A small fortune

“The only way to make a small fortune breeding cats is to start with a large fortune.”

Many people seem to have a mistaken idea about how cat breeders (and most of this applies to good dog breeders too) are making a huge sum of money off the backs of their cats. I have absolutely no issue with people making profit off their hobbies or benefitting in some fashion… but cat breeding, as it stands now, is not a profitable enterprise.

You don’t believe me? In order to breed cats, you need to have breeding cats, to appropriately care for pregnant cats, to feed and raise kittens and to connect kitten buyers with kittens.

Let’s talk numbers:

  • Breeding stock: You can’t make baby cats without parent cats. The cost to purchase a kitten for breeding ranges from $1500 – $4000 and potentially up, depending on where they are located, bloodlines, shipping, and the rest. In some cases, other catteries may let you use their males as studs for the price of a kitten or for a kitten back, which can lessen your upfront cost, but just pushes it down the line. That cat will need to be vet checked when they come home, and have an exam, fecal, potentially giardia test, and then also FeLV/FIV, which will be generally another $200 – $300. Then there comes things like PRA tests ($40 per cat) and colour tests ($60 per cat) to determine other things. What else is required is breed dependent. Total cost for one cat: $2000 (lowest, may be way more). This is, of course, an ongoing expense.
  • Cat shows: How do you end up finding a breeder who will sell you a cat anyways? Most breeders are very careful with their bloodlines, and the best way to get to know breeders is to go to cat shows. The best way to continue having relationships with breeders and to confirm that you’re breeding to standard is to continue to go to cat shows. A cat show weekend generally costs about $50 – $100 per cat, depending on how many cats you are entering and how far you’re traveling. Let’s say $1000 per year, and that is a really, really, really low number.
  • Cat care: When you get that amazing breeding kitten, you still have to take care of them for a year or more as they grow up, which costs money. Good cat food and litter is a non-zero expense. Let’s say $25 a month per cat, for 8 months, for a total of $200. Also, obviously, an ongoing expense.
  • Pregnancy! You have a queen, you’ve got a stud, and now it’s time for pregnancy! Pregnant cats require additional pre-natal care. Many breeders will do pre-breeding bloodwork ($100), and also an X-ray to determine how many kittens are in there ($70 – $100). There’s also the additional cost of high quality food for the breeding queen, and they eat more than you could humanly imagine. Nine weeks of pregnancy is likely $100 – $200 more in food costs than it would be otherwise.
  • Birth: A normal birth requires a safe place for a queen to give birth, kitten milk on hand just in case there are issues, feeding tubes just in case there are issues, and likely at least one night of missed sleep. Let’s say $50 worth of odds and ends. A birth complication such as retained placenta or a c-section can and will end up with potentially thousands of dollars of vet bills very very fast. Parfait had a retained placenta after her second litter and required two days of hospitalization and an emergency spay, plus two days of feeding for her kittens, at the cost of about $1900 and more sleep than I can count.
  • Kitten care: Remember how much food pregnant queens eat? Lactating queens eat twice as much, and a litter of kittens eats a truly unspeakable quantity of food. The quality of nutrition going in determines how healthy they will be, so this isn’t a place to skimp. It likely costs $200 – $300 in food to raise a litter of four to 16 weeks, and that’s a low estimate.
  • Vet care: A healthy litter still requires vet care. Some breeders do vaccines themselves, and save a little money, but we prefer to have the vet do over each kitten with a fine toothed comb. A full set of vaccines and exams is approximately $250 per kitten. This, of course, doesn’t take into consideration any emergencies or anything else.
  • Kitten selling: Once you have an amazing litter of kittens, you also have to find them homes. A webpage is about $100 a year (plus the time to keep it up to date), business cards are $20 – $30 a year, and talking back and forth with the kitten owners is a pretty significant amount of time.
  • Now comes the fun. The math in the absolute best case scenario:

    $1900 for a breeding queen ($1500 + $300 of vet care + $200 to raise them to adulthood) divided by 3 litters: $630 per litter.
    $1900 for a breeding stud divided by 5 litters: $380 per litter.
    $1000 for a year of cat shows to show the parents and meet kitten buyers.
    $200 for pre-natal vet care + $100 for food: $300 per litter.
    $100 for birthing supplies
    $300 to feed mom and kittens 16 weeks
    $300 per kitten for vet care: $800 for a litter of four

    Total cost for a completely problem free litter of 4: $3510, working out to a cost of about $870 per kitten.

    Let’s now shift to worst case scenario:

    $4500 for a breeding queen ($4000 + $300 of vet care + $200 to raise them to adulthood) divided by 3 litters: $1500 per litter.
    $4500 for a breeding stud (same as above): $1500 per litter.
    $1000 for a year of cat shows.
    $300 for pre-natal vet care.
    $2000 for a c-section.
    $300 to feed mom and kittens to 16 weeks.
    $200 per kitten for vet care: $800 for a litter of four

    Total cost of a worst case scenario litter of 4: $7400, working out to a cost of about $1850 per kitten.

    Average cost to raise a kitten in a litter of four to adulthood: $1360. In most cases, the breeder keeps one kitten in a litter to use as a breeding cat for the future, thus continuing to perpetuate the cost of breeding stock.

    Not a single piece of this includes the time that breeders spend at cat shows, socializing cats, learning about cats, interacting with other breeders, playing with their cats, driving to and from the vet, driving to and from cat shows, etc.

    If I included 2 hours a day of time into the cost of each kitten, and paid myself a generous $15 an hour, that would be $5250 per litter additional ($1300 per kitten), raising the cost to $2600 per kitten. I spend vastly more than 2 hours a day with the cats, but that’s the lowest price.

    It should become really clear, very quickly, that breeders are not in this for the money. We can’t be, we’d go broke.

    Breeders breed cats for the love of cats, and to give you healthy, good tempered kittens.