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.
Starting Your Search
If you have considered all of the possible issues that you might encounter when breeding and you think you are really ready to be a cat breeder, then your search for a cat is the next step. Luckily, in the internet age, all you need to start is at your fingertips. CFA maintains a breeder referral list – this isn’t a list of breeders that CFA recommends, instead, it’s a list of breeders who either belong to their breed council and/or have paid a fee to be on the list. This is a good place to start.
Ideally, you want to find the websites of breeders and look at their cats. Look at the pictures. If the website pictures any cats that are not clean and well-presented, move on. Most catteries put up pictures of their cats only when they think they look nice. So if a cat looks dirty and that was what the breeder thought looked nice, that is definitely not a good sign of a breeder you want to purchase a cat from. Of course, good looking cats in pictures is no guarantee, either, but it’s a good place to start.
Next, look for titles on the cats used in and/or produced by their breeding program. Depending on the organization, the titles will vary, so be sure to make sure you know which organization the titles were achieved in. In CFA, a cat that achieves a “CH” (Champion) title is basically a cat that probably didn’t defeat any other cats and simply was not disqualified in 6 rings. This isn’t a title that means much about the real quality of the cat. The next title up is “GC” (Grand Champion.) This requires defeating 200 other cats that are not yet Grand Champions themselves. This title is definitely a good indication of quality. Ideally, the cat’s pedigrees should have more GC than CH or no title at all. There are also the titles of “PR” and “GP” (Premier and Grand Premier), which are the equivalent of CH and GC, but these titles are won by a cat that has been neutered or spayed. Other titles include “RW” and “NW” (Regional Winner and National Winner, respectively). These titles are much harder to achieve than GC and should be given considerable weight in a pedigree. There is also the title of “BW” (Breed Winner) which is only awarded to one cat in each breed (or Persian division) each season. Like RW and NW, this title carries significant weight. Finally, there is the title of “DM” (Distinguished Merit) which is found at the end of a cat’s name. This title means the cat has produced either 15 (if it is a male) or a 5 (if it is a female) cats that have become GC or GP. This is often called the “breeder’s title” because it is indicative of a cat that can produce quality cats. This is a title that breeders really look for as it is an indicator that a line can produce quality cats consistently.
It is worth repeating that seeing these titles does not mean every cat produced from those lines will be worthy of showing and/or breeding. You will want to find cats that have those titles within 1-2 generations – if those titles only appear 4 or more generations back, that probably isn’t a breeder you want to purchase a cat from.
You also want to see if the breeder has produced cats that can at least achieve the GC title. This is a good indication the breeder is aware of the written standard for their breed and capable of producing cats that meet that standard. Even better, look to see if other breeders have been able to show cats produced by that breeder to at least the GC title. Look to see how cats from that breeder have produced for other breeders. Are their lines consistent? Do they make nice kittens when mixed with other lines? Can other people show them and still win? These are all important questions when it comes to researching the breeders of cats you like. Remember, nothing is a perfect indicator of a good breeder. Trust your instincts if you feel like you are being misled.
Ideally, you would want to find a breeder that lives relatively near you geographically. This allows you to either visit the breeders home (but don’t expect a tour of their cattery) and get a feel for how they care for their cats, as well as to be able to see the cat in person before purchasing it. Picking up a cat at the airport often leaves you with few options if you are not happy with the quality of the cat, especially if the cat was purchased from a breeder in another country. Unfortunately, many breeders refuse to sell breeding cats to people who live in the same area as them. These breeders are not the kind of breeders you would want to purchase from, anyway, as their own greed and jealousy of wins in the show ring has overcome any desire they might have had to help new breeders. They do not sell in their area because they feel like they have to control what cats from “their” lines are in the shows possibly competing against them. It’s a sad mentality and not healthy for the cat fancy as a whole, so I do not recommend supporting their policies by purchasing a cat from any breeder that has such ridiculous ideas about manipulating competition by placing restrictions on where they sell their cats.
Most breeders will place a copy of their sale contract and/or health guarantee on their website for potential buyers to read before inquiring. Read those contracts! It’s very important to know what is spelled out in them before you even consider sending them an inquiry. Every breeder will have a different contract, though you will find there are some parts of the contracts that are similar from breeder to breeder. Many breeders restrict where the offspring of the cat can be sold – again, this isn’t a policy that is healthy for the cat fancy, and I do not condone supporting those breeders by purchasing their cats. A standard contract should include some sort of health guarantee, outline expectations for the standard of care of the cat by the buyer, and what is to be done with the cat should the buyer no longer wish to keep the cat in their breeding program.
Finally, it is a good idea to attend at least one cat show, possibly more, in your area to meet local breeders and observe the process of showing. It’s possible that many breeders there will be busy showing their cats and/or perhaps naturally a bit shy and unwilling to talk between judging rings, but you can learn a lot just by watching and listening. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. You can even bring a notebook to make notes about what various exhibitors will tell you, as well as write down what breeders had cats you really admired. Additionally, you can see the cats in person to get an idea of what “look” and color of Persians you like best.