A Breeder's Goals
by LEE HARPER

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What are your goals as a cat breeder?

It is something every breeder thinks about from time to time.

Obviously every cat breeder wants to own cats, mate them and produce kittens . . . but what are the goals beyond that to which one can aspire?

Have you thought about it? Have you written your goals down on a piece of paper? Perhaps you have wondered about how your goals will change over time?

Let's take a look at some of the possibilities you might consider. Below are the things I thought about when I first started in the cat fancy more than 20 years ago . . .

To Be An Honest and Ethical Breeder

I came from the world of dog breeders, and so the challenges and pitfalls of breeding were not new to me. I believe that the first and primary goal of every breeder should be to conduct themselves in an ethical manner; to place the well-being of the cats they own and the kittens they produce first and foremost; and to deal with kitten buyers and sellers fairly and with respect.

To Be Knowledgeable About My Chosen Breed

My favorite saying is "Knowledge Is Power". Every cat breeder should be a student of their breed if they hope to enjoy their hobby and achieve success. It starts with virtually memorizing the breed standard — but it shouldn't stop there. Study the history of the breed, its origins, its pioneers, its most significant cats. Study pedigrees. Learn about the feline medical health issues in general and the health concerns that affect your breed in particular.

Learn about the show faults most prevalent in your breed. Continually seek to increase your knowledge about your breed through reading, joining interested groups and attending shows and educational seminars. Learning can be fun and enriches your experience in everything you do.

To Study Pedigrees

Try also to understand the genetic implications of a pedigree and learn how to gain as much useful information from a pedigree as possible. Guidance from an experienced breeder is most helpful in learning how to analyze a pedigree.

 

To Have A Practical Knowledgeable About Genetics

Understanding genetics and the basics of how characteristics are inherited in cats is crucial in order to create a breeding program that will accomplish specific goals. Breeding should never be a game of wishful thinking. Mating two individual cats and just hoping the kittens will be an improvement on the parents is not the product of an educated breeder. Genetics is an important tool to learn how to avoid high percentages of inbreeding, and to eliminate problems and health issues from your bloodlines.

To Know The Best Way To Maintain A Healthy, Productive Cattery

Good feline husbandry practices help you keep your cattery healthy.

To Know How To Produce Healthy, Long-Lived Cats with Good Temperaments

My most important goal of all is to produce healthy cats with lovely personalities. What does a show win mean if it was won at the price of sick kittens or cats with temperament flaws?

To Produce Show Quality Cats

To strive to produce show quality kittens that are good representative of their breed. My heart still beats a little faster when I see a stunningly beautiful show cat groomed to perfection. Meow!

To Show

Even if you never show your cats, try to attended at least one cat show a year. Make new contacts. See other breeder's cats. Check out what other breeders are producing.

To Meet & Make Friends With Other Breeders

Make friends with other cat breeders — you have a lot in common after all. Enjoy the camaraderie.

To Begin By Concentrating on a Single Breed Or Color Division

You can't learn everything all at once. Decide on one breed to start. Not all breeds come in all colors, and not all color mixes are allowed for showing, so be careful about learning and deciding which colors in the breed with which you wish to work.

To Learn About The Different Interpretations Of The Breed Standard

Try and learn about the different winning looks of the breed. Although most show cats of one breed may look the same to the newbie eyes, they may be completely different to the seasoned breeder's eyes. Every breeder has her own goals and places a unique emphasis in her breeding program. Try and learn what these are for different cats from different catteries, and try to find the look you like most (and what you perceive the breed should be). The help of a seasoned breeder may be needed in this stage because their eyes are usually much more tuned to qualities of cats within the breed.

To Mentor New Breeders

As one gains experience in the cat fancy, building a record of knowledge and accomplishment, there comes a point at which you will have value as a mentor to the next generation or to newcomers. Pass it along. Pay it Forward.

To Always Be Willing To Take Back Any Kitten I Bring Into The World

A breeder should always be willing to take back any kitten they brought into the world, no matter the reason for its return.

To Always Keep On Learning

Never rest on your laurels. Things keep changing. Always keep learning.

To Know When It Is Time To Cut Back Or Retire

We all get older. Or personal circumstances change. There comes a time when every breeder must consider cutting back. Perhaps it means owning fewer kitties . . . or breeding fewer litters. The time may come when one stops breeding but still keep showing — or vice versa.

To Leave A Legacy

Think about the legacy you want to leave behind when you are gone. What will be your mark that you leave on the cat fancy? Entrust your bloodlines to the next generation. Preserve photos and pedigrees. Share your memorabilia.

I hope you have a wonderful career both as a cat breeder and a feline enthusiast. I certainly have and continue to enjoy!

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