How Do I Become a Bengal Cat Breeder?
Ethical cat breeders breed with the intent to continuously improve the quality of the breed. They strive to breed out undesirable characteristics, and they strive to meet and exceed the breed standards with each and every litter generated.
Spend some real time doing research before you commit to breeding Bengal cats.
When it comes to breeding stock, be careful what you buy and who you buy from. Unethical breeders will try to sell you cats that are not breeder quality and most often unhealthy.
Breeding Bengals takes a strong commitment and is very challenging. It would be a shame for anyone to get into breeding cats without knowing what to expect.
Most people who become cat breeders have thrown in the towel within five years.
If you go into breeding with the expectation that this is a money making endeavor, you may be sorely disappointed, and you are producing kittens for all the wrong reasons. Odds are you will find yourself in the red after much work and investment. That said, there are breeders, after years of paying their dues and building a solid reputation, who make money.
The ONLY reason to get into breeding is to improve the breed. PERIOD.
Some folks see the price of a pedigreed cat and think the cat breeder must be making a lot of money at those prices! How could they not, right? Wrong.
Breeding Stock A quality future stud may cost you $6000 - $8000. Purchase a couple of beautiful, healthy future queens to keep him happy, and their prices may be anywhere from $5000 on up. After two or three years of breeding (and sometimes much sooner), you may need to replace some of your breeding cats for any number of reasons, meaning you must spay or neuter them and place them as pets for a tiny fraction of their original purchase price.
Rooms and Runs
Next you have to invest in roomy, secure runs for your breeding male and your females. You’ll need at least three large areas – for the girls can’t always be with the male, and the girls may not get along with each other, so it’s important to have a private area for the girls if they are in heat and possibly spraying, or have very possibly become aggressive with other breeding females. A decent sized room or run is at least 10 feet x 10 feet and 6 feet tall, and preferably much larger. Cats need room to jump, chase, and leap – and this is the absolute smallest area to allow that. Then you must create shelving of various heights, cat trees that can easily be cleaned of stud urine, warm houses if it's outside, proper flooring, a secure roof, perhaps some large stones, tree trunks, climbing areas, and maybe even safe vegetation.
Stud cats must be housed separately from other stud cats - it's only a matter of time before hormones kick in and it's a fight to the death for territory and females. Stud cats spray a very pungent urine - and often. They spray on vertical surfaces to attract females. Do not expect them to live in your home and faithfully use a litter box. Breeding is very different from living with a few house cats. Studs need large, secure enclosures with lots of room, a companion at all times* (they get very lonely and stressed), fresh air and sunlight. The average garage will NOT suffice and it's cruel to keep a cat alone in a garage. If that's all you have - do not become a breeder.
Don't forget female cats often do not get along with each other once they start having kittens. This means you will need to have separate living areas for any number of queens, even if they aren't pregnant or raising kittens.
*We always have a female in with our stud cat. Females may be kept with him prior to breeding, and up to about 3 weeks before delivering. In a large, roomy, environment with many areas to climb, scratch, hide, and nap, a stud and queen will get along very well and often bond strongly to one another. We keep 1 - 2 girls with each male continuously. If you only have a couple females, it would be wise to retire, spay, and keep an easy-going girl that can keep your boy company any time your other girls are unavailable raising kittens or taking a break from breeding.
When it's time to raise kittens, each queen needs to have her own private room for at least 12 to 14 weeks. A room that no other cats or kittens visit during this time. If you have multiple litters at the same time - you will need to have a private room for each mom and babies - no sharing. Sharing magnifies health issues and territorial / behavioral issues.
Of course you have the normal food bills, and breeding cats will need a premium diet to remain healthy and viable producers. This is a diet consisting mainly of canned meat protein, and the addition of raw is very healthy. This type of feeding isn’t cheap. We go through 12 large cans of cat food daily, as many chicken legs, and an several bags of freeze dried raw.
Cat litter runs us $6.00 per 40 pound bag – we buy the pelleted horse bedding - - and we use about 200 pounds a week. This amount can easily triple during kitten season. We have to pay extra to our garbage man – we use three very large cans – to properly dispose of this litter.
Veterinary Care & Health Screening
Don’t forget the all important veterinary care, vaccinations, worming, supplements, health certificates and health screening – an uneventful year, without any huge expenses, averages about $5000. - We HCM screen our breeding cats -- and that averages about $300 per cat, IF we are fortunate enough to attend an HCM clinic. Otherwise, the HCM screens start at $800 each.
- We DNA test each of our adults for Progressive Retinal Atrophy and Polycystic Kidney Disease - around $100 per cat.
- If you have an unexpected emergency, such as a C-Section, that will run you around $3000 during normal veterinary hours and $5000 or more if you have to go to the after hours emergency vet.
Supplies There are too many to list, but here are a few: cat trees, litter boxes, carriers, bowls, toys, bedding, blankets, kitten ID collars, walking jackets, cat wheels, scratching posts, printer ink, copy paper, cleaning supplies.
Domain name fees, web hosting, web design, web advertising, etc… This probably comes to around $1000 to $1500 per year or more.
Associations & Registrations Membership fees, Code of Ethics, individual registration fees, litter registrations, certified pedigrees, etc...
Showing Many breeders commit a lot of time, effort, and money at TICA and CFA shows. By the time you’ve paid the entry fees, hotel fees, gas, food, purchased show cages, etc… Most are lucky if they can attend one show for less than a $1000 total investment. Oh, and you don't win money at cat shows. You win ribbons and titles.
Time is probably the most important requirement when breeding cats.
Cattery Duties 24/7
Time spent on cattery duties such as: cleaning, feeding, dumping litter boxes, playing with, grooming and exercising adults, grooming, clipping nails, watching expectant mothers, separating adult cats, keeping in-heat females away from males, or teaching in-heat girls to accept a male.
Expect to spend AT LEAST an hour each day with EACH litter of kittens just sitting and socializing them. Picking them up, touching their ears and paws, introducing them to various toys, the carrier, being carried, a walking harness and leash, etc... This takes a lot of dedication and time every single day.
Photos & Videos
Another huge time-grabber is updating your website and Facebook page with photos, videos and information. Good photos sell kittens - so you will be taking many, many photos of kittens for the website and potential clients. You will take photos of each kitten at least every couple of weeks. Good photos - showing pattern, head, both sides of the body, and videos showing personality and movement.
Emailing, Texting, Messaging & Calling Clients You will receive many inquiries and answering many, many questions will become a big part of your day. If you have full time job, then your evenings will require a lot of your time responding to clients. That is, after you've fed, cleaned and spent time with each of your breeding cats and kittens!
Interested buyers want to see the heath of the kittens and the environment they grew up in. So these visits will also be required, and one visit can take several hours. If you work, that means fitting them in on weekends and evenings - AFTER you've fed and cleaned all cat and kitten areas.
We also find ourselves frequently helping out folks who are not interested in purchasing, but need help with their new kitten or cat – and the breeder they purchased from is either unavailable, unable, or unwilling to help.
One other BIG time commitment is volunteering to help your breed – this is an unpaid and sometimes thankless job – but nevertheless, it is an important one. We’ve volunteered to help rescues, set up HCM clinics, served on breed committees, served on the boards of a couple breed clubs, maintained their websites, managed Face Book Groups, edited newsletters, etc… Volunteers play a huge role in helping to further the breed and educate breeders and pet owners.
Contracts You must have legally sound contracts for the sale of pets, breeders, and show kittens, stud service agreements, leasing arrangements, etc... You should have contracts written to protect your cats, your cattery, and your reputation, not to mention contracts that are fair to the buyer, too, and that will hopefully hold up should there be a dispute.
They are usually included in the contract, and very important.
Used to record vaccinations, worming, flea preventative applications, spaying and neutering, and any other veterinary health care.
Your adults, your litters and your kittens.
Prepared in detail for each client, and given a couple weeks before they are scheduled to take their new kitten home, so that they have time to prepare and ask questions. We give a hard copy the day of pick up, as well, and review the information carefully with each client.
You must have records on each and every cat, each and every birth, each and every vaccination, each and every breeding, sale, purchase, adoption, and so on. In other words, you must be organized! Many breeders use computer programs designed for catteries. We use The Cattery Standard.
Finally, you need to keep every receipt for purchases made – any purchase – and better yet, keep them recorded in a database for easy retrieval come tax time
Sales Tax and Income Tax
This subject could be quite detailed, but suffice it to say we pay about 8% on every sale in Sales Tax and then pay Income Tax on any profits made from the cattery. Keep your many receipts – you can also deduct expenses.
County, City, and State Requirements
Do I need to register my cattery? How many cats may I house in my neighborhood? Do I need a breeding permit? It’s important to check into these things before making large investments only to find your cattery is not permitted.
Before you purchase
1. You should join TICA or CFA and get your cattery name registered. Read and agree to their Code of Ethics. Study and memorize your breed's standard.
2. Read several books on breeding pedigreed cats.
3. Visit at least a couple of breeders in your area to get an up-close and personal view of what the lifestyle is all about. You must be willing to drive several or more hours - but do it.
4. Go to TICA and CFA cat shows. Learn to evaluate your breed of choice, talk with the breeders there, and begin to train your eye to understand how each cat meets or falls short of the breed standard. TICA Show Calendar
Have deep pockets. It's easy to spend $20,000 before you've had a single kitten.
5. Read all you can on Feline Husbandry - this can't be emphasized enough.
Dr. Pedersen's book, Feline Husbandry, Diseases and Management in the Multi-Cat Environment, is an invaluable resource, and is considered the "bible" for the serious cat breeder. He has made it available ONLINE for FREE!
6. Read up on feline genetics - this is also extremely important knowledge for a serious breeder to have.
Place kittens and cats by contract.
Never put profit over the goal of bettering the breed.
Always understand that the betterment of the breed is the most important goal. Because of this goal, never would a breeder think to breed without knowing the pedigree, without holding the papers qualifying the dam and sire as breed quality or without genetic testing and screening.
Carefully interview prospective owners and have specific requirements that are to be met. For example, a cat or kitten must be altered by a specific date; a cat or kitten may not roam outdoors; no declawing; no feeding dry food, etc…
Make health screening and testing an integral part of your breeding program.
Have a willingness to educate the novice and to answer all questions regarding the breed and his or her breeding program.
Stay informed of any health, genetic, or behavioral problems your cats and kittens may develop over their lifetime.
Breed to better the breed ONLY – breed to meet the standard, and work to continually evaluate and improve your breeding stock.
Never house more cats and kittens than you are able to keep clean, healthy, and well-socialized.
Always take back previously placed kittens when an owner cannot or will not care for them.
Always give a solid written health guarantee on each and every kitten sold. This can mean giving back money or replacing a kitten long after it is sold – that is, if your contract is written to really stand behind the cats you are selling.
Keep current on important issues affecting the breed and actively participate in the “community”.
Maintain a continual furthering of education through breed clubs, breed sections, cat shows, and other available resources.
Provide the best medical care, nutrition, housing and socialization for your breeders and kittens.
Implement a marketing plan sufficient to place all of your kittens.
Realize that sometimes things go wrong, but always maintain a responsibility to the situation, and do what is needed to rectify a problem fairly.
NEVER abandon a situation or one of your cats.