You own a beautiful Bengal pet and you now want to venture into the wonderful world of cat breeding, expecting litter after litter of cute, fluffy and healthy kittens. It can’t be that hard, or can it?
Here are a few questions to consider first:
• Are you prepared to sacrifice holidays, day trips out on hot sunny days and night outs?
• Are you prepared to sacrifice your time, energy and indeed your old lifestyle?
• Do you have sufficient finance in place even before you have bought your first breeding cat and are you prepared to potentially lose a lot of money?
• Do you have plenty of room in your home for breeding cats including the room to isolate litters if necessary?
• Do you have a good relationship with your neighbours? Will they put up with the noise and sometimes smell that accompanies keeping entire cats?
• Are your family behind you in this venture?
• Family members, husbands/wives, can/will they put up with the upheaval?
• Do you have a support system should you become ill?
• Are you prepared to travel long distances at a minutes notice when your queen comes into call to visit a stud?
• Are you prepared to stay up night after night hand-rearing sickly/underweight kittens?
• Are you prepared for the heartache of watching a deteriorating kitten slowly take its last breath as you helplessly cradle it in your arms?
• Are you even prepared to let your kittens go to new homes? Can you part with the sick one you saved or the cute one, or the one that tugs at your heart strings?
Some reasons given by some to start breeding cats:-
1. You see breeding as a way of making money?
2. You want your children to experience the pleasure of watching a small kitten enter the world or do you simply want lots of sweet kittens running about your home?
3. My cat deserves to have a litter of her own.
4. Cats need a litter before they are neutered.
None of the above reasons are good grounds to start a proper breeding program.
Your reason for breeding should be to help in the healthy progression of the breed; aiming to produce that ‘perfect’ cat that conforms to the breed standard as closely as possible.
Some points to consider:-
1) Breeding is a way of life.
It changes your life. You will eat, sleep and think cats. The cats come first every time and ‘your time’ comes a poor second.
The financial aspect of breeding should be one of your first considerations. If you are wise you will have sufficient money behind you as ‘back-up’ in case of eventualities and to ensure that the quality of your cats’ upkeep and welfare is never compromised. Otherwise you will risk ‘breeding into debt’. And every single litter of kittens can potentially lose you money. No litter should be relied upon for the upkeep of your cats or even the kittens themselves. Your savings which were once used to buy that nice item of clothing or to pay a deposit on that lovely summer holiday will now be needed to support your cats, kittens and any unexpected veterinary bills that might mount up.
You should certainly not rely upon kitten sales for your own personal luxuries. Most reputable breeders plough every penny available back into their programs.
Joining suitable breed clubs, registering with the relevant governing body can cost up to £100 and annual membership fees thereafter.
Registering cats and kittens
Registering your breeding cats at approx £8 each.
Reference books you may need – £50-£100
Bengal breeding cats
In order to breed registered kittens your breeding cats need to be registered on the Active register and as such command a premium price. The cost of a quality Bengal breeding queen can average anything from £1000 to £1500 each.
The stud fee can average £300-£600 depending on breeder/cat. Your queen will more than likely need to be tested for FIV/FELV before visiting the stud which can cost from £15-£60.
You may want to buy a stud cat later on. A top quality Bengal stud on the active register can cost up to £1800.
Your breeding cats need a top quality, balanced diet, worming treatment, flea treatment, vaccinations etc…
Regular health checks, blood tests, heart scans can cost up to £500 per breeding cat per year. Your queen may require treatment at any time for something totally unexpected and unrelated to her breeding queen status, she may need surgery or require treatment for a medical condition.
The queen’s food consumption will increase during pregnancy – extra cost. You may need a kittening pen which can cost anything from £60-£150.
Cat furniture and toys - £100-£200.
All breeding cats tend to spray, both males and females, therefore you may even need to ‘cat-proof” your home – replacing carpets with wooden/laminate flooring. Replacing wallpaper for painted washable walls etc…
Unless you are prepared for your cats spraying all over you house you will need outside pens eventually which can cost from £500 each. Add to that the heating/lighting costs, suitable disinfectants etc…
Pregnancy and Birth
The pregnancy may be eventful you may need scans or veterinary treatment, your cat may be infertile or be unable to carry kittens, cats can have false pregnancies or pyometra.
Unfortunately even if the pregnancy goes well, there is no guarantee that your queen will have a problem-free birth without complications. If you need an emergency vet, a call-out charge alone can be as much as £100+. If your queen needs an emergency c-section this can cost up to £700 out of hours charge.
It is very important that you have all the necessary equipment and essential medical supplies to hand in preparation for the birth, all the necessary equipment for all eventualities may cost approx. £50
You may need to hand rear kittens, requiring cat milk replacement and equipment.
Ill kittens may require expensive vet treatment if they are to survive.
You may occasionally have no live kittens at the end of all this expense either.
If everything goes well, after the kittens are weaned you will have the cost of vaccinations, registration fees, worming/flea treatments, food, litter, litter trays, bowls, kitten packs, advertising…
You may have to cope with the financial responsibility of a large litter; say 8+ kittens.
You not only have the task of finding these kittens new homes, but you will have to be prepared to keep kittens for a longer period well past their ‘homing date’ if kitten enquiries are lacking.
You have the costs with showing. Each show can average £200 per cat with travel expenses and especially if you stay overnight in a hotel.
Other additional costs:
Phone calls, travelling costs averaging approx. £20 per month.
Advertising - Website costs; anything up to £400 with additional fees annually. Newspaper ads.
Electricity, heating costs.
Continuing your program
You will want to expand your breeding program eventually. Each cat comes with their own upkeep cost, unexpected veterinary costs, health tests and possibly extra pens.
You may be tempted to buy 3,4,5,6 breeding queens in your first year of breeding, but remember that the more cats you have the greater their upkeep cost, and without any kitten sales to rely upon the expenses will be coming out of your own pocket. Are you financially able to meet these costs?
It is sensible be realistic and take things slowly in your first year or two. This time should be spent on learning and experiencing. It takes a lot more than putting two cats together to be successful breeder.
Time is needed to research the breed, pedigrees, genetics and health are all things a good breeder needs to keep up with, and know as much as they can about.
You need to spend time with your new queen; gaining her trust and ensuring that she is regularly fed and cared for. Staying up with her all night through her labour and being prepared for an emergency vet visit.
Your kittens may need to be hand-reared every two/three hours for their first two weeks of life.
You will have to spend time weaning, litter training and socialising your kittens right up until they are ready for their new homes.
After your kittens have left home, your responsibilities remain as the new owner may not be able to keep the kitten. Do you have the room to take the kitten/cat back? Or do you have the time to place the kitten in another home?
Every day of breeding is also a ‘cleaning’ day. Pens, litter boxes, bowls, floors, walls, beds, bedding etc… Queens do spray and they can be relentless too which will involve the constant cleaning/mopping of your rooms on a daily if not hourly basis. It really will be a daily effort to keep your home spotless, sanitised and odourless.
Scrubbing/sweeping/hosing outside pens in the middle of winter, carrying 30 kilo bags of cat litter and food. Again, all very time-consuming and hard work.
Keeping multiple cats and kittens will increase the likelihood of infections no matter how rigorous and perfect your cleaning regime is. The cleanest of catteries are not immune to disease and it is not if you will experience this disease or that infection but when you will experience it. Therefore separate rooms with sterile surfaces are a necessity when housing multiple cats and again will involve more time and effort as well as more expense.
Being a responsible breeder will require your full commitment, passion, time, patience, money and energy. Breeding can bring incredible joy and be extremely rewarding. However, breeding can also bring sleepless nights, a near non-existent social life, financial loss and heartache.
Before you even contemplate breeding, research, research and research more – learn about the breed and study pedigrees. Visit cat shows and contact reputable breeders and don’t be afraid to ask them questions. Make sure that your breeder is willing to mentor you. Be absolutely confident that you really can commit yourself full-time to your cats and that you possess that deep passion, honesty and that willingness to learn something new every day that is paramount to breeding successfully. Your cats will depend on you to ensure their complete health, happiness and well-being and they deserve nothing less.
The following excellent example of an essential birthing kit has been kindly supplied by Heidi of Nordiquestar Bengals:
CERTAIN ITEMS WILL REQUIRE WASHING/STERILISING BEFORE USE
This kit is intended for emergencies...Hopefully, you will not need to use all of the items listed but please do familiarise yourself with the contents just in case.
Medium sized toolbox
For storing the breeder kit.
Note Pad & Pen
For making notes on birth date/times, number of placentas passed, kitten weights etc.
Wash hands thoroughly with Hibi Scrub before handling the kittens (for the first couple of weeks) and before assisting mum at birth. Also, ask potential owners to wash their hands with this if they visit your kittens before they have been inoculated.
Use to scrub hands before handling kittens or assisting queen.
If after birthing mum is exhausted and doesn’t have the energy to clean herself, you may wish to wipe her down with the sponge & a little warm water.
Face Cloths (5-10)
If mum does not tend to the kittens immediately, it will be necessary for you to break the sack & rub the kitten down with a dry face cloth.
Cotton Wool Pads
Cotton wool pads can be used to wipe down kittens eyes if they become infected. (Use cooled boiled slightly salted water)
To take rectal temperature.
For lubrication of thermometer.
To get a good look at the kittens. Mum will no doubt want to keep then in a dark covered area for the first couple of weeks.
Hot Water Bottle
Fill with WARM water and wrap in a dry towel. If mum is not keen on cleaning & nursing the kittens make sure they are dried quickly and placed on a warm bottle/heat pad. A newborn kitten can die in minutes if left to get cold. Have this on standby as soon as mum goes into labour.
Can be used to tie off umbilical cord. (if mum does not chew through it)
Scissors (Stainless Steel)
Use to cut umbilical cord. (if mum does not chew through it)
Iodine Tincture 25ml
Apply to umbilical cord. (we only tend to apply it if we have had to cut the cord ourselves but others apply it regardless as the cord is a potential risk area for infection)
Use to apply iodine to umbilical cords.
Complete Book of Cat Breeding (Dan Rice)
For advice and guidance.
Nursing & Hand Rearing Newborn Kittens (Betty Bloomfield)
For advice and guidance. THIS IS A MUST TO HAVE IN YOUR BREEDERS KIT!
Liquid Glucose/Glucose Syrup/Glucose Solution
Often, poorly kittens can become so weak that they can not feed. We have in the past used “Diluted Liquid Glucose” (1 part cooled boiled water to 1 part liquid glucose) as an energy booster. Use a syringe to measure equal parts of water/glucose (approx 2ml each). Mix in a container and then draw-up into a syringe. The mixture can be stored in the fridge for a couple of days.
Give 3-5 drops to a weak kitten and within a couple of minutes they will hopefully have sufficient energy to feed.
Powdered Milk 170g
Replacement milk for hand reared kittens. N.B ALWAYS ENSURE MILK IS WARM BEFORE FEEDING.
Lactol Bottle Feeding Set
Bottle feeder for hand rearing kittens.
Disposable Syringes 1ml (x5)
For syringe feeding hand reared kittens.
Disposable Syringes 2ml (x5)
For syringe feeding hand reared kittens.
Disposable Syringes 5ml (x5)
For syringe feeding hand reared kittens.
Can also be used to store “Diluted Liquid Glucose” (See above)
Teats for Syringes (pack of 3)
Place on the end of a Syringe to aid syringe feeding hand reared kittens. You will need to puncture a whole in the end of each teat before they can be used.
If a kitten will not feed from mum, bottle or syringe, a pipette can be used to drop feed.
Can also be used to give oral medications
Additional items to consider purchasing
• Digital Scales - to weigh kittens, ones that weigh in grams.
• Flexiguard PetNap Heat Pad - for kitten box.
• Wireless Digital Thermometer - for monitoring the kitten box
• Baby bottle warmer - to warm formula for hand reared kittens.
• Basic Baby monitor – to monitor the kittens.
• Baby Steriliser – To sterilise feeding equipment /scissors etc.
• Dopram-V Drops – to initiate or stimulate respiration in newborns after difficult birth.
• Nutridrops – Energy supplement for kittens & mum.
• Stethoscope – to identify heartbeat in newborns in case of a difficult birth.
• Small (1.7m) feeding tube – To feed a kitten that doesn’t yet have the suckling reflex.
Good Cattery Management
You have done your research into lines and bought your first breeding cats and are now ready to breed…….
It’s not just a case of putting a girl to a boy and, hey presto, you have kittens. You need to be confident that you will be raising healthy kittens.
Good cattery management is of prime importance.
When bringing in a new kitten/cat to your breeding programme, immediately isolate from your current cats. Take the newbie to your vets and get it DNA blood tested for the cat URI’s – Calici, Herpes and Chlamydia, Panleuk; FIV, FeLV and for Corona Virus. If the testing shows any positives, take the cat back to where you bought it from.
Don’t bring in too many cats that you cannot house comfortably. Ideally, breeding cats should each have their own quarters with adequate sneeze barriers. If you have two cats that get along well together and have tested negative for all the above infections you can house them together. You should have adequate room to ensure a litter of kittens has its own kitten room. Don’t mix litters. You will also need that all important Isolation Area.
If you are using an Open Stud to breed your queen, ensure he is registered, current on his vaccinations, corona virus tested negative and has had his annual FIV and FeLV snap test. His stud quarters should have separate housing for your queen and matings should be controlled so there is no sharing of facilities (i.e. litter trays). The same applies to your own Stud if you are allowing outside Queens to mate with him. Likewise for the Queens. You will need to produce her registration certificate, pedigree, current vaccination card and snap test for FIV and FeLV (usually taken within 48 hours of going to stud). I would also expect to see a corona virus negative testing.
Following the above, along with good hygiene standards should ensure that your kittens will have healthy happy lives in their forever homes.
Thank you also to Elaine of Junglerose Bengals and Sue Smith of Chataya Bengals for their invaluable contribution to this article.