Ethical Breeding is NOT a Hobby
Let us take a look at the definitions of a job and a hobby. The definition of a Hobby is “an activity done regularly in one's leisure time for pleasure.” The definition of a Job is “ a person's role in society. More specifically, a job is an activity, often regular and often performed in exchange for payment. Many people have multiple jobs. A person can begin a job by becoming an employee, volunteering, starting a business, or becoming a parent.” There is certainly much overlap in these definitions. Your hobby can turn into a job, your job you may love enough to do in your leisure time, you may get paid for your hobby (artwork, working on cars, doing trade shows etc.)
When it comes to breeding cats, you will constantly see breeders saying they aren’t in it for the money, that this is just a hobby. You will see pet owners saying they don’t want someone that is just producing kittens, favoring quantity over quality, someone who isn’t breeding for the money.
While it is important to find a breeder who is enthusiastic about the breed and its development, if you want to ensure that the breeder is able to produce the healthiest and most socialized kittens, then yes, making money IS part of breeding.
Let me ask you a few questions: Do you want a breeder to have the funds to: 1. House their breeding cats properly so they are not free roaming which can result in mothers hiding kittens in places their humans can not care for them or having cats breed at inappropriate times even with related cats? Or destroying the home as well as creating dirty and unsanitary living environments? Endangering other animals such as territorial males who often pee on everything in site or mom’s fighting to protect their kittens? 2. Able to medically care for their companions whether that be a cold, spay or neuter, or god forbid an emergency?
3. Provide a nutritious diet? 4. Perform proper testing on their breeding cats to ensure they are only breeding healthy and qualified cats to produce exceptional kittens? These are all necessary and must be paid for and supported in addition to making sure a Breeder’s family, bills, food and other expenses are covered which typically are not paid by what is made by the cattery. Ethical and responsible breeders must make money in order to put money back into the cattery, which often times does not leave room for money to go to family bills, vacations, leisure etc. This is to cover the costs of raising kittens, caring for the cats in their program, unexpected expenses and the ability to continue providing the best housing, food and enrichment for them on a continuous basis. Breeding cats are like children, they go through things very quickly whether that is housing arrangements, toys, food, cat trees, etc. These often are not one time expenses.
For most breeders we aren’t attending to kittens in our spare time. Cats and kittens in reality do not operate on a schedule, they don’t give birth in our free time, nor do emergencies occur when we plan for them. Messes happen regularly, pregnant and nursing mothers, as well as kittens, need to be fed more than your average cat. Kittens in need may require AROUND the clock care regardless of your early morning to go to work the next day, no matter how tired you are, no matter what holiday or vacation you hope to go on. If I left breeding to be a hobby, my cats certainly would be living in a dirty environment with no individual care, I would probably have to hire someone to clean and to take care of my little ones, and their socializing would be substandard. At that point I wouldn't buy from myself if I were a kitten buyer. I would not want to buy from someone that sees their kittens and breeding program as a side project, that’s simply done in their spare time. If you own just one or a few companion animals you know it requires money to raise them and take care of them. For Ethical Breeders this is exponentially more expensive, especially if they are to breed responsibly, not cut corners, and provide a healthy and socialized kitten to an awaiting family. If you have taken a look at our article So You Want to Breed Bengals, The Confessions of a Bengal Breeder, you can quickly see there is a lot of financial responsibilities involved in properly breeding. In addition there is a lot of time involved that would otherwise be shortened if a Breeder does not focus on these needs.
I take statements like you shouldn’t be making money, you should be giving cats away for free, you are a backyard breeder if this is your full time job... offensively because of how much time, energy, money, knowledge, experience and other resources I and other breeders have put into our programs. Of course, it would be great to not have to charge anything, we all want inexpensive things, but all also want to be appropriately compensated for everything we do.
These statements are extremely detrimental to ethical breeders and create a shame feedback loop, for not only breeders, but also owners that support ethical and responsible breeders. Furthermore it promotes purchasing from Backyard Breeders simply because the kittens are less expensive than a quality bred cat from an Ethical Breeder.
This heavily comes from rescue only advocates, PETA and other animal rights activists that often have had a bad experience involving animals or do not understand all sides of animal ownership, breeding, overpopulation and spay/neuter. When I had gotten my first Bengal as a pet owner, I soon felt shamed and then ashamed that I had purchased a purebred cat. People had convinced me simply because I had a purebred cat, regardless of context, it was wrong I purchased from a breeder and not a shelter. Just like ANY industry, there is the good, bad and ugly and the bad and ugly should not result in assumptions. These assumptions lump Ethical Breeders with Backyard Breeders or those interested in anything especially money. I see this even more clearly especially now that I have been a purebred and rescue pet owner and a purebred breeder. No one should be shamed over where they got their cat or who raised them, even those that purchase from an unsavory breeder. Only education and awareness should be provided so that they do not come into that position again. It's like shaming a couple for spending thousands on IVF rather than fostering or adopting. There are bad and unethical breeders and there are bad and unethical parents, but there are also wonderful and ethical breeders as well as parents, but lumping them all together certainly calls for a re-evaluation of individual cases.
Now let me preface I’m all for rescue. In fact I have rescued most my life and currently have rescue cats. I have donated hundreds of dollars to rescues, fostered kittens and volunteered in shelters. Many Ethical Breeders have and continue to work closely with rescues and foster groups. Long story short no one should be shamed for how they have chosen to bring a companion into their home. In general, there seems to be a disconnect, a hierarchy of the “value” of animals and the acceptability of their care. For example, all our meat comes from farms (with a wide variability in the type from small family farms to factory farms). There are many people that are heavily concerned with factory farms and the care of livestock (as they should) or even the consumption of meat all together. It seems livestock are lesser on the totem pole than cats and dogs. The Dog Market in China for example is unacceptable. However we make exceptions for livestock. Chickens aren't pretty, they say, they molt their feathers and sometimes there is poop on the eggs, pigs are dirty and roll around in mud, it's ok that horses are in stalls, animals are kept outside. They are allowed to provide us clothing, milk, meat, labor and more. This statement is in no way accepting the mistreatment, abuse or using of animals, certainly not. It also does not provide context. We don’t know how these animals are treated. Did you know many breeders often spoil their cats with cat wheels, hammocks, toys, cat trees, feline buddies, TV, music and other stimulation. That they are loved and cared for better than even some household cats? Should everyone be a breeder? Absolutely not!
There is a hierarchy of breeder levels that breeders reside on. A majority of breeders breed on very basic level. They love the cat, they are small scale, they understand the basic standard or simply breed for the looks and the market, getting monetary funds in return. But then you really have the enlightened breeders, the ones that know the standard but take it to the next level, striving to improve it through innovation, testing traits no other or few breeders have, advancing the standard, always improving their own lines, identifying faults and finding solutions. It goes far beyond selling kittens and getting funds in return. Its creating a mark, blasting past expectations, blazing new trails, seeing the science of genetics and traits, often working with researchers and scientists to continue discovering with and catching on to trends….These are the ethical breeders that are on top of the standard, testing and temperament and taking it that one exceptional step further. These are the breeders that understand their work is not a hobby, their work is not a job. It's a lifestyle.
With everything ethical and responsible breeders do, all the emotions and finances they put into their cats and kittens, with all the wonderful testimonies we get from kitten owners, why should we accept that this is nothing more than a hobby. Yes there is no financial gain here but ethical breeding is a lifestyle, it is a full time job often thankless and costly, not simply just a hobby. Ethical Breeders should not be shamed for the time, energy, emotions, dedication, and hard work they put into their catteries. Ethical Breeding is NOT a hobby.
FINAL NOTES: On a more personal note everything I have done in my life has involved animals from my hobbies and my high school jobs, to research and my undergraduate degree in Psycho Biology, Pre-Veterinary with a minor in evolutionary studies. This “career” path is my world. Everything I work for has prepared me for this (originally to be a veterinarian). So again should I be shamed or guilted for all the hard work I have put into my life to provide only the best for the cats and kittens that I place into loving homes? Like any other career. I have been trained, I am an expert in my field, I perform my job to my highest ability. I love what I do and I take pride in my work.
I do work from home in addition to the cattery. While the cattery takes most of my time, I also educate companion animal owners about carnivore nutrition and have become a jack of all trades to help people to organize their lives, I also write, I do research, and am involved in genetic research.