Why the price?

Pure bred pedigree cats can seem quite expensive to many people who are used to growing up with traditional domestic non pedigrees who can usually be purchased anywhere from £30 to £100.  So why is it that a ‘piece of paper’ can add hundreds of pounds on top?  First, we start with the basics.

1.Non pedigrees tend to be sold at 6-8 weeks without vaccination or veterinary checks.  Pure bred kittens from reputable breeders are always vaccinated, which also means a vet has seen and assessed them twice before they are ready to leave.  As per all registering body guidelines, registered pure bred kittens are to leave no sooner than 12-13 weeks of age.  This gives the kittens time to wean from mother properly and naturally and also to ensure proper development and socialisation.  So the pure bred kitten has now had around £100-£150 put into it for vaccinations – this does not include travel costs to attend the vet or carriers for transporting the kittens.  As the kitten stays twice the length of time to the non pedigree there is also more food, treats, time, toys, litter and socialisation.   Most breeders will use new bedding and scratching posts/toys etc for each litter in order to avoid and possible cross contamination of infection and so these can be added to the costs of each litter.

2.Many breeders have their own stud cat(s) and, try as we may, they are impossible in most cases to keep in the house due to their spraying and also having females in the house.  As entire and active breeding females can also spray to mark their territory and/or attract a mate a cattery is required.  This is a considerable cost to the breeder.  Even the most basic of small kit build catteries run into the latter end of the hundreds of pounds.  The cattery, due to spraying, must be maintained so a lot of time is given to cleaning (although it can feel a fruitless task with a cat happily spraying away whilst you are trying to clean it up!).  Breeders rarely buy disinfectant in handy spray bottles – it is, at least, a 5litre purchase.  Also, through time, cattery shelving, scratch posts, toys, dishes, beds etc will need to be replaced and between times cleaned.  This does not include the cost of litter, food, treats and carriers for each cat.  

3.In Bengals, leaving aside the huge import costs, a breeding quality female will cost between £1000 - £1500+ and a male £1200 - £2000+.  With male cats usually requiring at least 3 females a year to satisfy his instincts this cost can easily leave the breeder with a £5000 spend on foundation cats.  This programme cannot be sustained over time if the breeder wishes to progress their programme to the next generation, as any kittens retained cannot be mated back to their father or mother.  This either means the purchase of more breeding cats or, for the interim, paying a stud fee to use another breeder’s male; however, this problem is soon met again when a kitten is retained for that breeding and so invariably more breeding cats enter the programme.  Where non pedigrees are concerned the female is usually purchased for a nominal fee and allowed to roam so she can be mated with an unknown male so all the costs mentioned previously are eradicated.  Any kittens retained go through the same process and such costs as those of the pedigree cat breeder are never met.  There are also, sadly, a growing number of what are termed ‘backyard breeders’ who deliberately breed from pedigree cats sold as pets; owing to their lack of characteristics which make for a breeding quality pedigree.  In the Bengal these can be cats whose markings are not up to par, who have large ears, incorrect profile, eye shape, tail length and thickness and so on.  These attributes do not detract from the pet as they rarely have more than one or two ‘faults’ which makes the educated breeder who has integrity decide they should not be placed in the gene pool to possibly prolong the production of such ‘faults’.  It is those buying pet quality kittens and producing from them who then increase the incidence of these faults until they end up with kittens so very untypical of the breed.  A Bengal with large ears, thin tail, weak muzzle, fine feet and a washed out coat do not resemble the breed in any way and often leave the owners disappointed.  As these were sold as pets and the owners fail to neuter them, the kittens are usually sold without paperwork and at a much reduced cost.  As these breeders are not true breeders and more just people who breed cats, vaccinations and all aforementioned care is usually lost to their kittens, as with producers of non pedigrees.   Breeders have two choices here; first they can try to choose their pet owners with a great deal of care and trust or they can pay to have their kittens neutered before they home them.  If, like us, they choose the latter, then each kitten can have added to it the cost of around £65.  This is rarely added to the price of the kitten as the breeder could then not compete for sales and would be left with kittens for longer than is ideal for the breeder or the kitten.  So the cost is lost to the breeder who sells the kitten for the same sum as the breeder who does not neuter their pet quality kittens.  It may seem harsh terminology to talk of breeders competing for kitten sales but it is very necessary.  A breeder who cannot sell their kittens cannot produce more without considerable cost and eventual overcrowding of cats which leads to a whole manner of trouble.

I love my little kitty, she makes my house a home.

She always is my best friend, I never feel alone.

She makes me smile, she makes me laugh,

She fills my heart with love ...

Did some breeder breed her, or did she fall down from above?

I've never been a breeder, seen life through their eyes,

I hold my little kitty and just sit and criticize.

I've never known their anguish, I've never felt their pain,

The caring of their charges, through snow or wind and rain.

I've never sat the whole night through, waiting for babies to be born,

The stress and trepidation when they're still not there by dawn.

I've never felt the heartache, of a little life in my hands,

This darling little baby, who weighs but 60 grams.

Should you do that instead of this ....or this instead of that,

Alone you fight, and hope one day, he'll grow to be a cat,

and bring joy to another being, and make a house a home,

You know it's all just up to you, you'll fight this fight alone.

Formula, bottles, heating pads, you've got to get this right,

Two hourly feeds for this tiny guy, throughout the day and night.

In your heart you know, you're almost sure to lose the fight,

to save this little baby, but God willing ... you just MIGHT.

Day one he's in there fighting, you say a silent prayer,

Day two & three, he's doing well, with lots of love and care.

Day four & five ... he's still alive, your hopes soar to the heavens,

Day six he slips away again, dies in your hands day seven.

You take this little angel, and bury him alone,

With acheing heart and burning tears, and an exhausted groan,

You ask youself "Why do this? ... why suffer all this pain?"

But see the joy your kittens bring... it really self explains.

So, when you think of breeders and label them with "greed",

Think about what they endure to fill anothers need.

When you buy a kitten and with your precious dollars part,

You only pay with money ... we pay with our heart.

HEATHER FIELD Copyright 2003

this poem was written by Heather Field of Jagsun Bengals Australia.  .

I have not included the higher incidence (due to owning of more cats) of emergency vet trips for a c-section, oxytocin, vaccinations, worming, flea and tick preparations, cat fights, infections that can appear such as upper respiratory etc   I have also excluded grooming equipment, brushes, mops, buckets, wipes, scoops etc

We now begin to split the breeders from those who do all of the aforementioned to those who go even further to ensure their kittens and cats are as healthy and of the highest quality possible.  It could be said that the following are not mandatory and the breeders who decide to do those mentioned below do so for pure love and dedication to their breed and to further its progression and maintain high standards.

1.Exhibition.  Breeders who choose to show their cats put themselves at a great financial loss.  At a GCCF show, each cat costs around £30 to enter.  How many the breeder takes is up to them so I won’t make up an average figure.  For us, we usually show no less than 3 per show.  Each cat requires a white blanket, white litter tray, white water dish and a white food dish.  These can be purchased for around £30 a pack.  Standard show pens are 2’x2’x2’ so larger cats (like entire males) usually require a double pen, adding £20 to the cost of entry.  It is best if kittens are shown at least twice to get them used to the environment and learn what is expected of them.  To make a GCCF champion a cat requires three CC’s – so an absolute minimum of three shows must be attended for the title.  For the first title of champion a breeder will have spent a minimum of £180 on entry fees alone.  As the titles grow so does the competition and required number of shows.  At TICA (International Cat Association) shows the cost per cat is around £80 and these shows are over a weekend so, for most breeders, a hotel stay is required and considerable travel – our nearest TICA show is 6 hours away!  To be included on top of entries and (possible) hotel stays are fuel and food costs.

2.Health.  All breeders like to ensure their cats are fit and healthy but, sadly, not all of them perform the necessary tests to ensure their healthy ‘looking’ cats are actually healthy and beneficial to the breeding programme.  In Bengals, aside from the main feline diseases, two main conditions have emerged over the last number of years:

HCM (Hypertophic Cardiomyopathy).  This is a condition of the heart affecting many breeds of cats and has been found to be present in the Bengal breed.  To go into the condition would take a whole article in itself and be purely subjective in regards to what I have read and been told by the specialists I have taken into my confidence.  Opinion and advice can vary between breeders and even cardiologists.  One thing we all know, however, is that it is not cheap to have our cats screened for this!  The cost ranges from roughly £150 - £300 per cat, per year.  If HCM is found, the cat must be neutered to prevent further spread of the disease and the cost to purchase the cat (£1000-£2000+) is lost to the breeder, as very few breeders will replace a cat who is diagnosed with HCM. 
PK-Def (Pyruvate Kinase Deficiency).  This is almost a ‘brand new’ disease to our breed and, luckily, is very easily and affordably tested for.  Yet, so many still have not tested their cats.  This test costs just over £30 per cat and can be done ‘in house’ by the breeder and sent for genetic testing to identify the mutation that causes the disease.  It may be cheap when thinking of health and comparing to the cost and less reliable HCM scan but even a small breeder can find themselves £300 out of pocket for this.  Again, if the condition is found said cats are lost at the expense of the breeder

Now to more general things that take time which a non pedigree producer or backyard breeder rarely have need to carry out but come second nature to the reputable pedigree cat breeder who has a passion for their breed and its longevity. 

1.Pedigree research.  It may seem trivial but many breeders spend hours going over pedigrees for various reasons.  It can be to calculate the COI (coefficient of inbreeding) figure to ensure their cats are genetically healthy and not too inbred, it can be to calculate possible outcomes of certain matings, find common ancestors between their breeding cats and make educated guesses as to where certain traits come from, it can be to research health where pedigrees are available of cats with known health issues or it can simply be for the pleasure of knowing what is behind their cats and what they could hope to expect from future generations.

2.Time.  Many backyard breeders have cats sitting in a cattery that are there simply to produce kittens to bring in some money.  Interaction and things like toys, treats etc cost time and money – money which cannot be afforded by those looking to make a profit. 

3.Holidays.  These decrease to almost non existence where the serious exhibitor breeder is concerned.  Time and money go into the best food, cattery maintenance, new cats to diversify the bloodlines, cat shows, seminars, health screening etc.  The backyard or non pedigree breeders usually have only a few cats that can be watched over by a family member, friend or neighbour.  The serious breeder is far less likely to put such an exhaustive and costly breeding programme in the hands of someone who doesn’t live and breathe it the way they do.  So many intricate things must be adhered to; close one door before opening another, strict feeding, not opening windows, making sure certain cats don’t mix, washing thoroughly before going from cats to kittens etc.  All seemingly normal part of life for the breeder but seemingly manic behaviour to an outsider!

4.Phone bills.  Any breeder will tell you how long and how much their phone bill is each month!  Keeping up to date with other breeders, answering kitten enquiries, talking to owners of new kittens, speaking to vets, having a bit of a gossip and generally giving you some much needed non feline interaction whilst still being there to watch over the ‘family’ as they are to you.

5.Websites.  Most breeders will want to have a website to show off their cats, announce their achievements and advertise their kittens.  This either costs the breeder at lot of money or a lot of time.  Professional websites are costly and personal websites take time.  People viewing websites expect them to be updated regularly and so the breeder either pays or takes the time to do this.  Rarely do backyard breeders advertise on a such a wide scale and never in the case of the non pedigree producer.  Usually there will be a cheap or free advert with an e-mail address or mobile number.

6.Food.  This might seem obvious and you may wonder how on earth the cost can vary.  A sack of Whiskas or the like can cost around £10-£15.  However, if a breeding cat is to have the best possible chance of nourishment and you want a show cat to have the best of coats then you need a far higher quality food containing the oils, nutrients, proteins and fats that help sustain the cat.  A 10kg bag of Royal Canin can be purchased by breeders for around £36.  Thankfully (he says with much sarcasm) Royal Canin inform the purchaser of their year to date spending   Sitting here in August we have spent £2,087!  By the year end this is usually around £4,500.  That’s a need for 10 kitten sales just to cover the annual food bill.  And that doesn’t include treats such as webbox, dreamies and encore. 

There are times when reputable breeders will reduce the price of a kitten, usually if it has not sold and is getting older.  The following are some questions to be asked when you enquire about a kitten you see advertised at a seemingly bargain price;

1.Are the parents registered for breeding and will my kitten be registered (with either the GCCF or TICA)?
2.Have the parents been screened to ensure good health?  HCM? PK-def?
3.Do you show your cats?
There are breeders who do not show for good reason.  Many breeders cannot afford to do so whilst also carrying out health screenings and maintaining a high level of care.  Yet they should follow the progress of the breed and know the standard of their cats.  Many breeders are put at a disadvantage in location, being far from shows (especially in northern Scotland) and having nobody on hand to look after the cats whilst they are away for a whole day.  You should be able to tell if the breeders’ reason for not showing is genuine.  “I don’t have the time” and “I don’t need someone else to tell me my cats are good” are usually the excuses of those with no intent to prove their cats worth or know full well they are substandard.

It is easy to make up figures in your head thinking “£450 a kitten, times by 4 in the litter, say 10 litters a year and you’re looking at £18,000 profit!”  Now you can deduct from that the cost of the parents of the kittens,  food, litter, toys, scratchers, beds, trays, dishes, vaccinations, registrations, show entries, carriers, treats, vet trips, fuel, human food when out, health screening, heating, lighting, maintenance, disinfectant, gloves, wipes, antibiotics, ear drops, eye drops, new cat purchases, web site, advertising, grooming equipment, cleaning products, phone bills and time.  Holidays, meals, family gatherings, parties, nights out, days away, weekend breaks and, if hand rearing an orphaned litter, even getting to the shop can be a strain or near impossible. 

Hopefully, you will now look at the price of a kitten through more educated eyes and see that what has been invested into a reputable, quality cattery can never be financially regained.  It is the love of the breed and the safeguarding of its future that is our driving force.  Producing happy, healthy kittens who go on to brighten the lives of their new families and hope that among the kittens is the next big winner who will take us forward in our breeding programme is what we get back from our investment.