This is the first in a series of interviews with cat breeders. I met Molly through my blog. It turned out that she also fed her cats raw. I was thrilled and impressed by her dedication because she’s got more cats and has multiple litters than I do so it must have been hard work.
Molly breeds Persians that have a more traditional look – they have a ‘bit more’ nose. You can catch up with Molly and her cats on her own Mythicbells Persians website and blog.
Question: Why did you become a breeder?
Molly: I’d always had the intention to breed cats. About 7 years ago, several things came together in my life more or less at the same time:
I’d been retired for quite a few years and realized one day that if I wanted to breed cats, I now had the time to do it.
I also had 3 elderly Persians, all with health issues and this factored in heavily.
First, I knew “my” breed — it had to be Persians.
Second, my beloved cats were so important to me that I was very fearful of how I was going to handle losing them.
(One cat had just had surgery for intestinal lymphoma, one had just been diagnosed with heart disease, and I’d been fighting inflammatory bowel disease in the third cat for years. I wanted the distraction of a younger generation of kitties coming into my life. Breeding would allow me to do that.)
The third reason I wanted to try breeding was feline nutrition. I’d raised my 3 older Persians on the usual — dry kibble.
When it finally became obvious to me that the vet wasn’t going to figure out a way to help my cat with the IBD, nor were any of the medications working, nor any of the prescription diets, I took the plunge into (GULP) raw feeding.
Over the next few months I began to feel so strongly about it, I felt that I wanted my next cats to be raised on a species-appropriate diet.
I felt that kittens born to such cats and started out with good nutrition would also be healthier overall.
Question: How did you get started?
Molly: The general plan was to get one kitten with breeding rights and have a litter every year.
(Looking back, that was a terribly naive plan, but there you have it.)
However before I made my move I researched for several months, so was a bit more tuned in when I actually did approach a breeder for a kitten. And that was just the tip of the iceberg of the many things I was to learn in the next few years.
I wanted to do it right, so registered a cattery name with CFA and began my search for registered kittens from a reputable source.
I purchased 2 female kittens with breeding rights, and arranged for stud service with the breeder.
Question: What was your happiest moment?
Molly: I don’t recall a happiest moment, but the kittens a so incredibly precious, I enjoy every second they are with me.
Question: What was your saddest moment?
Molly: My saddest moment was the loss of a kitten in an accident here at home. She was six weeks old and had a family waiting for her.
No matter how careful you are, most breeders are eventually going to experience this, and it’s very difficult.
Question: Do you have any tips for anyone thinking of breeding cats?
1. Have a mentor if you can find one. Someone experienced you can call.
2. Do your research…. and I would like to tell you to “do it right,” but I know many of you won’t listen.
By “do it right”, I mean breed only from registered cats.
I KNOW that your undocumented [i.e. not officially registered with a cat registry for breeding] boy (or girl) is the most precious cat in the world and you’re probably thinking: what a pity that his or her genes won’t go on.
Well, I don’t know how many times I’ve had this conversation with someone wanting a kitten to breed. Though I can understand people who want to have some pretty kittens to play with and, yes, I know many do it without undue consequences or heartaches, but many do not.
3. You will also want to consider these questions:
- Who are you giving (or selling) these cats to?
- Do you know the health consequences to your queen and stud?
- When your stud starts spraying, then what?
… the list goes on!
4. Do not breed unless you can find quality homes for your kittens and do not breed unless you can be a source of support and information to the families who adopt your kittens.
5. Many breeders will tell you to not breed unless you show your cats. I don’t show my cats and I do breed. I’m not listening either. You’ve got to follow your heart.
6. Never stop learning. Your kittens depend on you.
7. The business end of breeding cats is tough. I’m in the United States, so I know it may be different in other countries, but you will need a good website.
Do not trust your kittens to ads in the paper. You should have a contract and be able to guarantee your kitten buyers various things as far as the health and pedigree of your kittens.
Question: What advice do you have on how to sell kittens?
Molly: If you are breeding unpedigree kittens and plan to sell them cheaply or give them away, I want you to think of how you are going to feel when a perfect stranger arrives on your doorstep, hands you a couple hundred bucks and walks off with a kitten you’ve raised and treasured. If you give the kittens away, same thing.
I’ll never forget the adoption of my first litter. I vetted the people carefully and felt that they were good homes, but when they drove off with those kittens, I felt that nothing short of full FBI and CIA profiles on them as well as their extended family would suit.
1. I now have an extensive questionnaire that must be filled out in detail and I pour over them weighing the pros and cons of each family.
2. Also, I charge a good price for my kittens to weed out that young kid who is going to buy his girl friend a cat, or the impulse buyer.
3. I like my kittens spoken for early so that by the time the family arrives to pick up the kitten, I know them pretty well. There are no guarantees, but you have to try.
Question: What cat breeding books would you recommend?
Molly: There are many fine books on breeding cats. I wouldn’t choose any one over another, I would have them all.
Your greatest resource for information, however, is the internet. Make sure you find the cat breeder forums and particularly a few of the ongoing Yahoo lists regarding feline health. Breeders from all of the world participate in these. You will find over time that you will know more about some the latest developments in feline reproduction than your vet.
One book I strongly recommend to anyone who has a cat and wants it to live a long and healthy life is: “Your Cat” by Elizabeth M. Hodgkins, DVM.
All photos copyright Molly Barr of Mythicbells Persians