and breeding queens? If the answer to these questions is no, you won't be able to give her and the kittens the care she needs and you should not consider even one litter.

Could you cope with the heartbreak of the whole litter dying slowly in front of your eyes when they're 3-4 weeks old, and there's nothing you can do? This is not an idle question—it happens about 10% of the time with pedigree litters unless you're lucky. A friend of mine has just had it happen—out of 7 kittens, only 2 survived, and she had to watch 5 die from FCK one by one—gasping for breath. She couldn't put them down because sometimes they recover (as two of them did), and also the queen would have got raging mastitis if she suddenly lost all her kittens. She was devastated—do you even know what FCK is?

Finally, can you afford to do this? A caesarean with even minor complications could cost you £500 upwards, particularly in the middle of the night, and none of the kittens may survive. Every kitten (pedigree or not) costs about £650 to rear properly, assuming nothing goes wrong, and if you're giving yours away to the family you won't even make part of that back. Siamese are notoriously liable to unknown illnesses—I had a vet's bill well over £1000 by the time I got through with my last litter, because an infection was brought in by a visitor. That's without the cost of cat-litter and food and so on. Also, the queen will eat like a horse throughout her pregnancy. This is why kittens are sold and not given away—even at £400 a head I make a significant loss.

For most queens it's a painful and not very pleasant business, and contrary to long-standing myths, it's not better for a girl to have a litter before neutering—every litter shortens a girl's life.
I'm sorry to be off-putting, but I have had heartbreak, exhaustion and misery sometimes, and I won't hide that from you. At the end of my last litter I swore I'd never do it again. I know I will, as I love my babies to distraction, and it's so good to see the happiness of a new owner at the end of it all, and knowing that I am giving them a healthy, well-adjusted kitten instead of something awful that some backyard breeder has produced. I find it very hard to find the right homes for my babies, and I'm even more careful if I allow a kitten to go for breeding—I have only sold 3 kittens for breeding in 16 years, and two went to people I already knew well, and who were experienced breeders.

So that's all the bad stuff. If you are still sure you want to go ahead with this I think the first thing you MUST do is talk to the breeder and try to convince her to agree to this. If you fail you have lost nothing. She might be prepared to speak to a stud owner and allow a single mating without transferring the cat to the active register. If you're determined to breed it would be far preferable for you to go to a registered stud than to let her be got at by the local STD-carrier!

I'm sure you've come up against very negative reactions with other people. The best advice I could give you would be not to breed because it's not easy, it's not kind to the queen, and it's not fun most of the time, though obviously there are rewards, particularly when things go well, and that is probably why those of us who stick with it continue to breed.


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In reply to the informative (and quite alarming!) article about what can go wrong in the breeding process, I would like to relate a friend's experiences. I've changed her name to protect her marriage! Jane's problems began before her female was even pregnant, as she was a very reluctant caller, and Jane had to cancel a family holiday when Mattie finally called. The good news was that she became pregnant that first visit. Very pleased with herself, Jane sat back to wait for babies.

Problems began to emerge ten days before the kittens were due, when Mattie began to bleed. A visit to the vets reassured Jane, but an antibiotic shot and an examination cost her £25. Coupled with the stud fee and tests she had already spent over £200.

Mattie eventually went into labour on her due day, but suffered from uterine inertia and at midnight a locum vet had to be called in, Jane's own vet being on holiday. The kittens were born by Caesarian-section, and the poor mother came home shaved from neck to tail and with a large cut along her middle held together by metal staples. To stop Mattie scrabbling at her scar, the vet put her in a plastic collar. Heavily drugged, she didn't want to know her kittens, who also had taken a good dose of anaesthetic. Because the queen was really too small for breeding the kittens were a little squashed, and one in particular seemed to have a badly bruised tail.

Two days later, after hand feeding every three hours, all the kittens were thriving except the boy with the damaged tail. The queen could not be left alone for long as she hated the collar and potentially could damage the kittens thrashing around with it. Jane had been unable to go to work and had lost wages by being forced to stay at home, though she would not have dreamed of leaving her beloved girl. The locum vet had sent a bill for £500 for the midnight caesarian, which didn't sweeten the pill much!

The little mother ended up with an infection at the site of her wound, because of the clips which the vet had used for quickness (he said). The kitten with the tail suddenly became worse and had to be hospitalized for removal of part of his tail: more expense. The kittens were barely 2 weeks old and Jane had still not returned to work, and was only getting a tiny amount of sleep as the queen was still in the collar.

At last, six weeks down the line, and all was well, so Jane took the family dog for a walk. The same evening several of the kittens became seriously ill: another visit to the vet and eventually after expensive tests it was diagnosed that the kittens had been poisoned by 'crop spray residue' brought in on Jane's clothes from her walk with the dog.

In all, the kittens cost £1500 in bills, including the cost of the lost holiday, but not their routine vaccinations, food, litter or the general costs of washing bedding and so on. Jane didn't dare calculate that too. It brought her marriage to the edge of destruction and she almost lost her job. Somebody once said that cat breeding is marginally less expensive than running an ocean-going yacht: after hearing this you can understand why!


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Experiences of a Novice Breeder


After having non-pedigree cats for several years I decided to take myself along to a cat show one rainy day to have a look at some different types of cat that I had never actually seen in the flesh. All the lovely cats on show overwhelmed me. I caught sight of a lovely looking Siamese which at that time was known as Classic Siamese.

I gave it a lot of thought before taking action. I phoned round some breeders asking if they will let me have one of their precious kittens for breeding. I soon realised that I had to convince breeders that I was a responsible and caring person and will do my absolute best on the breeding side. What I hadn’t realised was that it was difficult to find a kitten of the Old-Style.

To cut a long story short, I got my first and only Siamese breeding girl back in December 2000. I had never bred or even had a pedigree cat before so I emptied the local library of books, the contents of which I soaked up like a sponge, made a nuisance of myself with breeders asking all sorts of questions and reading any and every cat magazine that I came upon. I just had to be prepared, when the time came, in case something went wrong. I had yet to experience the shrieking of a female in season. I started reading up on the genetics side a while back but that proved heavy going and I told myself I will get back to that section another time. I haven’t really had the time yet but I am reading up on it a bit by bit.

I didn’t have any expectations really at the start, as I knew absolutely nothing about breeding although I was very surprised at the lack of Old-Style stud cats available.

I kind of knew that it wouldn’t be plain sailing. I already knew a bit about cat diseases, having seen a few cats with various illnesses due to me helping out with Cats Protection.

I have only ever had neutered cats. Established breeders told me, very early on, that I wouldn’t be making money out of it. That advice puzzled me at first, as it didn’t enter my head. It wasn’t my reason for wanting to breed. I thought it was just a nice hobby and I wanted to learn about the Siamese and pass on nice pets to other people. I just hoped that when the kittens were 13 weeks old, I could let them go to their new homes without bawling my head off. I think I was a bit over the top when selecting the right people for my kittens but they didn’t seem put off by me placing them in the mastermind chair and having the spotlight on them, firing questions at them and giving them marks out of ten. The first and only litter of Siamese went to new homes without me causing a scene but it was a little nerve racking. I was happy with the new owners and they were delighted with their newly acquired family members.

On looking back to those nerve racking couple of days before the birth, I suppose having not been in the situation before, I did fuss a lot over my girl, watching her and I found myself following her a lot just in case she was about to have kittens before the due time. I remember not getting proper sleep for the two nights before the birth. On the actual day, she didn’t appear to be near to having them and I was then caught off my guard temporarily. However, at 11pm I noticed she wasn’t around. Up I jumped up after dozing on the sofa and ran upstairs to the kittening box and to my surprise, there she was with one still damp kitten. I was suddenly flapping and ran to get my ‘step by step how to have kittens intruction manual’ Of course, she couldn’t actually read and she didn’t actually care much about it anyway. She must have already been to the ante-natal classes as she just got on with it and I could see she was not needing help but the fifth and last kitten was stillborn and I did try everything in the book to revive it but it seemed it wasn’t meant to be and I gave up after what I think must have been 30 minutes. I was disappointed at this and I felt awful about disposing of the little lifeless body. I wasn’t ready for this to happen. I was bothered by it for a few days but I just had to tell myself it does happen and usually without explanation and I just have to accept it. The other four boys were fine. There was a problem with the milk at first. I thought the kittens weren’t getting enough and I phoned my vet at 3am much to his displeasure, no doubt, but he said not to panic and come to the surgery first thing, oh, and yes it just happened to be a Sunday! I did this and an injection was given to improve the milk flow. All was OK at last.

I did what I thought best for the little ones, weighing them every morning and making sure they were at the right temperature and getting enough milk. I took endless photos of them all and bored friends out of their minds with heaps of photos, each one exactly the same as the previous. Well, they only have one position at the beginning. They developed nicely and grew into lovely sociable little terrors. The kittens went to their lovely new homes in two pairs which was nice.

Things were going well then but a year ago my girl developed pyometra or something of that nature and had three failed matings after that. It has been very disappointing. As a young cat and in good health I was puzzled why it happened but there wasn’t anybody who could really tell me what went wrong. There were a couple of unclear explanations but the fact is that sometimes you just don’t get to know why things go wrong. It has been very disappointing and although she has now been spayed she is still a very much-loved pet. This, if course, was not the way I planned it and it is now back to square one again. If anyone has ever played the game Snakes and Ladders well that is what my experience of breeding has been like so far.

I hadn’t expected that something would go wrong so early on.

After saying all that I am not deterred. I really want to start again and I hope I will have better luck next time. I really enjoyed having the kittens around and help them develop into lovely pets.
I hope to have another kitten by summer with a view to breeding from her, but her kittens won’t be running around for another year or so after that (if all goes well) so it is not for the impatient. Meanwhile, I will just enjoy the cats that I have as pets. What I have learned about books however is not to believe all you read as I was rather confused by all the information. It is largely the author’s opinion and you may find that one book will contradict the other so the best way to learn, apart from your own experience, is to talk to the other breeders who have years of experience. I also like to attend seminars for breeders when they come along. There is always something to learn and it is good to keep in touch with the other breeders and club members to hear what is going on with them. I would like to think that I did things right from the beginning by getting all the information on the breed and about breeding before getting into it. It certainly is not a decision to be made quickly. It can be lots of fun and it is very rewarding when it goes right but if it goes wrong and it can go very wrong…well, I haven’t truly been there yet.

I would like to say thank you to all the breeders who gave me good advice and put up with my questioning, not to mention my moans and groans. I have realised I am not alone and I would like to think I could help somebody else sometime with giving support if not being able to give them the answers.


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Why you must sell your kittens, not give them away!

Re breeding and homing kittens: you must not on any account give away your kittens! I'm sure you said this to assure me that you are not doing this to make money, but actually giving away your kittens is very inadvisable: two litters could be anything from 8-20 kittens: you have limited friends and relations, and I'm quite sure that if they want to have cats they already have them and do not want more!

If you are going to breed well it will cost you a lot of money: in the region of £2000 per litter, after blood test fees, stud fees, cost of food and litter for the babies for 13 weeks, vaccination costs for the litter, and any other veterinary costs during rearing, or resulting from complications during delivery requiring c-section, which could be as much as £500-£1000 in addition. You need to set out to do it as 'professionally' as possible, rather than casually with the offspring given away to friends, and that means registering the kittens and selling them to carefully vetted homes. There is nothing to stop you from giving one or two to friends who really want them, and would buy a kitten elsewhere if yours weren't available, but even then they should pay at least the cost of the vaccinations. You will need the kitten money in any case to help with the costs of breeding, even though selling the kittens will not cover it nearly.

However, there is a more important reason for selling rather than giving away pedigree kittens: asking someone to pay a fair bit of money for a kitten is a way of ensuring that they are serious about wanting it -- they are not impulse-buying and will not simply abandon, or stop bothering to care for it when it's no longer a cute, entertaining kitten. If you pay £500 for a coat, you will take care to hang it up and put it away properly, you will dry clean it when it gets dirty. But if you only paid £10 for it, or got it for free, you would probably chuck it out if it began to look a bit ragged. Obviously a coat is VERY different from a kitten, but unfortunately this is how many people's minds work, and as breeders we have to be aware of that.

Also, by selling a kitten you create a contract between you and the new owner which ensures they do not attempt to breed from the kitten - which you MUST ensure to prevent kitten farmers from starting. Even if the owners seem to be good people they may know nothing about breeding and could inadvertently harm their cat, and they may sell their kittens to someone completely unscrupulous: I need to ensure that my bloodlines can never be used in this way, and the only way to do that is to be absolutely sure that all the offspring are neutered. I am sure that you do not intend anything untoward to happen to your kittens, but the reason most stud owners will not even consider your request to come to stud is for this very reason - you are not intending to breed 'seriously', but only as a bit of fun, but breeding has repercussions for generations, and you are responsible for those future generations just as much as for the kittens you breed yourself.

Normally, I would only allow registered cats belonging to a registered breeder whom I know by reputation (if not personally as well) to come to my stud. This way I know that they follow codes of practice set down by the breed clubs and the GCCF, and my lines will never appear in those of a kitten farmer. I am very wary of breeders who are not registered and not known to anyone I know, or within the cat fancy. You could be a kitten farmer yourself, and I do not intent my lines to get into that world. My reputation rides on my cats and my care of them, and I will not take risks with that for anything, just as I will not risk the health of my cats by allowing a cat to come to stud without blood tests and a health-check from me when they arrive.

You need to remember that if you cannot find the homes you want for your kittens you will have to keep them yourself - the same applies if for any reason there is something wrong with any or all of the kittens and you cannot home them because of that. Finding homes involves probably some advertising, but please don't use things like 'LOOT' as that is the way to find the wrong sort of homes! If you have a website you may put your kittens there, or put them on some good websites run by clubs or advertising kittens. The best and most appropriate way to advertise them is in
Cat World or Your Cat, as only people genuinely searching for kittens will buy these magazines, whilst things like LOOT tend to attract impulse-buyers who have not really thought through the fact that a kitten is a life, and something they are responsible with for the next 15-20 years - very much like a child, and with all the food and veterinary costs as well.

Still here? Congratulations, you've already learned more than most people who think they would like to breed!
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