Interested in Breeding Ragdolls?
Written by Linda Kauffman of Kauffman Kats
Many people who have visited me, and seen the darling kittens running around my house, have expressed an interest in breeding Ragdolls. They see a family home that is neat and clean, and doesnít smell like cats. They assume that breeding cats is an easy part time job that anyone can do. They also know what I charge for my kittens, and think there must be money to be made by doing this.
While I love what I do, I always tell people 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, has feelings and you have to deal with problems just like raising children. You are also dealing with people who buy these kittens from you. 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 you to see 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, so 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. That way people donít have to go through the heartbreak of losing a very much loved pet, too early. 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 canít possibly know if they are breeding to the standard of the Ragdoll. It is very easy to get "cattery blindness" and not recognize that your cats are beginning to move away from the standards in looks, size and temperament.
There are too many cats in shelters and humane societies around the world, for adoption now. A breeder who breeds just for pets does the animal world a disservice. The ONLY excuse to breed Ragdolls is to create or preserve something that CANíT be found in a shelter.
Many of us 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.
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 getting very depressed and possibly sick from not eating properly because of the depression. In the US, I know of NO reputable Ragdoll breeder who does stud serviceÖcertainly not Kauffman Kats.
So, to maintain a whole male, you will need an area or a large 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. 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 wonít spray. I have heard people being told that "if you only have one male he wonít spray". Not always true. Never get into breeding assuming that you wonít have to cage your male.
People also donít 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 males in the area. Often times the males 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. Females can come into heat when the babies are only a few weeks old, but they must not be bred again that soon. The pregnancy and nursing are 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 I 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 cats 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 me "how do you keep you house so clean with this many cats?" I tell them the truthÖ"With hard work and elbow grease". It is a constant job that doesnít stop all day long.
If I am not cleaning the house and the litter, I'm playing and socializing with the kittens and adults, or I am bathing a cat or two. If Iím not doing the physical work, then I am on the computer. I 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 my future references). A good breeder spends lots of time looking up information, or reading magazines on genetics, medical problems, feline housing and husbandry, to be the best breeder they can be. You need to keep abreast of everything that can and will affect your cats and cattery. I personally attend as many breeding and educational seminars as I can to keep up with the latest in feline husbandry.
Many people try to breed cats while their children are still young and at home. This is very difficult to do. Children take time, just like the catís 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, I confine the pregnant cats in an area (birthing cage) near my bed, and set my alarm for every hour to check on them. Since the litters can be born usually between 63 and 67 days, you donít get a lot of sleep. Having to deal with children and their activities while you are not getting much sleep, sometimes takes it toll. Itís 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.
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.
Some of your best breeders are 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 same breeders may 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. I personally pet out every breeding cat I have by 3 or 4 years old, so they can live the rest of their lives as a cherished, loved and spoiled PET. I would expect the same from anyone I sell a breeder too.
You can probably pick up a few kittens for breeding at a lower price in some catteries. Some breeders donít care whom they sell their cats too, as long as they get the money for the kitten. Many new breeders are "taken" by these people 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 doesnít have to be perfect, but as close to the standard as possible. An experienced breeder knows the kind of things that get passed on from generation to generation and will not sell breeders with these faults. They may 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 who have the best cats, and care the most for them, that you will be the best breeder you can possibly be, and that you have thought long and hard about breeding. Itís up to you to learn as much as you can about the Ragdoll and breeding. 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. Itíll 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 your 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. 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 a breeder who has been breeding for a while, and has shown their cats. A new breeder will not know a good kitten from a bad one. They just donít have the experience. Ragdolls take a long time to mature, and just because a kitten is perfectly marked, doesnít 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, even 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. It will be up to you to put that cat with another cat to bring out the best in the kittens.
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 donít understand. Make sure the person you are buying from agrees to Ďbe there for youí when you need it. The first litter is sometimes a very nervous time for new breeders. Your mentor should be willing to be Ďon callí for you. PLEASE donít 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.
It is very tempting to go on the Internet and catís magazines, and start calling to see what everyone has. If you buy one kitten here, another one there, and you never get to know any one breeder well enough to establish that mentorship. Look around first to find a breeder whoís personality meshes with yours, and whoís cats you admire. Get references from other breeders, visit the cattery, and know the standard so you can rely on your own good sense too.
As I said before, many good breeders are smaller breeders, and wonít have just what you are looking for, or maybe just one of a pair. These breeders usually have other breeders who are close friends they trust and like. They can usually help you come up with a pair, or more. If you stick with one breeder (after you have decided you like and trust them), you will do much better than shopping around. There are great friendships made in the cat fancy. Cat people are great. There are also some battles among breeders, but this is natural, as 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 fast by starting out with too many cats, or getting too big too fast. 4 kittens running around the house doesnít seem like too many when they are small, but when they mature, and the hormones start raging, you donít want to be over crowded. We lose probably half of all new breeders after 3 years. This is the point where they find they canít handle the number of cats they have, or canít handle the Ďdown sideí 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.
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 depending on you 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 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. Thatís the worst time of all. After 12 weeks (I donít recommend kittens leaving 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. I know of breeders who have kept the whole first litter, because they couldnít 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 canít imagine not having the kitten. But you still miss each one for a while.
Another downside is losing a kitten you sold. This does happen, no matter how careful we are. Accidents at conception do happen, and a kitten is dealt with a poor immune system or congenital abnormalities. 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. Itís heartbreaking to hear the grief in their voices, and it breaks your heart as well. That never gets easier. Itís always hard.
Last, but certainly not least, is your spouseís reaction to you becoming a breeder. Many spouses are fine with the thought of a Ďhobbyí at first. After a while and lots of money and timeÖthey may not be as happy with it. A large number of breeders have had to stop their hobby, to keep their marriages intact. Itís too easy to get in too deep and too hard on the rest of the family when you do. Cat breeding can be addictive. A person could easily make cat breeding their whole life. That isnít healthy for you or your family.
If you decide you do indeed want to start breeding, then join as many clubs and computer lists as you can. Many clubs have nice starter kits, with genetic information on pattern prediction etc. They also have newsletters to keep members up to date on the latest information. This is a good way to keep in contact with other Ragdoll breeders and keep track of who and what is winning at the shows.
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. If you like one color or pattern better than another, then stick with that. Itís up to you to decide. Most of the 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, a breeder from these lines should never be sold (especially 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 wouldnít be fair to give this cat to a new breeder and expect them to know how to improve the next generation. 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 popular even as pets. I wouldnít 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 ones are CFA, TICA, and ACFA. It usually costs about $50.00 to register your cattery. It is a onetime charge in TICA and ACFA, but CFA charges you $10.00 every few years to renew. You do not have to be a member of these associations to have your cattery or litter registered. However, it is a good idea to join as a member, not just 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 a say in the future of your breed.
Once you get your cattery registered, you can register your cats. Your cat will come with a litter registration paper. It will have the name of the cattery you bought the cat from, with blank spaces for you to fill out the catís name and your cattery name. So the catís full name will contain, the breeders cattery first, the catís Ďcall nameí second, and your cattery 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. If you keep your own kittens, then your name will go first, with just the call name. That means you are both the breeder and owner.
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.
If youíve gotten this far, and are still interested in breeding, then you may have what it takes to become a breeder. No matter where you go to purchase your cats, I wish you all the luck and blessings in the world, and hope to see you at a show sometime.
This article was written by Linda Kauffman of Kauffman Kats and published here with permission.
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