To be a breeder (A question of pedigree)
- Original written in Danish and copyright by Danielle Villefrance - Ailuro´s Maine Coon © Danielle Villefrance 
- Translated by Dr. Mario Richard Eden and Claus Løppenthien

Ethically responsible breeding requires careful selection of cats based on health, temper, adaptation of appearance and history for the sole purpose of producing offspring, which are better than the parents. Some breeders focus on preserving a certain breed, others focus on improving it. They show their devotion by registering their cattery, maintaining the breadth of the pedigree and by keeping up to date with the latest research in all areas related to cats and breeding.

In contrast, a person who just pairs two cats without considering whether the offspring will make a positive contribution to the breed, is merely a "cat producer" and thus should not be considered a breeder. Cat producers probably would sell pure breed cats without a pedigree, while others might allow their non-neutralized impure cat to have kittens.

These considerations emphasize the importance of a pedigree. A pedigree guarantees that a given cat is a pure breed member of its race. Just because a cat looks like a certain breed, it is not implicitly given that the cat is a member of that particular breed. For example, not all blue cats are Russian Blues and not all longhaired cats are Norwegian Forest Cats or Maine Coons. The three main reasons why one should never breed without a pedigree are given below:

  1. A pedigree is written proof of purity from the breeder. Without a pedigree no history of the ancestors is available and thus it is not possible to answer any questions related to the family tree neither in terms of genetics nor simple curiosity. In Denmark the cost of registering a cattery and thereby obtaining an official breeder name is only DKK 500, while the current cost of a pedigree is DKK 150. If one can afford to breed, then these expenses should not present any problems.
  2. Only cats having a pedigree are allowed to compete within a certain race in exhibitions. If no pedigree is available, the cat can only compete as a domestic cat and only if its appearance differs from existing breeds. Imagine the despair of breeding the perfect kitten and then never getting any recognition for it.
  1. Pedigrees provide access to high quality males. NO breeder will allow their male to mate with a cat that has no pedigree.

A respectable breeder makes the cats and their wellbeing a priority in life, and thus is aware of the responsibilities associated with having pets. In the following some general guidelines to becoming a successful breeder are presented.

First of all, it is imperative to keep in mind, that cats are living beings, which in a lot of aspects of life depend on the breeder. They deserve the greatest efforts on their behalf. A responsible and caring breeder places the psychological and physical needs above economic considerations, convenience and the breeders own ego. This inherently implies that hard choices have to be made from time to time. Neutralizing a cat, which produces unique show kittens, may be the best decision for a given cat, if it does not take any interest in motherhood or if it has previously experienced problems giving birth. It may turn out to be necessary to neutralize all cats of a certain breed due to fatal hereditary faults or shortcomings. Such a decision is very expensive, but nonetheless it may be the only correct choice. Finally, a breeder is judged by his peers not only by the quality of the cats produced, but just as importantly on the motivation, minds and ethics of the breeder. It is very unlikely for a breeder to make money on this enterprise and grief is inevitable,, however if one is passionate about the work and genuinely love the breed, the rewards are wonderful. It is found in the joyous expressions of new owners, the results and accolades achieved during exhibitions and most important of all, in the love and devotion received from ones cats.

It is imperative to understand that just as humans; cats may have hereditary features and defects that are more evident in some breeds than others. This does NOT necessarily imply that pure breed cats are less healthy than cats from random mating, cats of mixed breed or wild cats; however the availability of genealogical maps enables easy tracking of hereditary diseases. Get familiar with the hereditary problems associated with a certain breed and more importantly learn how to avoid them. A quality cat for breeding can easily cost approximately DKK 5000 and then add in the expenses for vaccinations, food, equipment and possibly mating fees. Most likely the income generated by selling the first batch of kittens will not offset these expenses. These expenses do not cover acute extraordinary cost such as visits to the veterinary clinic, neutralization, cesarean section and exhibition fees. A virus infection or perhaps a ringworm epidemic may easily result in significant expenses for veterinarian and medical bills. The expenses may possibly be offset in time, once the equipment requirements are no longer dominant and one has established a reasonable sized group of cats for breeding, however it should be noted that the initial investment may be considerable. New breeders often have problems selling their kittens, as they are not connected to the established network or do not know how to market their cattery and/or kittens. Some find it difficult to sell kittens in their local community or geographical area, which could be due a saturation of local breeders producing the same race or perhaps the market simply does not demand this particular race.

A lot of people feel that their cat should have kittens, so that their children may experience the miracle of child birth. Do not forget that complications do occur and one may end up with a stillborn or deformed kitten, or the female cat has to be rushed to the veterinarian for a cesarean section. It should be emphasized that the desire of such an experience is not enough to justify breeding a batch of kittens.

Make sure that the every kitten considered for purchase has a health guarantee. Only buy from people that will be easy to collaborate with in the future. Take the new kitten to the veterinarian for a full checkup as soon as possible. Take the cat to exhibitions and talk to other breeders. Research and evaluate the pedigree of the cat thoroughly. In term crude terms, spend 5 minutes investigating the cat and 5 days investigating the pedigree. No number of trophies or awards can compensate for the first time a cat will have to be taken back or in worst cases put to sleep as a result of a genetic problem that could have been avoided if noticed earlier.

The pedigree is the key to identifying hereditary diseases and genetic defects, which is the reason why one should exclusively breed cats with pedigrees. Without pedigrees the breeder does not have the slightest chance of knowing the genetic abnormalities or hereditary conditions that may lurk in the history of the cat. Although the pedigree may not describe every problem that one may encounter, one can avoid a lot of heartache and suffering by studying it carefully.