One question I am almost always guaranteed to get is “Why do your cats/kittens cost so much” Boy is this one loaded question. This may be a long article, but it’s worth the read to truly understand the situation.
As a Breeder, I seem to automatically get a bad reputation with some as it seems Responsible Breeders are ultimately lumped in with Back Yard Breeders (BYB) which can include puppy mills and kitten mills. It isn’t common that I am asked why I’m contributing to the over population of pets. This is a whole other topic of discussion that we won’t get into today, but I surely can tell you there is a whole lot more to it and there is a HUGE difference between myself and the Lancaster County “breeders” of Pennsylvania that I grew up around.
What most people see is my kittens are $1200-$2200 and immediately you probably think wow she’s making bank! I am sorry but you are wrong. As a buyer, customer and outside perspective unfortunately one does not see everything behind the scenes so let’s break it down.
Start Up Costs:
These are costs that are required to even begin a cattery. While my girls are mainly in my own living space, my boys are in the cattery space. The cold hard facts are males spray and more than one can fight due to natural instincts and raging hormones. They require their own spaces and everything needs to be 100% easy to clean. They need adequate space for sleeping, playing and exercising. They need adequate lighting, things for enrichment to prevent boredom and proper heating and cooling systems. These all are essentials for healthy cats and cutting corners is not an option.
As mentioned while the girls are in the main house, there needs to be room for the girls who spray and are in heat as well as expecting and mothers raising kittens that require rooms of low stress, quiet and properly controlled with heat and cooling.
Some breeders already have these accommodations others need to build this ideal situation. For my husband and I we had the space but it included only a semi-finished basement. Other than that, we had to add everything else too it.
Also accounted into start-up costs are the cost of our actual cats. A cat from a reputable breeder with breeding rights is around $3000 if not more and does not include transportation to our home. All of our cats are not from breeders in our state.
In addition to these start-up costs we also ensure all our cats are extensively health screened and color tested before they are accepted into our program. This includes FeLV/FIV snap tests, blood type tests, color tests, a test for PRA-b, PK-def and over 30 other genetic diseases and much more. We may also PCR respiratory and fecal test our cats individually and randomly throughout the year. This can range in price between $115-$300 per cat.
So right off the bat factoring in our cats and building the cattery, we are $40,000 in the red before we even have a litter of kittens.
Standard Operating Costs:
Standard operating costs includes pretty much anything the typical pet owner would spend on their cats such as food and litter. We’ll negate toys at this time as these are almost negligible compared to other costs. We go through 4-8, 40 lbs boxes of litter per month adding up to approximately $480-960 of cat litter a year. For food at retail including the cost of shipping food to our home, it costs about $6700 a year or $361.50/month just in food less the cost of shipping . All of our cats are fed spring bottled water to reduce risk of crystals, hard water and other toxins. We go through approximately 1-2 gallons per week adding a meager $52-$85 a year just in water. Mind you this does NOT include the costs when we are raising kittens which would include the food they eat, the litter they use, the water they drink etc.
Standard Veterinary Costs:
Standard Veterinary Costs include annual exams and vaccinations as well as Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy or HCM screenings which require an Echocardiogram. These costs are approximately $250 per cat totaling about $3200 per year.
We can predict all we want but there are still countless unexpected expenses we may incur. What if one of our girls needs an emergency c-section ($950)? What is a girl gets pyometra on a sunday night ($3500) ?What if one jumps off a high shelf and breaks a leg, what about countless other illnesses and disease that not only could be detrimental to one cat but can quickly spread to the others? There are endless unforeseen possibilities we cannot account for.
All these costs don’t even count the food, litter, water and other expenses to raise our kittens. An average litter is 4-6 kittens. If mom weans them at 6 weeks of age, until they go home we are looking at $196-$295 of food per litter plus the one week of food that goes home with each kitten ($28 per kitten). Each kitten also gets a:
Health certificate $40 each.
Spayed/Neutered $100 per kitten.
Optimal selection health and color test $100
Registration with TICA $15 per litter
Kit Pack which includes free coupons, toys, teasers, e-book (valued at $10) security blanket (valued at $12), security blanket etc. valuing over $60
So, the average litter of 4-6 kittens costs approximately
$2000-$3330 per litter however this does not take into account the remaining costs to run the rest of the cattery nor unforeseen costs we may incur.
The final cost to take into consideration is the intangible costs.
For those of you that read our socialization information as well as our daily schedule you can see from the time we get up until we go to bed we are feeding, cleaning and taking care of our cats. It’s a 24/7, 365-day job. We sacrifice family holidays and vacations to make sure our cats and kittens are well taken care of. While my husband has a 8-5 job and paid salary, I do not. My time is spent with my cats and kittens all day every day. Somehow, we do find time to fit in cooking for ourselves and cleaning our home ;)
Despite what some believe, breeding is not all rainbows and butterflies. Unfortunately, kittens pass away, breeding cats need to be spayed or neutered due to health reasons. It’s stressful when our cats may be under the weather or not getting along with another cattery mate. Kittens that may not be thriving for one reason or another, may need around the clock care. I take pride in my cats and my emotions are 100% with them. It’s not always an easy job. The emotional difficulties have got to be worth something as well.
So, let’s bring this all together.
In February of 2017 we got our first female (which by the way did not produce until April of 2018)
In January of 2018 we had our first litter of four kittens.
We have approximately $40,000 if not more of start-up costs
We need to HCM screen the cats this year $3000
Costs of food, water and litter for this year $5000-$6700
Without unforeseen costs, costs of overhead, cost to raise a litter, costs of driving to transport kittens to new homes or pick up food, litter and other goods or intangible costs
Let’s refresh one kitten is $1200-$2200 on average about $1500.
As you can see it’s not so cut and simple. There are many factors that come into play as a responsible and reputable breeder. It is an emotional roller coaster, with incurring costs that can fluctuate quickly, with little financial return. This is just the cattery. Just like any other family we have student loans, a mortgage, car payments, groceries and other normal costs.
Ok so if I’m not making a ton of money, why am I doing this?
While some may not see it this way, I believe that breeding these beautiful cats is an opportunity to bring to this world healthy, well rounded and loving, social companions and It gives me a chance to contribute to scientific research on genetic diseases that may one day help human medicine.
I hope this text gave you some insights into the true costs of being a Reputable Breeder and a cattery and help you understand that it’s not all about money. That there is little financial gain, just lots of love and dedication to a very beautiful breed.
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