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. These are breeders that don't care about the health of their breeding cats or kittens or their best interest. They just want to produce as many kittens as they can and make money. 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 (Check out our article Confessions of a Bengal breeder). 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 to it.
Also accounted for 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 which easily is several hundred dollars. 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 ($40+), blood type tests, color tests, a test for PRA-b, PK-def, and over 30 other genetic diseases ($100+) and much more. We may also PCR respiratory and fecal test our cats individually and randomly throughout the year ($200+).
So right off the bat factoring in our cats and building the cattery, we were $40,000 in the red before we even had a litter of kittens.
Outside of start-up costs, we still have costs to maintain the cattery such as refreshing paint, replacing flooring. or wall tiles, improving or building better rooms and spaces for the cats etc.
Standard Operating Costs:
Standard operating costs include 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 started out going through 4-8, 40 lbs boxes of litter per month adding up to approximately $480-960 of cat litter a year (In 2019 we used 1900 lbs of litter). For food at retail including the cost of shipping food to our home, it used to cost about $6700 a year or $361.50/month. However, things change in 2020 we are paying about $700/month but currently in the process of needing to find another supplier which may increase our costs to $1137/month. As we raise kittens this price may increase as our cats and kittens consume more food. All of our cats are given spring bottled water to reduce the risk of crystals, side effects of 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.
Then we have other costs and bills like heating, cooling, electricity, office supplies, putting together our kitten kits, replenishing toys, replacing cat trees.
Our cats' and kittens' health is a top priority for us. We will do anything and everything in our power to make sure our babies get the best care. However, that doesn't mean it doesn't financially cost us.
Standard Veterinary Costs:
Standard Veterinary Costs include annual exams, random PCRs and fecals, as well as Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy or HCM screenings which require an Echocardiogram. These costs are approximately $250+ per cat totaling about $3200 per year however we had to find a cardiologist three times now. What started off as a 2 hour round trip and $300 fees per cat, turned into a 9 hour round trip and $150 fee to now 10 hour round trip and $192 fee per cat. Things always change. Of course, we also have regular spay and neuters and vet visits for our kittens as well.
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 (This did happen and it cost us $950)? What if a girl gets pyometra (a potentially life-threatening uterine infection) on a sunday night (This did happen and it cost $3500)?What if one jumps off a high shelf and breaks a leg (This did happen and it cost $3200), 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 but we have had litters as small as 2 and as large as 7. If mom weans them at 6 weeks of age, until they go home we are looking at $204-$306 of food per litter plus the one week of food that goes home with each kitten. Each kitten also gets:
Spayed/Neutered $350+ per kitten.
Optimal selection health and color test $100
Registration with TICA $15 per litter
Kit Pack which includes free coupons, toys, teasers, Books, security blankets etc.
So, the average litter of 4-6 kittens costs approximately $2200-$3600 per litter however this does not take into account the remaining costs to run the rest of the cattery, unforeseen costs we may incur, nor our regular monthly bills to just live).
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. 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.
As you can see it’s not so cut, dry 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.
*This information and text on this page is the sole property of Elysian Bengals and The Nutrition Code. Its use is strictly prohibited without the permission of Meghan Leah Waals