Interested In Breeding Ragdolls?
Many people who visit catteries, and see the darling kittens running around the house, express an interest in breeding Ragdolls. They see a family home that is neat and clean, and doesn’t smell like cats. They assume that breeding cats is an easy part time job that anyone can do. They also know what the current price of a Ragdoll kitten is, and think there must be money to be made by doing this.
While we breeders love what we do, it is important for people contemplating breeding, to know the truth about breeding. It is an expensive hobby that takes lots of time and work. There is NO money in breeding cats. That is the real truth about breeding cats the correct way, and for the right reasons.
Breeding animals should never be taken lightly. It is a big responsibility to take on.
- You are dealing with something that is alive and that has feelings.
- You will have to deal with problems just like with raising children.
- You will be stuck home with them when you have young kittens, or find a kitty sitter if you are away for more than day.
- You are dealing with people who buy these kittens from you. So, you must have a good working relationship with people, and be able to pick the best homes for your kittens.
- You must be prepared to have almost an open house most weekends, so people can visit their kittens, or just to see a Ragdoll in person, so they know this is the kind of cat they want.
Every breeder should stand behind the kittens they produce, therefore, you want to make sure they are the healthiest and strongest kittens you can breed. Sometimes this will mean that you must pet out, or alter a favorite cat, because a problem is discovered in the lines. You don’t want people to go through the heartbreak of losing a very much loved pet, too early. Sometimes a cat is just not strong enough to be a good breeder, or the cat consistently throws bad markings that will then be passed on to other generations.
Every breeder should only be breeding Ragdolls for the purpose of preserving the breed of cat they are working with. They should always be striving to better the line of cats they are working with, by weeding out any health problems, preserving the temperament of the Ragdoll, and breeding towards the ideal Ragdoll standard at all times.
The proof of a breeder doing this is in the happy pet owners and in the show hall. While breeding for pets is very rewarding, a breeder who does not ever show his/her cats, or does not at least have someone else showing their lines, is not serious about breeding. Unless they show their cats occasionally, they can’t possibly know if they are breeding to the standard of the Ragdoll. It is very easy to get cattery blind and not recognize that your cats are beginning to move away from the standards in looks, size and temperament. You need to compare them to other Ragdolls in the show hall. If they win (even if they are not #1 in the show), then you know you are on the right track.
There are too many cats in shelters and humane societies around the world, for adoption now. A good breeder only breeds as many cats as they can easily sell to good homes. A good breeder also does the early spay and neutering on the kittens before they go to their new home, so no accidental pregnancy’s happen, or so we don’t have what we call Back Yard Breeders. These are people who buy cats as pets, and then breed them with another pet cat they bought. Many people think because they buy cats from two different catteries, that they are getting unrelated lines. This is not so. Breeders import and ship breeding cats all over the county and the world. These cats could be from very close lines.
Many breeders get calls from people who are interested only in having one litter so the kids can experience the miracle of birth. This is a poor reason for breeding. There are many pregnant cats in shelters that you can arrange to foster until the kittens are old enough to go to their homes (after being altered so there are no more unwanted litters). This would be just as good of an experience for your children as buying a pair of cats to breed.
Starting a Cattery
One of the first things you have to remember when contemplating breeding cats is that your breeding cats are not necessarily the same as pet cats. Hormones play a very big part in their lives, and will affect how you can keep them. Very seldom can the males be allowed to roam the house. Most male cats will spray if they are not neutered. Also, to be fair to your male, you must provide him with at least 3 females. Not to do this, is to subject your male to depression and possibly sick from not eating properly because of the depression. In the US, most reputable Ragdoll breeders don’t do stud service. It is too risky to bring in different germs. Most good breeders maintain closed catteries, which means all new cats are quarantined and tested for the for diseases before being put with the resident cats. Europe seems to be different in this respect.
So, to maintain a whole male, you will need an area, a small room, or a large walk-in cage that is waterproof and very easy to clean. The male should not be completely isolated however. Being a Ragdoll, he will need and crave your attention too. They also like to see what is going on in the house, or to just watch the females.
Some males only spray a little, when the females come into heat. Others are “hosers” who spray everything in their reach, including their own food dishes, water bowls, bedding and any person near enough for them to spray. No one can guarantee you that a male won’t spray. Some people are being told that “if you only have one male, he won’t spray”. Not always true. Never go into breeding assuming that you won’t have to cage your male.
People also don’t realize that females can spray while they are in heat. A female cat comes into heat every 3 to 7 weeks from the end of January to about November. Many females are very vocal when they come into heat, calling out to any male in the area. Often times the male will call back to them, and it can make some very unpleasant, not to mention sleepless nights.
A female should only be bred an average of 3 times in 2 years, and not before she is a year old. Females can come into heat when their babies are only a few weeks old, but they must not be bred again that soon. The pregnancy and nursing is very hard on the female. Very seldom do breeding females, especially after finishing weaning a litter, look like they would if they were a spayed female. You can tell by their coats and their weights that they have just weaned the litter. There is no way they are ready to start over breeding for a while. Therefore, you have to make sure the male cannot get at the females while they are recovering from having a litter. As stated earlier, a male needs at least 3 females to keep him happy, because breeding only 3 times in 2 years is not enough for him, but having more than this amount of litters is too much for one female in most cases.
You will also need a separate room for your kittens. The females should be isolated for two weeks before the kittens are due, and then kept with the kittens and away from the other cats, until the kittens are weaned and have had their first shots.
Breeding is a ‘Job’, but Without Pay
To be a good breeder is not just a matter of throwing down a few dishes of water and food, and then cleaning the litter boxes every so often. People often ask a breeder “how do you keep you house so clean with this many cats?” The answer is… “With hard work and elbow grease”. It is a constant job that doesn’t stop all day long.
If you are not cleaning the house and the litter, you will be playing and socializing with the kittens and adults, or bathing a cat or two. If you are not doing the physical work, then you are on the computer, or telephone. You can spend hours answering the many inquiries about kittens. Good book work is also necessary with breeding, (for tax purposes, litter registration and notes on breeding outcomes for future references). A good breeder spends many hours learning about genetics and health of the cats. Looking up information, or reading magazines on genetics, medical problems, and feline housing and husbandry will help you to be the best breeder you can be. You need to keep abreast of everything that can and will affect your cats and cattery. You should attend as many breeding and educational seminars as you can to keep up with the latest in feline health and husbandry.
Many people try to breed cats while their children are still young and at home. This is very difficult to do. Cats take time, just like the children do, and very often you must give up something from one or the other. As a breeder, you must be present when the litters are born. Sometimes a simple turning or dislodging of a foot on a baby being born can make the difference between a litter of dead kittens (and possibly Mom), to having 5 or 6 healthy, lovable babies and a mom who does well with the litter. When the due date nears, the pregnant cat should be confined in an area (or birthing cage) where she can be watched carefully. Most breeders will set their alarm for every hour or so, to check on them. Since the litters can be born usually between 63 and 67 days, you don’t get a lot of sleep. Having to deal with children and their activities while you are not getting much sleep, sometimes takes it toll. It’s not impossible to breed cats while raising a family, but it is more difficult and should be discussed with the whole family before you start.
How to go About Buying Your Breeders
Like anything else in life, buying your breeding stock is a matter of knowing what you are looking for, recognizing a good cat, and also the old saying “you get what you pay for” applies. Do your homework before you buy.
Some of the best breeders may be the smaller breeders who take the time to show their cats, and weed out the genetic problems, and cats that do not fit the standard. These breeders may not have what you want at the moment you want it, so you have to be patient. They may also be reluctant to sell to a new breeder. You can hardly blame them. They have put a lot of time and effort into their work, and want to make sure the person buying their animals will keep up with their standards, and most of all, give the cats a good home. These kittens are our babies and mean a lot to us. We have raised and played with each and every one of them, and they each have a piece of our hearts, whether they go as breeders or pets.
Being a breeding cat is not the best life for our furry friends, so we are very careful to whom they go to. We want to know they will have good clean quarters, the best food, plenty of attention, and not be over bred. Many good breeders pet out every breeding cat by 3 or 4 years old, so they can live the rest of their lives as a cherished, loved and spoiled pet. They would expect the same from anyone they sell a breeder too.
You can probably find a kitten for breeding at a lower price in some catteries. Some breeders don’t care whom they sell their cats too, as long as they get the money for the kitten. Many new breeders are taken in by these bargains every year, especially now, since the Ragdoll is a popular breed. Beware of these people. They will sell a new breeder anything and call it a good breeder. A breeding cat doesn’t have to be perfect, but as close to the standard as possible. A good experienced breeder will have weeded out any problems they found, and know the lines they are working with. They should be willing to point out any minor faults (there should be no major ones) in the cat or kitten you buy, and try to help you pick a mate for the cat that will improve on this. Miss marked cats, with cosmetic faults make wonderful pets, but for the price of a breeding cat, you should get excellent quality.
Be prepared to wait awhile for good breeding stock. It pays to be fussy and get a good start. It is up to you to convince the breeders that you will be the best breeder you can possibly be, and that you have thought long and hard about breeding. It’s up to you to learn as much as you can about the Ragdoll and breeding so you know what is expected of you, as a breeder. Most breeders are willing to help new people, but only after they know the new breeder is committed to doing a good job.
The very best way to start in the Ragdoll world, is to buy a show neuter, and show him for while. This way you will learn about type, the standard, and living with a Ragdoll. You will see other Ragdolls at the shows, know who is producing good cats, and get to know the breeders. It’ll make it easier for you to find someone you feel comfortable working with, and they will then feel comfortable with you. When you start breeding your own cats, you will want to show something of your own breeding, but a neutered show cat can be valuable to you now and later. Later, when you cats are breeding, and not in the best condition, you will have the show alter to let people know what their cat will look like when it is grown.
Also, before you buy your first cat, you should go visit a cattery or two, to see what a cattery is all about. Many people don’t realize the extent of change in their homes and life style, breeders do to have a good cattery. It will also give you a chance to see the way the cats are raised, and if you approve of the cattery, and the cats. What people tell you over the phone, or even in person at a show, may not be how they really run their cattery.
Be sure you buy your cats from an experienced breeder who has been breeding for a while, and has shown their cats. A newer breeder will not know a good kitten from a bad one. They just don’t have the experience yet. Ragdolls take a long time to mature, and just because a kitten is perfectly marked, doesn’t mean it will automatically be a show cat. A breeder needs experience (with Ragdolls in general, and with the lines they are using) before they can pick a good breeder/show kitten at 10 to 12 weeks old. An experienced breeder knows that no cat or kitten is perfect, and can (and will) point out any feature that needs work on. Then it will be up to you to put that cat with another cat to bring out the best in the kittens.
Mentor and Mentoring
An established breeder who is willing to mentor a new breeder is worth their weight in gold. A breeder who starts another breeder should be experienced, and willing to answer any and all questions, and be available when something comes up that you don’t understand. Make sure the person you are buying from agrees to ‘be there for you’ when you need it. The first litter is sometimes a very nervous time for new breeders. Your mentor should be willing to be ‘on call’ for you. PLEASE don’t abuse this. No one likes that, but there will be plenty of questions you will have, and the mentor should realize this, and be prepared to answer them when they come up. Again, a newer breeder will not know as much as an experienced breeder so they may not be able to answer some important questions that can come up.
It is very tempting to go on the Internet and cat’s magazines, and start calling to see what everyone has. If you buy one kitten here, another one there, you never get to know any one breeder well enough to establish the mentorship, that is so important. Look around first to find a breeder who has a personality that meshes with yours, and whose cats you admire. Get references from other breeders they have sold to. Visit the cattery, and know the standard yourself, so you can rely on your own good sense.
As we said before, many good breeders are smaller breeders, and won’t have just what you are looking for, or maybe just one of a pair. These breeders usually have other breeders who are close friends whom they trust and like. They can usually help you come up with a pair, or more. If you stick with one breeder, and their group of friends for a while (after you have decided you like and trust them), you will do much better. There are great friendships made in the cat fancy. Cat people are great. There are also some battles among breeders, or groups of breeders, but this is natural, As breeders, we all are very emotionally involved with our hobby and our love affair with Ragdolls. Get to know as many people as you can, and listen to what everyone has to say. You will pick up ideas and tips from everyone. None of us have exactly the same cattery set up or way of doing things. You will develop your own as you progress too. The basics are the same, but no two houses or lifestyles are the same, so there will be some differences.
After a while, you can and will want to branch out, in order to get new lines to improve your own stock. The biggest mistake new breeders make though is to get too big too fast. I would start out with a pair, then add 2 more females. Keep the 4 for several litters, and then decide if you want to get bigger.
Too many breeders get burned out early by starting out with too many cats, or getting too big too fast. 4 kittens running around the house doesn’t seem like too many when they are small, but when they mature, and the hormones start raging, you don’t want to be over crowded. We lose probably half of all breeders after by three years into breeding. This is the point where they find they can’t handle the number of cats they have, or can’t handle the down side to breeding. Avoid keeping any kittens out of the first several litters. Remember, if you keep a female, you will need another male to breed her with. Then you will need more females for him. That means more cats.
The Down Side
For all the joy in having kittens, and the pride in showing your cats, there is also the bad times. You wait patiently for a litter, and something goes wrong. You lose some or all of the kittens, and mom needs a C-Section. A C-Section can cost anywhere from $200 to $500 or more, depending on your location, or if the surgery is needed during office hours, or at the emergency vet. You can have a perfectly normal litter, and at 2 weeks one or more of the kittens suddenly starts to fail, and nothing you do can make it live. In just two weeks, you will have gotten very attached to the kittens.
Then there is going home time. That’s the worst time of all. After 12 weeks (It is not recommend to let kittens go to their new homes before that time) you get very attached to them. Even if you have picked out the very best family for them to go to, it is still hard to see them go out the door. We all know of breeders who have kept the whole first litter, because they couldn’t let them go. The second litter goes to all relatives so they can visit often, and then they quit breeding, rather than face selling the kittens to strangers.
It does get a little easier after a while, when you know the people will just love them, and you get the pictures and notes back about how they can’t imagine life without the kitten/cat. But you still miss each one for a while.
Another downside is having a kitten you sold die. This does happen, no matter how careful we are. Accidents at conception do happen, and a kitten may be dealt with a poor immune system or congenital abnormalities that don’t show up until after the kitten has left home. Cats do come down with diseases. As much as we screen for healthy cats, we are bound to lose a few. The worst phone call you will ever get will be the one saying a family lost their wonderful cat. It’s heartbreaking to hear the grief in their voices, and it breaks your heart as well, because you remember the kitten you raised. That never gets easier. It’s always hard. However, make sure every customer tells you if something has happened to the cat. That is the only way we can learn if there is a problem in our lines. A good breeder wants to know this, and will be thankful for the information so they don’t repeat this breeding, and can deal with a problem early.
Last, but certainly not least, is your spouse’s reaction to you becoming a breeder. Many spouses are fine with the thought of a hobby at first. After a while and lots of money and time invested…they may not be as happy with it. A large number of breeders have had to stop their hobby, to keep their marriages/relationships intact. It’s very easy to get in too deep and too hard on the rest of the household when you do. Cat breeding can be addictive. A person could easily make cat breeding their whole life. That isn’t healthy for you or your family. You have to have the strength to limit yourself to the number of cats that work best for you and your family.
If You Make the Decision
If you decide you do indeed want to start breeding, then join as many clubs and computer lists as you can. The RFCI has a new breeder booklet, for the beginning breeder. This contains much information on all aspects of Breeding. New articles are added with every newsletter.
When you decide where to go for your breeders, you should also have an idea of what colors and patterns you want to work with. There are different combinations of colors and patterns that will give you the widest variety of colors and patterns in the litters. This might be something to think about. However, if you like one color or pattern better than another, then stick with that. It’s up to you to decide. Most of the pointed colors and patterns sell easily.
Make sure the breeder you buy your kittens from sell you SBT, Showable to Championship kittens. Some breeders are working on new colors and patterns, by using out crosses. While this is OK, if done properly and by an experienced breeder, a breeding cat from these lines should never be sold to a new person, until it is all the way to full Ragdoll. Chances are if it is an earlier generation, it will still need some work done to bring it up to standard. It wouldn’t be fair to give this cat to a new breeder and expect them to know how to do that. Also, remember that there are Solid color (non-pointed) Ragdolls out there that are SBT registered, but they are not showable for Championship, and not as popular even as pets. I wouldn’t recommend one to a new person.
Once you have decided you want to breed Ragdolls, you have found your breeder/mentor, and purchased your cats, you will have to register your cattery with the various registration bodies. The three biggest are CFA, TICA, and ACFA, but there are more. It usually costs about $50.00 to register your cattery. It is a one-time charge in TICA and ACFA, but CFA charges you $10.00 every few years to renew. You do not have to be a club member of these associations to have your cattery or litters registered. However, it is a good idea to join as a member, and not just register your cattery. You will get their magazines and know what is going on in the associations, and how it will affect your breed. You will also be able to vote and have some say in the future of your breed.
Once you get your cattery registered, you can register your cats. Your cats will come with a litter registration paper. It will have the name of the cattery that bred the cat first, with blank spaces for you to fill out the cat’s name and your cattery name. So the cat’s full name will contain, the breeders cattery first, the cat’s call name (what you choose to name it) second, and your cattery name third. Any kittens you produce from these cats will have your cattery name first. That way, people can tell at a glance who the breeder is and who the owner is.
When you have a litter, you must fill out a litter registration for the litter. It consists of information on the parents and the kittens born. You then send this in (along with the registration fee), and they will send you back a slip for each kitten. You will sign these and fill out the sex and color for the people who buy these kittens. Never give these slips out to pet people before the cat or kitten has been spayed or neutered. A responsible breeder either does the early spay and neutering, or holds the registration form until the pet owner sends proof of altering. Naturally, if you purchase a breeding cat, you will get the papers without the altering.
If you’ve gotten this far, and are still interested in breeding, then you may have what it takes to become a breeder. We wish you the best, and remember that the RFCI Club is there to help you!