So you want to become a cat breeder… now what?
by Carissa Altschul
Disclaimer: Any medical advice given in this article should be referenced with your vet before beginning treatment. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect any official policy or position of the Cat Fanciers' Association or the Persian Breed Council.
Selling The Kittens
When your kittens are finally weaned, vaccinated, litterbox trained, and ready to go, it’s time to find them new homes. You might choose to hold back one or two for your own breeding program, but usually most of the kittens you have born at your house are not suitable for your breeding program (you can’t keep them all!) If you have people who were waiting for a kitten, contact them when the kittens are about 6 weeks old to ensure they still want a kitten. They will probably want pictures, so have those ready to send. Some will want to visit the kittens; this is up to you, but keep in mind that kittens at 6 weeks do not yet have fully developed immune systems or personalities. It’s a risk to have visitors handling them. Should you not have homes all lined up for them, it’s time to advertise. If you believe your kittens are show quality, it is best to have your mentor breeder evaluate them. Most breeders will not take you seriously if you try to advertise young kittens as “show quality” from your first breeding. They know that kittens that appear perfect as babies often fall part, type wise, as they get older. If you do have a kitten you think is show quality, it is best to plan on keeping that kitten until it is at least 4 months and take it to a show or two to see how it does. If the kitten does well at the shows, then you can make a valid claim of its quality.
You will also need to develop a sale contract. A sale contract is to protect both you and the buyer. Look at the sale contracts of other breeders and borrow from them (they all borrow from each other!) Don’t outright copy a sale contract unless you get permission (it would be considered quite rude.) Remember to avoid the negative aspects of the contracts out there; don’t put clauses in your contracts stating you won’t sell to someone because they live in the same region, country, or continent as you do. Don’t try to restrict what happens to the offspring of a cat you sell. When it’s sold, it’s sold. You have taken money for the cat and to expect to still be able to dictate what the new owner does with the offspring of that cat is completely unreasonable. Such clauses in contracts are ALWAYS broken at some point. And it leads to incredible angst and anger that can be completely avoided by not putting those clauses in the contracts in the first place. While we will always use a sale contract, we also remember that no piece of paper is going to make someone do “right” by our cat. If we think that we have to make a person sign a contract to do “right” with our cat, then we usually don’t sell to that person. Use your gut; if you think a person is bad news, you have no obligation to sell to them.
If the kittens are not show quality, then you are going to want to find “pet homes” for them. Newspapers were once the only way to reach potential buyers; but the internet age has opened wide new avenues for breeders to advertise their kittens. Pursue and use the numerous online free classifieds that are out there; don’t limit yourself to just one listing. Take lots of pictures or even better, video of the kittens to showcase your kittens. Also, you might want to invest the time (if you have the willingness to learn) to develop a website, or the money to have someone do one for you. I believe it’s best to learn how to do a website for oneself – this allows you to make changes quickly, and saves a significant amount of money in the long run. Avoid the common pitfalls of putting too much bling on your website – keep it simple and elegant. People will generally not spend much time on a website that is “too busy.” Certainly do not put sound files! In general, people rapidly will click away from websites with music. However you design your website in the end, keep in mind it is your first impression to most of the world to your cattery.
Remember at the beginning of the article about how I recommended you contact a breeder? Expect that 90% of your inquiries will be those “HOW MUCH ARE YOUR KITTENS?” emails. Potential buyers often are emailing multiple breeders and don’t take the time to write about their home, their cat ownership experience, and any other pertinent information you might want to know before entrusting them with a kitten you have raised with love and care. Even if you make it clear on your website that you want to know this information, don’t expect people to pay attention. It’s up to you to decide if you will respond to those emails patiently and ask for the information you want.
Eventually, you will set up appointments for people to come and meet you and the kittens. If you live alone, it’s best to make sure someone knows you have a visitor coming over. If you have a breeder friend who lives nearby, having them come at the same time would be best. Some breeders choose to meet potential buyers at shows in order to avoid the risks having strangers enter your home. Use precautions as necessary to keep yourself and your cats safe. Some of your potential buyers might live too far away to visit. These buyers might well be willing to pay for shipping, but keep in mind that is a risk to the cat/kitten – airlines are not going to love and care for your cat/kitten as much as you do. Be aware of temperature restrictions, and, if at all possible, find a service that can hand carry the kitten to their new home in the cabin rather than shipping cargo. New USDA rules might make you a “commercial” breeder if you ship even one pet kitten, so it’s important to learn the rules before you begin shipping. It’s always better to have the buyers meet you in person, even if you have to meet them at the airport.
Sometimes it isn’t easy to sell kittens. The market truly is impossible to predict. You might have set your prices too high; you might just have bad luck. It’s important to scope out the market before you settle on a price for your kittens. If you are stuck with older pet kittens, you will need to consider dropping your prices and reaching out to a farther market. You can also take kittens with you to the shows once they are 4 months in order to sell them.