Backyard breeders on popular online marketplaces fuel this misconception by charging a premium without incurring the ongoing costs associated with responsible breeding practices.
For the health and wellbeing of female cats, they should have no more than a maximum of three litters in any two year period, with four kittens per litter on average. So, let’s have a look at some example costs a responsible breeder will cover over those first two years, for a male and female pair and their three litters.
Firstly, there is an upfront cost the breeder has to pay for “active” registered cats. These are cats who have been left unneutered for the purpose of breeding. Their registry body has reviewed the pedigree of the cat and determined they are purebred.
Offspring can therefore also be placed on either the “active” or “non-active” registers with the same body - providing proof to future owners of their breed.
Pedigree cats usually cost anywhere in the region of £1,000 and £2,500 each, with “active” cats often sitting higher on that scale
Quality of life
Of course there are additional upfront costs in the form of toys, bedding, litter trays, food and water bowls, grooming supplies, scratching posts, and cat carriers for those important trips to the vet.
There are a range of options and price points for these items, but a breeder could spend anywhere in the region of £300 to £1,000 setting up their home for the arrival of their breeding adults'
Some breeds, such as Maine Coon cats, can grow to be very large, meaning some items such as bedding, carriers and litter trays also need to be larger and therefore can be more expensive.
Particularly if a breeder owns an unneutered male, or “stud” cat, they will need additional space and measures to keep that cat happy, healthy, and separated from female cats when necessary.
Converting house and garden spaces for this purposes can run into the thousands of pounds.
If a breeder does not own their own "stud" cat, they will also have to pay for their females to visit the home of an unneutered male to be mated. This can be an additional few hundred pounds with every mating.
Cat litter is an ongoing cost a breeder has to factor into their monthly outgoings. There are a variety of options available depending on the breeder’s preferences (i.e.
clumping or non-clumping, antibacterial properties, eco properties etc.), and prices also vary.
For our breeding pair, a mid-range price point clumping cat litter, being completely changed on a fortnightly basis, would cost about £400 over a two year period.
In addition to this are cleaning and disinfectant products, and grooming shampoos/wipes, as well as cat-safe disinfecting products to keep their environment free of pathogens.
GCCF/TICA membership fees
Depending on the registry body, breeders will have to pay various fees for their membership, registration of litters, and access to other services.
Over those first two years it would cost in the region of £250 as a minimum.
It is mandatory for all breeders to have genetic screening carried out to ensure the health and wellbeing of future offspring. There are different tests for different breeds.
These tests only have to be carried out once, and would cost in the region of £140 for our pair. The test samples must be collected by a vet, who would verify the identity of the cat via their microchip. This would cost an additional £100.
Some breeders will have additional physical examinations completed of their breeding adults to provide further peace of mind that the animals in their care are suitable for breeding.
Some of these can be very expensive, such as echocardiograms of the heart, and would need to be repeated on a yearly basis.
All adult cats in a household must be vaccinated against common diseases they can acquire from their environment or other cats.
Initial vaccinations for the adult male and female would cost about £60 each, with their annual boosters costing around £25 each.
Kittens will also need their first set of vaccinations, so for our three litters over a two year period, a breeder is looking at a total cost of about £890.
Worm & flea treatment
Worming and flea treatments need to be administered on a monthly basis for adult cats. Kittens should start these treatments from two weeks of age, with continued administration on a fortnightly basis until they are collected by their new owners.
For our adult pair and their litters these treatments would cost in the region of £640 over a two year period.
This will cost between £10 and £20 per kitten, so for three litters of four over two years, a breeder is looking at a cost of between £120 and £240.
Some breeders will arrange for their kittens to be neutered before rehoming. For male kittens this would cost between £40 and £80. Spaying of female kittens is a more complicated procedure, so can be between £50 and £100.
Therefore for our three litters, this would cost in the region of £540 to £1080.
Specialist insurance for breeders is available, to cover the additional health risks relevant for breeding cats. It could cost about £50 a month per cat, with a £95 excess, meaning over a two year period, our pair would cost £1,200.
Often these premiums offer breeders the benefit of insuring offspring for free, so new owners can be provided with 4-5 weeks of free cover once they collect their kitten.
While insurance will cover big expenses should cats or kittens become seriously unwell, with an excess of at least £95, most standard checkups or emergency appointments would not be covered by insurance.
Some veterinary surgeries will offer discounts to breeders of between 10 and 15% but this is not a guarantee.
Over a two year period, our adult pair would have at least one checkup a year each, which at a cost of around £60 wouldn’t be covered by insurance. This would set the breeder back by an additional £240.
The cost of food varies hugely between different brands. For our adult pair, good quality cat food is likely to cost in the region of £1,350 over a two year period.
Kittens will begin weaning onto solid food at around three weeks old, and will be fully weaned at eight weeks old.
For three litters of four kittens, a breeder is looking at approximately £2,200 in costs for kitten food.
This means the total cost to the breeder over 2 years is roughly between £9,990 and £14,350
A breeder charging £1,500 for each of their kittens is receiving a total of £18,000 over the two years.
Minus the costs above, they are therefore making between £1,624 and £3,805 a year in profit. Some breeders charging less will actually be making a loss.
The following two years, there will be marginally more profit as they won’t have the upfront costs to factor in, however the cost of “active” cats isn’t a one-off as breeders will usually neuter their adult cats when they reach around four to five years of age, and acquire new breeding adults.
Toys, bedding, scratching posts, and other supplies will also need replacing after a few years of wear and tear.
There is no price on the love and time high quality breeders will be dedicating to the care of their cats and kittens. Round the clock care for pregnant or nursing mother cats is just a small part of this.