Helpful Hints For Newbies
by PAMELA R. MARTIN, Castle Paws Silver Persians

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The average stay in the cat fancy is five years. 

Those of us who have “been around” awhile have often wished to be 28 again with all the   knowledge we now have at 48!   WOW!  I, for one would love that opportunity! 

This wish is often made in the cat fancy as well; however, I have never seen it fulfilled!

Once an individual has made up their mind to breed pedigreed cats, there is no turning back.   Many will make the same common mistakes—and spend many thousands of dollars learning lessons from those mistakes.

The Romance of Being A Cat Breeder

Some of the most expensive errors are said to be incurred through poor feline husbandry practices.   Very often, an unrealistic and perhaps glamorous picture has been visualized by the “wannabe” breeder.  They have high hopes and may quickly become disappointed by the many obstacles they encounter including never getting back what they had anticipated.   This is not suggesting that we lower our expectations; but that we conduct more research prior to beginning a breeding program. 

Do Your Homework Before You Buy A Cat

Purchase books and attend cat shows.  Look at the cats and talk to exhibitors.   Hopefully, you will come across a good mentor as this can save you those mega bucks we will keep referring to as well as the many headaches that come about.   CFA is in the early stages of developing a mentor program especially for newbies so keep up to date as it develops.

Janice Reichle of Diadem Silvers writes:

“I think some of our most expensive errors are made in the beginning by buying the wrong cats.  I've found that most breeders have to spay and/or place the first cats they buy because they start out with poor quality and too many of those.  I've always advised people to buy one cat, show it for a year and then breed it.  During that year you will learn more about type, how to groom and possibly the most important thing -- which are the honest, trust-worthy breeders. Paying a big price definitely does not guarantee you a good kitten!”

Breeding cats, especially the Silvers and Goldens, does not come about easily. Both the cat & dog fancy are known to be a   “rich man’s hobby”. There is no doubt that it takes a lot of time, money and dedication to raise cats so keep this in consideration.  For anyone serious about entering the cat fancy as a breeder, I cannot stress enough the importance of taking every opportunity to learn all that is humanly possible concerning the breed which they intend to work with.   Do not expect quick results because it takes more than a lifetime to consume it all. I know of breeders that have been working with the same breed for more than 30 years and even they don’t know everything --yet!   So be patient, listen and be willing to learn.

Ameena Diehl of Diehl Persians writes:

“Newbies have a choice in the matter. They don’t have to buy the first cat that is offered to them.  Nor do they have to hook up with a person like that. This is a hobby that rests very much on REPUTATION.  Newbies are free to ask around and find out about past dealings. As with most things in life, a tiny bit of caution goes a long way. 

Please don’t think that we don’t want to trust newbies with a top cat.  We really do WANT to, but few have ever approached us with a firm breeding plan and a real understanding of what our line has to offer (or doesn't have to offer).  It’s not that we have some set-in-stone rule about placing whole cats with newbies. The truth is, we don’t place show cats with anyone who does not have goals and reasonable expectations- newbies or otherwise.”

Specialize

Most reputable Persian breeders will specialize in one specific color class such as “Silvers and/or Goldens”, solids, bi-colors, tabbies, himmie’s, etc.   Be wary of any breeder that is working with or advertises to have “every color”.   One cannot specialize in “every color” and this requires housing a large number of cats.   Unfortunately, there are breeders that often advertise in this manner and will prey on newbies.   It’s an old saying but an apt one—“jack of all trades, master of none.

It Ain't Easy

Another thought to keep in mind is that the average mortality rate for pedigree kittens is very high and cats are considered the most difficult of all animals to raise in captivity. 

Making Money

Anyone who expects to make a profit selling kittens is dreaming!   Breeding by inexperienced individuals with little or no knowledge of feline husbandry is most detrimental to any breed.  Reproducing kittens for re-sale purposes defines a kitty-mill. 

Each breeding should be planned with the standard in mind and a desire to produce cats that meet the standard.  The individual that is not keeping and showing any of the offspring that he/she is producing, they have classified themselves with the kitty mill-ers as “backyard breeders”.  They have no idea what their lines can produce, which ones to put together or how they might develop and probably no interest in either.  In other words, how they are developing.

Size alone does not define a kitty mill operation.   They vary from several breeding cats to hundreds.   It is the objectives of the breeding program that is the concern.  Anytime a profit is intended, corners must be cut and that  includes feline husbandry  practices such as poor medical care and poor quality of cats used in the breeding program.  With this in mind, any individual that does not intend on showing should not be breeding in the first place!   Furthermore, they should not be registering their kittens within CFA since they are not following CFA objectives which are:  (taken from the CFA Website):

“The objectives of The Cat Fanciers' Association, Inc. (CFA) are:

• The promotion of the welfare of cats and the improvement of their breed;
• The registration of pedigrees of cats and kittens;
• The promulgation of rules for the management of cat shows;
• The licensing of cat shows held under the rules of this organization; and,
• The promotion of interest of breeders and exhibitors of cats.”

As responsible hobby breeders, we should only be producing enough kittens that we have time to care for,  show and suitably place.   Ideally, the kittens are reserved before the parents are bred.

Backyard breeder types and kitty mill-ers are a hobby breeders worst nightmare and   tremendous threat to our hobby’s very existence because anti breeder organizations such as PETA cannot (or will not) identify a “good” breeder from a “bad” one.   We have no identifying marks on our forehead (or anywhere for that matter!); therefore, we are all clumped into one huge clump and classified as “breeders”.

Be A Responsible Breeder

Due to the often misleading policies of anti-breeder organizations, we need to not only practice but also demonstrate responsible breeding through all stages and at all times.  This includes finding suitable homes for every kitten that  we produce whether they are going to a pet home, a “wannabe” breeder or an established breeder and we must be willing to wait for as long as that takes.  

One would certainly not consider handing a wannabe dentist a set of tools, instruct him to perform a root canal and expect good results.   That would be absurd.   We all know that there are many years of training and preparation ahead for such a career.  As serious hobby breeders, we should manage our catteries responsibly and with the same high standard.   If we don’t, that privilege will eventually be taken away from us without our having any say in the matter.

Ameena Diehl writes:

"Premiership is the newbies' best friend.  I usually try to offer newbies a nice retired cat to show in Premiership for free, IF they agree to find a mentor to help them groom and show. *Sadly, few actually take me up on the offer.  They seem to think they will be wasting their time showing a spayed or neutered cat. Most probably do buy a "dud" from someone who has no qualms about taking advantage of them.  Some even insist that they don't need a mentor! ”

Show In Premiership

Most reputable breeders agree that starting out in the “Premiership” (alter) class is the best place to start.   Often times you are able to purchase a very nice show kitten or retired adult (altered)  more  reasonably priced than a “whole” (unaltered) kitten or cat.   Often times, the cat has already “granded” (earned Grand Champion title) in Championship; therefore, is proven “show quality”.    Other advantages in a situation such as this- the cat is already familiar with the show circuit and is accustomed to being groomed; consequently, surely a pleasure to show and might teach the new exhibitor a few tricks! 

Purchasing a kitten to show later in Premiership is okay too especially if you happen to come across a reputable and experienced breeder who is willing and able to honestly evaluate their kittens.   Even the most experienced breeder is sometimes disappointed with the development of a kitten, but the reputable breeder will make good on their “deal.”  Often time breeders will show the kitten themselves before handing the kitten over to someone else.   This “tests” the waters in order to determine if a questionable kitten is truly “show worthy”.  

Understand Show Quality

When we define “show worthy”, this not only indicates that the kitten meets the standard but additionally, the kitten exhibits the “show personality”.    This quality is just as crucial as the beauty part. 

Unfortunately, the most beautiful kittens/cats don’t always agree with our intentions and protest the idea of being show kitties!   It’s very disheartening to have produced that prized kitty that wants nothing to do with the show scene.   They simply hate it, they want to be anywhere other than a show hall but preferably at home stretched   upon their satin pillows and perched in the window sill.   Until this kitty gets his way, he/she will show you and everyone else in the show hall what he thinks of cat shows!

While we expect some nervousness for the first couple of shows, continual temper tantrums cannot be tolerated.   A strange and loud show hall filled with unfamiliar sounds, people and other cats can easily intimidate even the sweetest kitty.  Biting and hissing at judges are not only undesirable traits, but grounds for disqualification.

Judges may use their own discretion by refusing to judge any cat with questionable or aggressive behavior.  This is a good policy.  A wise exhibitor will not knowingly present a kitten/cat demonstrating these behaviors; nonetheless, we cannot always predict what an animal will do.   If you see your cat continually protesting, there is nothing else to do but withdraw the kitten/cat from the show ring permanently. 

On the other hand, if the kitten enjoys the shows then you will have just as much fun showing her off as she will have “putting on the Ritz”.   There will be 4 months to show in kitten class before moving on to Premiership at 8 months of age.   To me the fun is counting those points after Premier status is earned.   Again, the exhibitor has plenty of time to show their cat, see other cats and learn.    The exhibitor now has opportunity to “test the waters” and see if they really enjoy showing.   Also to get a feel of what breed, color and “look” is preferred. Once that preference has been determined and you’ve been bitten by the “show bug, hopefully you will soon be on your way to a serious and responsible breeding program.

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