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Norwich Bulletin - 11/19/2006

The Truth About Breeding

So you went out and bought two expensive rare breed kittens (or puppies) and you think you are going to put them together and make lots of money? That is not the way it works in reality because there is no money in breeding unless you want to be one of those puppy or kitten mill breeders.

Truly good and responsible breeders are extremely lucky if they can break even at the end of the year. A good breeder does not breed their females more than once a year, does not have too many females, and concentrates on breeding out undesirable medical conditions or personality traits that are problematic in a particular breed. This proves to be very expensive.

For instance, let’s take the Abyssinian. Abyssinians have several pre-existing conditions in certain lines that need to be bred out (which is true with most purebreds, dog or cat).

Pruvate Kinase (PK) is a form of anemia. It is a recessive gene, so it is neessary for both parents to carry the gene in order for the kittens to have the disorder. While it is not in itself lethal, the cat will have to be maintained for its whole life and will most probably die younger than necessary. PK can be bred out of a line but in order to do that, each cat in the breeding program must be tested (at the tune of anywhere between $75 to $125 a test).

If one of the cats is a carrier and yet has everything else going for it, you would then breed it to a cat who is negative. The kittens will not have PK but some will be carriers. These kittens should not go into a breeding program. Choosing a kitten and having it tested to replace your positive adult cat will strengthen your line and help prevent other PK carriers from being born. But many times a breeder has paid several thousand dollars for a cat in order to put them into their breeding program and it is extremely upsetting to find out that the cat you thought was going to improve your line, needs to be spayed or neutered.

Abys also can be different blood types and when you put unknowns together, you can end up with something similar to the AB negative factor in humans. It is hard to watch kittens die. So again, a responsible breeder will have each of their cats blood typed and ask other breeders to do the same before using any outcrosses.

There is heartbreak around every corner. Take the case of sending one of your females to North Carolina to be bred to a well known, proven stud cat in order to bring new blood into your line.

First, is the expense of driving your cat from Connecticut to North Carolina (never ship a cat or dog alone). Then, a few months later, you pay for the other breeder’s flight to bring back your cat (and of course pay for the cat to fly in the cabin).

The breeding was successful and everyone is excited and looking forward to these kittens as the two cats are exquisite and both breeders plan on keeping a kitten. The owner of the sire will usually get pick of the litter as a stud fee and any breeder who has gone through this much expense hopes to get a kitten for their breeding program. And if they are very lucky, the Abyssinian will have three or four kittens so one or two can be sold as pets to help defray your costs.

And then the unthinkable happens. You come home from work one day and your bed is covered with blood and you find unformed kittens. The mother has aborted the kittens due to some complication only nature understands. You see the mother is acting strange and rush her to the vet to find out there is another kitten inside her – a Caesarian section is performed but that kitten is also dead.

Your vet bill is well over $1,000, you have no kittens, a mom who either had to be spayed due to infection or will not be able to be bred for another year, and to add insult to injury, you still owe the other breeder a kitten because a breeding did take place!

Of course this does not always happen. The opposite of the above scenario is that four healthy kittens are born – two females and two males. They thrive and become beautiful little Abys and both breeders get the kitten of their dreams.

Two kittens are sold as pets (about $1,000 a kitten) and the tests, travel expenses and vet costs are almost covered. The people who come to pick up their kittens are thrilled because there are not a lot of Aby kittens around and they have gotten themselves a healthy, socialized and wonderful kitten. This happens too, but you must always be prepared for when it doesn’t happen. No breeder can have every litter perfect.

This is why breeders only sell pets that must be spayed or neutered to people who do not know enough about genetics to improve the breed or avert a disaster. They are also trying to limit heartache. It is not because breeders are selfish and want to keep all the money to themselves. Believe me, there is no money in responsible breeding.

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