Edited and Input from Emily D'Agati of Singularity Border Collies and Sophia Pierce of Solina Hounds
For those who have been involved in breeding and showing dogs and now have an interest in breeding and showing cats, it's common to believe that their experience with canines will seamlessly translate to felines. While there are certainly similarities, such as genetics, welfare, health care, point systems, and grooming, it's important to remember that cats are not dogs. Breeding and showing cats involve a range of additional factors that must be carefully considered, making it a unique and distinct experience.
In this article we’ll discuss many of those differences to give animal enthusiasts a well rounded understanding of breeding and showing cats versus dogs. Registration
The American Kennel Club (AKC) and The International Cat Association (TICA) are two prominent organizations that provide registration services for purebred dogs and cats. Registration typically refers to the process of officially documenting and recording the ownership, pedigree, and identification details of these animals. While there are some similarities in the registration process for dogs and cats, there are also some notable differences.
Recognition and Credibility: TICA and AKC are globally recognized organizations dedicated to the registration and promotion of purebred cats and dogs. By registering your cattery or kennel, you gain credibility and validation as a responsible and reputable breeder. Recognition adds value to your cattery or kennel and helps potential buyers trust the authenticity and quality of the cats or dogs you produce. That being said it should be noted that just because a breeder is registered it does not mean they are ethical or reputable. It is very easy to register a cattery or kennel. It primarily requires one to fill out a form and send payment. No inspections are required to start or even during your time as a breeder.
Pedigree and Lineage Documentation: TICA and AKC registration helps establish and maintain accurate pedigrees for your cats and dogs. The pedigree documentation provided by TICA or AKC confirms the lineage and purebred status of your cats and dogs, which is essential for preserving the integrity and standards of the breeds you work with. Accurate pedigrees contribute to the long-term health and genetic diversity of your chosen breeds. As a dog breeder you do not need to be a registered kennel in order to breed and show. In the dog world registering a kennel simply protects your kennel name.
In order to become a registered AKC Kennel for example there are three requirements 1. Be a Breeder and Exhibitor in good standing with the American Kennel Club
2. Have a documented background of active involvement/participation in AKC events within the last 5 years through ownership of a dog (of the breed being applied for) that has competed in AKC Conformation, Companion, or Performance events.* Dogs must have earned points towards titles or have been awarded titles.
3. Have registered 5 AKC litters of the applied for breed in the past 5 years or at least 1 litter in the past 5 years for provisional approval. AKC Ownership of the name then expires after 6 years of inactivity with a renewal every 5 years. Basic Fees Kennel Registration $150 Litter Registration $25.00 + $2.00/puppy Individual Registration $39.99 When selecting a name for a dog, it is customary to begin with the kennel's prefix, followed by your chosen name and a potential suffix if space permits. This combination forms the kennel name, which can have a maximum of 50 characters, including the prefix, suffix, and spaces. After reaching 36 characters, an additional fee will apply. As a cat breeder you also do not need to be a registered cattery in order to breed. Anyone can stick two cats together and have them produce a litter. However, This is a huge red flag in cat breeding. While there are unscrupulous breeders who are registered, the breeders who are registered agree to a code of ethics and are held to a standard with guidelines laid out. Without registration, either as a Cattery or for your personal cat, there is no pedigree information that can be provided and the cat(s) can not be recognized by an organization.This also means you will be unable to show your cat in the purebred classes (the only classes you are allowed to compete in without requiring desexing). To register your cattery you simply need to fill out a form and send a $75 payment with the form. As long as the cattery name doesn't already exist you will be approved. While most pet owners will not register their kitten, it is customary for breeders to provide litter registration with the kittens. It simply costs $12-15 to register an entire litter. If this isn't provided it is a sign that a breeder may be cutting corners or not breeding registered cats. Basic Fees Cattery Registration- $75 Litter Registration- $12-15 Individual Registration- $10-12 When naming a cat the name will start with the cattery that produced the cat and is known as the prefix. Next is your chosen name, followed by the suffix if space allows. This is your cattery name. The name can consist of 35 total characters including prefix, suffix and spaces. There are other reputable registries for both cats and dogs but in this article we are just going to use the information of the most recognizable in North America . There may be differences from registry to registry. For example the cat registry Cat Fanciers Association or CFA also requires an application fee of $75 to register a cattery but unlike TICA there is a renewal fee. CFA requires a $25 renewal fee every five years. Showing Showing dogs versus cats is different as well. Both cat shows and dog shows look at Structure, Physical Attributes, Color, and Temperament and weigh those traits against the breed standard. Dog shows add an additional component - evaluation of movement and gait. This is usually related to the dog breed’s function or ancestral job. The differences do not end there. Dogs are separated by various factors including Breed, Age such as puppy, junior and adult and Sex as well as Group Classes such as Sporting, Hound, Working, Terrier, Toy, Non-Sporting, and Herding. Unfortunately in AKC there is no opportunity to show non purebred dogs or dogs that are not intact (not spayed or neutered).
Dog trials can consist of several event types including sport such as agility, obedience, rally, tracking etc. Each event has its own rules, requirements, and titles to strive for. There is also Conformation showing based on structure and specific breed attributes. Participants in these events have the opportunity to earn awards and titles. Points are typically awarded based on the number of dogs beat and these points go towards earning awards for Championship and Grand Championship titles. Awards are also given for breed, sex and more. When showing Cats, they are put in a cage in the ring with the judge to be evaluated. They
are identified by the number given to them by the show and these numbers are placed on top of their cages. They are taken out one at a time by the judge and placed on a table platform with a scratching post to be evaluated based on breed standard. Typically cat shows will have the cat seeing (and being judged by) 5-8 judges a day and a show will typically last 2 to 3 days. Cats are separated by breed (non pedigreed cats can be shown as well as purebred alters), age (4-8 months are kittens and 8 months + are adults), color, and pattern. Cats are awarded ribbons of various colors for placement in their color and division then given a first through third best of breed ranking. After the judge sees ALL the cats and kittens in the show they will choose their top 10 of each. This placement is called a Final. Each placement equals points (which is determined depending on the registry). The points and finals following a qualification system to help the cat earn titles. Cat shows typically only include conformation. CFA occasionally will have agility courses. These events are primarily for fun and you can even win titles.
While some breeders and owners show their own dogs, it is common in dog shows to hire a handler that will campaign a dog for you and travel to the various shows for a breeder/owner for the show season. They showcase the dog's movement and structure, utilizing various techniques such as stacking (posing the dog in a standing position), expert grooming, and gaiting (demonstrating the dog's movement). Regardless of who is showing a dog it is customary to wear relatively formal clothing such as a suit, dress, or skirt. With cat showing it is much more common for the owner/breeder to show the cat themselves. Occasionally breeders will have a friend be an agent for their cat if they cannot attend a show. In addition, attire at cat shows is extremely casual. Some people dress up or wear branded t-shirts but most often exhibitors are in jeans and t-shirt. The exception is when there are award banquets for regional awards where people wear a suit and tie or formal gowns to celebrate. When it comes to showing cats, the cost depends on the show and the location. The typical cost per cat is about $150-$300 with slight discounts for each additional cat being entered. There are many determining factors for why costs at shows differ - it depends on the venue, how many judges there are (each judge gets paid), location also has an effect on expense, etc. Unlike dog shows, where you see one judge in a day where a Breeder may pay about $30, at a cat show your cat will be evaluated by 5-8 judges per day. When you break this down over an average 2 day show that's about $25-$50 per ring per cat Health Testing
Regardless of breed or species, health testing is essential to any breeding program. Testing promotes responsible breeding practices by prioritizing the well-being and health of the animals. It helps breeders avoid unintentionally producing offspring with genetic disorders or predispositions to certain health conditions. This ultimately contributes to the overall welfare and longevity of the breed. By identifying carriers or affected animals, breeders can make more informed decisions to prevent unnecessary suffering in future generations. Genetic testing in dogs and cats does not technically provide breed identification. Degree of diversity makes it challenging to identify specific breed markers or genetic signatures for accurate breed identification. Cats especially have a much broader gene pool, and many breeds share similar genetic variations, making it difficult to differentiate between them based solely on genetic testing.
Cat breeds also have less standardized physical traits and breed characteristics compared to dogs, with more variation within breeds. Some cats may exhibit traits from multiple breeds, making it harder to determine their breed heritage through genetic testing alone. There is also a distinction in health testing requirements between dogs and cats. While both species typically require animals to reach maturity before certain tests can be conducted, cats generally undergo these tests before reaching one year of age. Dogs on the other hand often are titled and have different maturity rates then cats (large or giant breeds for example mature between 2-4 years, with smaller breed dogs reaching maturity at 12-18 months) extending their prime breeding ages often beyond that of cats. However, in some cases, health concerns such as pyometra may necessitate breeding before certain tests can be performed, despite the breeder's best intentions. Nonetheless, responsible breeders will ensure that these cats and dogs are screened before sending their kittens and puppies to new homes and provide a favorable guarantee for the well-being of the kittens and puppies. In addition to the standard health tests, reputable dog breeders also prioritize specific
screenings to ensure the overall well-being and genetic health of their dogs. One essential test is the BAER (Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response) test, which is conducted to detect hearing loss in dogs. This test measures the electrical activity of the brain in response to sound stimuli, allowing breeders to identify any hearing impairments in their breeding dogs. Furthermore, dog breeders prioritize conducting screenings for hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, and spine abnormalities. These screenings typically involve radiographic
evaluations to assess the structure and condition of the hips, elbows, and spine. By assessing these areas, breeders can identify any signs of dysplasia or other issues that may affect the
dog's mobility, comfort, and long-term health. These tests aren’t as common in cats. Depending on breed, cats on the other hand may have other screenings performed that cannot be genetically tested for such as echocardiograms for heart conditions and ultrasounds for kidney diseases that must be performed more than once. Housing
Dogs and cats have different containment needs. Dogs can typically be housed side by side in kennels with a whelping box in an open space without issues. However, cats and kittens are more agile and can easily climb out of enclosures without a top or slip through wire holes.
Another important factor to consider is the space you have available (which is covered in more detail in the article My Best Piece of Advice...Building the Ideal Cattery Space). While dogs can mark, male cats, in particular, are prone to spraying, but females can also engage in this behavior. Their urine is corrosive and can cause damage. Before I had my deluxe condos built for my male cats outside, they were housed in our partially finished basement, and one of my boys' urine ate through the concrete floor. I've also had to replace fencing and metal tubes that were completely corroded by their spray. Male cats can be messy, spraying on their beds, trees, and even in their water. It's important to have easily cleanable surfaces, and items like beds, blankets, and toys should be made of materials that can be washed or cleaned easily, such as silicone. Intact Bitches vs. Dams While there are some breed differences, cats generally do not go into heat only twice a year like dogs. Cats go into heat throughout the year. Bengals, specifically, tend to go into heat earlier than other breeds for example. Some even experience their first heat as early as 4 months old. And Unlike their wild counterparts, most cats in a cattery are not seasonal breeders. They can go into heat once a month for 4-7 days, every two weeks, or remain in heat until they are bred. This continuous cycling poses an increased risk for female cats to develop Pyometra, a potentially fatal uterine infection.
Cats are induced ovulators, meaning they need to be bred in order to ovulate. Pyometra is primarily caused by progesterone, which is produced during ovulation. Spontaneous ovulation can occur in cats, even if various methods are used to control or suppress their heat cycles such as breeding, not breeding, birth control, pressure points, the glass rod method, or neutered males. This puts them at a higher risk for Pyometra. While dogs can and do develop this uterine infection, cats (especially those in a cattery setting) have a much higher likelihood of developing Pyometra due to their frequent cycling. It is important to note that using birth control methods to keep cats out of heat, such as artificial progesterone, is not recommended. While it may prevent them from going into heat, it also puts them at risk for Pyometra and other side effects, including sterility. If you are considering breeding cats, keeping them intact (particularly females) requires careful attention and proactive measures to prevent health complications. It is not something that can be put off and decided upon later, even if you plan to breed them in the future. Ethical Back to Back Breeding. The last major difference is that, while dogs bleed during their heat cycle, cats do not. Females in heat often are extremely vocal as they call for a mate. They also tend to be extremely affectionate, roll and slither on the floor, present their hind end to other cats, animals even inanimate objects and some females may also spray urine on vertical surfaces all in attempts to attract a male. Intact Studs
Many breeders that have experience with dogs and cats, report intact male dogs to be easier to handle. The spraying alone makes male cats more gross and harder to deal with than intact male dogs. While there is some same sex aggression it seems to be less common with male dogs, who exhibit certain behavioral traits such as marking territory, roaming, and displaying more dominant or aggressive behaviors, particularly around female dogs in heat. Male cats are known for exhibiting more pronounced sexual behaviors. They may display
territorial marking by spraying urine to communicate their presence and attract mates. They can also engage in aggressive behaviors and may become more vocal and restless during breeding seasons. Anatomically unneutered male cats have spines on their penis that induce ovulation in the female during mating.
Additionally, they possess barbed structures on their penis, which aid in keeping the female in place during copulation. When they have finished with a mating session the male and female essentially rip away from each other causing the female to scream. Male intact dogs on the other hand have a bulbus glandis similar to a knot that swells up when they ejaculate that also functions to keep the female in place until mating is complete. Progesterone Testing
Progesterone testing is used in dogs to guide optimal breeding timing by tracking hormone levels. It confirms ovulation, aids in pregnancy confirmation, detects reproductive issues, and predicts the expected whelping date. Breeders use this information to maximize breeding success, ensure proper timing for mating (especially if using an outside stud), confirm pregnancy, address reproductive concerns, and prepare for a healthy whelping process. Cats have different reproductive patterns compared to dogs. They are induced ovulators, meaning they ovulate in response to mating. This makes it challenging to accurately time progesterone testing in cats. The breeding practices for cats often rely on other methods such as monitoring behavioral cues and mating observations to determine the appropriate timing for breeding. Artificial Insemination The use of Artificial Insemination is common in the dog breeding world. Semen from male
dogs is easier to collect than for male cats. Collecting the sperm of male cats is often seen as taboo because it requires the use of electrotherapy to collect. In dogs, semen is often collected manually (sometimes with the help of a teaser bitch). Semen can be frozen and stored to share lines with other breeders all over the world. Not only are there semen banks but many reproductive vets also will store semen samples as well. It is much more common and accepted for cat breeders to own and use their own males. Occasionally they will stud their male with other breeders' cats but this is usually reserved for very close and trusted friends. Breeding for Color Dog breeders do focus on color to some extent, as coat color and patterns can be important for certain breeds and breed standards. However, breeders generally prioritize other factors such as health, temperament, conformation, and working ability over color alone. Many breeds were developed for specific working purposes or have specific temperamental traits. Breeders prioritize breeding dogs that excel in their intended roles and possess the desired working abilities and temperament. Color is often secondary to these functional qualities. Therefore in the dog world it is much more frowned upon to focus on color.
In cat breeding, solely focusing on color can lead to similar issues in dog breeding like limiting the genetic diversity within a breed. Overemphasis on specific colors or patterns can lead to a narrower gene pool, increasing the risk of inherited disorders or compromising overall breed health. However this is not as taboo in the cat world as it is in the dog world. Breeders often focus on health, temperament, and adherence to the breed standard which often include specific details on appropriate color standards. However unlike dogs, performance and job roles are not a focus in cats as most don’t perform work or functionality roles such as herding, hunting and guarding despite the fact that cats can be great therapy animals and mousers. Ownership
Dog breeders tend to match puppies with their family. While there are cat breeds that drastically differ in activity level and temperament then the plethora of dog breeds, there are more minor differences. Many ethical dog breeders tend to prioritize factors other than color such as compatibility with a family's lifestyle, the puppy’s temperament, and overall health of a dog. Dogs are considered more active participants in the family, they are a pet that you have to be active with versus cats, which people consider more passive pleasure. Therefore it is more common that a cat breeder allows their kitten families to choose their kitten. Age of Rehoming
There is a difference in the rehoming age of puppies versus kittens. While in a shelter setting you may find kittens are being homed at 8 weeks, this is because shelters are massively overwhelmed and need to rehome animals ASAP. At 8 weeks kittens are eating solids and generally using the litter box. However there is a great detriment to behavior and bonding attachment when kittens are rehomed this early. The bond with mom and kittens doesn’t break until around 11 weeks of age. When this bond breaks the kittens are less dependent on mom and now are open and more focused on learning different but equally as important social skills with other kittens and cats! In addition a second fear period occurs at 11-12 weeks (the first being at 5-6 weeks). A fear period refers to a developmental stage during which kittens or puppies may exhibit heightened fear or anxiety towards certain stimuli or situations. During this time, kittens are more susceptible to negative experiences and may develop lasting fears or phobias if not properly managed. At 12-16 weeks they can go home eating solids, potty trained, used to using cat scratchers, with skills outside of a focus on mom, and are able to bond out of love and confidence versus fear due to early separation. Puppies on the other hand usually require more intensive care and attention during their early stages of development, including socialization and training. Additionally, puppies tend to bond more easily with new owners at a younger age. According to Cornell Veterinary College the ideal time frame of rehoming puppies is around 8-12 weeks. Littermate Syndrome
This phenomenon refers to two or more puppies raised together at the same time of about the same age that heavily rely on each other and don’t bond with their owners. This can result in separation anxiety, emotional and social issues, aggression, lack of impulse control, and other behavioral concerns. This effect doesn’t tend to be true with puppies brought home at least a year apart however. While the above concern is seen in puppies, it is not common in kittens. The recommendation for dogs is that you raise one at a time, whereas it is highly recommended that if you do not already have a companion at home, you bring home two or more kittens at the same time. The reasons for these differences include varying socialization styles of cats and dogs. Cats tend to be much more independent at a younger age and dogs have much more of a pack mentality.
In conclusion, breeding and showing cats is a unique and distinct experience compared to breeding and showing dogs. While there are similarities such as genetics, welfare, health care, point systems, and grooming, it's important to remember that cats are not dogs. This article has highlighted some of the key differences, focusing on the registration process, showing requirements, health testing, housing needs, and the reproductive welfare of cats. By understanding and addressing these unique factors, breeders and enthusiasts can have a well-rounded understanding of the world of breeding and showing cats.