People see that pedigreed kittens are sold for $400 or more and assume that breeders must be making a profit.
It’s hard to understand how expensive breeding is without actually trying it.
Breeding each domestic species is different with different special challenges.
With cats, the biggest challenge is preventing and managing infectious disease because cats evolved as loners, almost never in contact with other cats after reaching adulthood.
Cats also tend to start manifesting behavioral problems in a multicat situation. Hence there is no such thing as “economies of scale” when breeding cats.
As long as you continue to give the cats all the veterinary care and other things they deserve, the more cats you have, the more expensive it gets.
how much does breeding cats actually cost?
If we’re just talking about basic overheads, to obtain a breeding quality queen (we’re talking about a female cat with no genetic issues, and who is of general breeding standards) they could cost anything between £700-1000.
Next, you have stud fees. Unneutered males are smelly, and generally don’t make great pets, but if you wanted your own stud he’d cost between £1000-2000, and would need to be housed separately from females – stud runs are a further £2000. The fees to hire a stud are between £200 and £500 – and if your female does not get pregnant, you may have to pay these again for a different stud.
As a breeder, to make sure everything is okay with your cats, and to tell you which patterns they’ll have, you’ll also have to pay for genetic testing. Each test will cost you £30.
To be a reputable breeder, you must also register with the GCCF, which will typically cost you about £41 for a litter of four, but will vary depending on the size of the litter.
Food for cats can cost up to £20 per month per cat, and kittens shouldn’t be leaving their mother until they’re at least 12 weeks old (so that’s at least £60 per kitten for food).
Don’t forget the other essentials like litter trays – each cat needs their own litter tray, and one spare. Litter for the tray can easily cost around £50 per month, depending on how many cats you have.
You will also need plenty of good quality cat furniture – this can easily total £500. Plus kittens/cats need toys which will cost about £10 a month. It is also advisable, as a responsible breeder to microchip your kittens, this will cost between £15-40 per cat.
Worming your kittens costs £10 per cat, and vaccinations are £35-£80 per kitten; reputable breeders will have two sets of vaccinations completed before the kittens leave for their new home.
MAINTENANCE OF ADULT CATS
Food, litter, routine veterinary bills, and other basic maintenance costs will vary depending on the quality of the food and litter, the number of toys and special furniture items purchased for the cat(s) and more.
But it always costs more than $500 per year to maintain one healthy adult cat – and it can average as much as $2000 per cat per year, especially as cats age.
A queen can only be bred for 1 to 2 litters per year for 5-6 years after which she must be spayed and retired.
Every breeder may begin with one queen, but eventually there will be other queens, perhaps one or two studs, retirees, and a cat or two of any age that was too special to the breeder to adopt out or that was unadoptable because of health or behavioral problems.
As cats age, their vet bills increase substantially, beginning with annual dental cleaning ($150 per year) and accelerating to much higher costs as the cat develops physical problems with aging.
Even though they retire some of their adult cats early and adopt them out into loving homes, breeders sooner or later accumulate more elderly cats than a pet owner usually would, with the result that their yearly expenses for taking care of their beloved retirees and pensioners can be substantial.
Even adopting cats out all cats while still young is not a financial solution (and certainly not an easy solution from an emotional perspective!) because the more often cats are retired and adopted out, the more often the breeder must buy a new breeding cat, pay for health screening, and register her/him.
In addition, an occasional new breeding cat will prove to be unbreedable for various reasons and the effort and expense of finding a replacement must be repeated yet again.
THE COSTS PER LITTER
Even once you have the kittening equipment and other overhead expenses taken care of, there are additional costs incurred per litter. They include:
A. Queen must be vaccinated right before she is bred or in some cases during the pregnancy. That’s at least $10 if the vet does it (more if he charges for an office visit) and $3 if you learn how to do it yourself (that’s if you manage your inventory perfectly and can avoid having vaccines expire before you can use them all up, not that easy to do).
B. Stud fee and health screening discussed in part I section C above. $400 to $600.
C. Queen will eat up to twice as much as usual during her pregnancy and up to three times as much as usual while she is nursing the kittens. She needs special premium quality food that is approved for pregnancy and lactation.
That is two 6-ounce cans per day for 9 weeks of pregnancy and 3 cans per day for at least 8 weeks of lactation. Each can costs about 50 cents for premium food, so that is 63 days X $1.00 + 56 days X $1.50 = $147.00.
D. Kittens can die within hours if they don’t get enough to eat because of a feeding problem. So you need to keep emergency formula, feeding tubes, and feeding syringes on hand.
The formula needs to be purchased fresh nearly every time you have a litter, so that’s $20 per litter.
E. The kittens will begin to eat solid food at age 4-6 weeks and will be eating almost entirely solid food at age 8 weeks.
At age 8 weeks, each kitten eats about two 3-ounce cans per day of premium food rated for growing kittens and will eat perhaps 1/8 cup of dry premium kitten food each day.
What they don’t eat, they spill soil, scatter, or play with until it must be discarded. The kittens will stay with the breeder usually until age 12 weeks – and sometimes for much longer. So that’s a minimum of 3 cans X 4 weeks X 33 cents per can = $28 per kitten. Average litter size for Siamese is five kittens, so 5 X $28 = $140.00. Then the dry food adds up to 1/8 cup X 5 kittens X 28 days = 17.5 cups. So that’s about one 4 pound bag of premium kitten food per litter, or $8.00. Total food for kittens is $140 + $8 = $148.00.
F. The kittens will require at least two vaccinations, one at age 9 weeks and one at age 12 weeks. Those cost $10 each if the vet does it, or $3 each if the breeder does it.
So that’s five kittens X 2 vaccinations X $10 per vacc = $100.00, or alternatively it is $30.00 if the breeder does her own vaccinations.
G. Each kitten must be spayed or neutered prior to adoption. This is responsible breeding that prevents new owners from unintentionally failing to neuter kittens in time to prevent accidental litters.
Breeders aim to preserve their breeds but they also wish to avoid adding to the numbers of homeless cats on the streets and in shelters. If you can find a good low-cost early neuter clinic (not always possible), average cost of neutering is $25.00 per kitten X four kittens = $100.00. NOTE: If you can’t find a low-cost neutering clinic, it will cost you about $50.00 and up to neuter and or spay each kitten.
The reason there are only four kittens neutered, and not five, is because the breeder nearly always keeps one kitten from each litter to see if it will have potential as a future breeding or show cat.
Obviously, in many cases the kitten does not realize its potential and thus is eventually placed in a home as a pet, but placed at a later age it may have to be sold for almost nothing.
H. In virtually all litters there is at least one kitten who during his 12 weeks living with the breeder requires veterinary attention due to an umbilical infection, failure to thrive normally, getting poked in the eye, falling off a table the wrong way, developing an upper respiratory infection, developing a minor eye infection during the period when the eyes are starting to open, needing a re-examination after neutering, being born with a minor birth defect, developing a mysterious limp, swallowing a foreign object, or many other possible calamities. Kittens are like small human children.
They have a talent for getting themselves into scrapes or picking up bugs. The veterinary costs typically vary from a $35 exam (to be on the safe side) to $300 emergency surgery or treatment (off-hours).
I. Occasionally, the queen requires a C-section to deliver her kittens or may require treatment after the birth of the kittens due to lactational diarrhea, intestinal obstruction, mastitis, hemorrhaging, uterine infection, or other complications.
The costs associated with treating these problems may run up to $1200 for an emergency off-hours C-section.
Also, if C-section is required up to half of the litter may die due to side effects of the anesthesia. Kittens may also be lost due to the effects of complications on the queen’s milk production.
J. The queen will require at least one precautionary prenatal or perinatal veterinary examination, $35.00.
K. The litter must be registered and the one kitten who is kept must be individually registered, $20.00.
L. You must replenish, repair, replace some of the kittening equipment each litter (see part I), $30.
Total costs per litter in best case scenario where all goes well, breeder does her own vaccinations,and somehow no kitten gets sick = $933.00
INCOME FROM ONE LITTER OF KITTENS
A. If the breeder keeps one kitten and sells four, the income is 4 X $400 = $1600.00
In the best-case scenario J-1 and if you ignore start-up costs and overhead for a moment, you have $1600 – 933 = $667.00
B. But the queen originally cost you at least $500 + $160 for advance networking + $200 for health screening + $10 for registration + min $500 per year maintenance for perhaps six years of reproductive life.
Total cost of queen = $1370. Divide that by six years and you get $228 per year (and that’s the minimum she cost you assuming you don’t have to support her after her retirement).
Since she only produced one litter per year, you have to subtract the cost of her support from the litter income: $667.00 – $228.00 = $439.00. And of course in reality you didn’t get a best-case scenario from every litter she produced. But let’s suppose you did…
C. You also paid $160 per year in networking and advertising for six years while you were breeding her. $439 – 160 = $279.00.
D. You had $120 per year of long distance phone calls and related expenses. $279 – $120 = $159.00.
E. You had the costs of registering a cattery name with CFA $50 per five years. We are actually talking about breeding the queen for six years, but let’s be generous and average the cattery reg fees over five years, or $10 per year. $159.00 – 10 = $149.00.
F. Oh, and Uncle Sam won’t let you deduct your cattery expenses as business expenses because it will turn out you never make a profit. So you have to declare your kitten income as hobby income and pay taxes on at LEAST everything you make in immediate “profit,” so let’s say that’s 25% of part A’s $667.00 = $167.00.
Now $149.00 – 167.00 = – $18.00. So now you’ve LOST $18.00 per year even with a best-case scenario.
G. But we’re not done. Reference books were $100 (during preparatory year) + $10 per year X 6 years = $160.00 divided by 6 = $27.00. So that makes a loss of $45.00 per year.
H. And there was the $145.00 of up-front kittening equipment. Divide that by 6 years and you have $24.00.
So now we have lost $69.00 per year under the very best of circumstances.
I. Remember that due to the occasional accident of nature, you may also end up with at least one unadoptable kitten, a kitten with a special health or behavioral problem, to which you must give a lifetime of love and good care.
That adds to the richness of your emotional experience with the cats, but it also costs you a lot more.
J. And we haven’t even talked about what it would cost you if you were showing your cats several times per year at cat shows!
What if something goes wrong?
In terms of vet bills, the sky’s the limit, especially if you have a bout of diarrhoea in a litter of kittens. If mum needs a caesarean section, that can be pretty costly, too, and is likely to even run into the thousands.
So, the bottom line is that breeding cats is an expensive thing to do. For most breeders, this equates to a very time consuming hobby. Not included in my list are little additions, such as time taken off work, and travel to studs, and shows.
Regardless of what Grazia might have you believe, breeding is not an easy way to make some extra cash, and people do end up losing money from it. Added to which, I don’t know about you, but I don’t think all that cat hair makes a very nice accessory!