Advice To A Newbie

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The affectionate term applied to a newcomer to the cat fancy.

Deciding to become part of the cat fancy can be an exciting and wonderful time. It can also be confusing and disappointing. If there is any advice I can offer newbies, it would be this: don't just jump into cat breeding with both feet. A bit of study and planning before taking the plunge will not only increase your chances of success, but also may help you avoid potential disasters. And probably save you money in the long run.

Read: What Is A Newbie? to see if you qualify :-).

Step One: Educate Yourself Before Buying

Perhaps the biggest mistake the new cat fancier makes is thinking they will learn as they go. It is not a good idea. Would you want to hire a contractor to build your home if he planned on learning his trade as he did the work? Or would you want to be operated on by a doctor who was going to learn how to do the surgery as he proceeded? Of course not. It is no different when it comes to the hobby of cat breeding. You need to educate yourself before you take the plunge.

So - What will you need to know?

  • Learn the basics of breeding, genetics, birth and delivery
  • Learn about the major feline medical issues and how to deal with them.
  • Learn about the history of your breed.
  • Know the top current cattery names in your breed and the most famous names of yesteryear.
  • Learn how to read a pedigree
  • Learn how to groom your chosen breed.
  • Understand the workings of a cat show: how to enter, set-up a cage, conduct yourself, understand the judging, mark your catalogue

So - How does one go about educating oneself?

The more you know, the less likely you are to make mistakes.

Step Two: Personal Research

The first place to start is with personal research. This is a skill you can use in all areas of your life, not just cats. This time is all about gathering and sifting through information. Gaining knowledge. Developing your eye for a cat.
  • Join the ONLINE magazines or They are filled with wonderful informative articles written specifically for the cat breeder/exhibitor.
  • Browse cattery websites. Take note of the cats you like. Look at the national winning cats and see if you can start to understand why they were big winners. Note where catteries are located. Remember the cattery names and their owner's names.
  • Join feline-oriented cat lists.

The best part about this stage of research is that it is all up to you and the effort you put into it. It does not rely on you contacting the right people, where you live, who you are... YOU are 100% in control of this part of your education.

Step Three: Attend At Least Two Cat Shows

Attend a cat show or two. Check out which cat registering organizations are popular in your local area. If there are more that one registry active in your area, attend a show given by each one. Get a feel for what its like in a show hall. Speak to breeders. Are they friendly? Helpful? Do you like the general atmosphere?.

Also make a plan to attend one prestigious cat show away from your local area where you will have the opportunity to see the current top cats. This will give you a broader view and give you a goal to aim for.

Seek out exhibitors of your breed and introduce yourself. If they have time and seem agreeable, stop for a chat. Think about intelligent questions to ask beforehand. You want to make a good impression.

Buy a catalogue and practice marking the results. Try to follow what is happening in each class. Memorize the colors of the ribbons and what each means. By the end of the show, you should know a lot more than you did at the start. Read:

Step Four: Visit Catteries

Although it may not always be easy to wrangle an invitation, try to visit as many reputable catteries with good cattery practices as possible. See large ones and small ones alike. Ask questions about how they got started, what the pitfalls were, what they would do differently. Visiting other catteries will help you understand what caring for multiple cats (males, females and kittens) will be like. It is particularly important to understand the care involved in keeping whole males, something with which the average cat lover will be totally unfamiliar.

Step Five: Witness The Delivery Of A Litter of Kittens

As a cat breeder, you will regularly be called upon to act as a mid-wife to feline births - so you need to learn about the process. Begin by reading the articles Birth of a Kitten and Birth of a Kitten (Breech) which include photos and explanations of typical kitten births. Once you know what to expect, try to arrange to attend an actual cat giving birth to her kittens. By now, you should have made a few contacts with local breeders - maybe even started a tentative friendship. Ask if you can attend the birth of a litter of kittens.  If there is no one local breeder willing, try asking your veterinarian, local animal shelter or a rescue group.

Step Six: Establish A Budget & Plan

Okay, you have done your research and learned a lot. You are ready to move forward into the reality of becoming a cat breeder and exhibitor. STOP! Before purchasing that first kitten, create a plan. Make a list of questions you should ask yourself before buying your first cat - and come up with a written answer for each question...

  • How many cats should you begin with?
  • How much is your total budget for cat purchases?
  • What do you expect to pay for each cat? What is the average cost for a grand quality cat of your breed? For a breeder-quality?
  • Should you consider paying more for a cat that is already a Grand?
  • How many males should you start with?
  • Should you try to purchase a proven male or purchase a kitten?
  • How many females is your maximum number?
  • What will be your cattery set-up?
  • How much will it cost to set up the physical cattery?
  • Have you located a breeder-friendly veterinarian?
  • How much are you planning on showing?
  • What is your show budget?

Step Seven: Choosing a Breeder to Buy From

Make a list of the top five catteries you like. These will be the first people you plan to approach regarding buying a kitten, so choose wisely. Read Choosing A Cattery To Buy From to learn what you should be looking for in a potential seller.

Step Eight: Buying Your First Cat

Now the exciting part begins - buying your first cat! Probably a kitten. Approach your preferred breeders. This is where all your study and research start to pay off. The more knowledgeable you are, the more you will impress the potential seller, the more likely you will be offered a good cat. Your knowledge will also protect you from being misled or cheated - especially if you can parlay it with some clear-thinking application of street-smarts.

Final Words

Don't forget about choosing your cattery name! Be creative, distinctive and thoughtful. This is the moniker all the kittens you bring into the world will carry . . .

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