So... you have decided you want to become a breeder. Warnings about expenses, hours of grooming and feline care and rumors about heartaches did not kill those dreams about kittens of your own that would make their mark on the world, and you now wonder "how do I even start without making terrible mistakes?". Well, here is a 10-step formula to "making it" - or at least having a go as an ethical respected breeder in the Fancy.
Step 1 - Your goal
Ok, so we know you want to have kittens already. But in order to be a respected breeder most breeders I have met believe a good breeder needs a firm goal. After all, pets exist a plenty, and breeding just any two felines together, not caring much for their health and look, to get kittens is not a very difficult task. So the first basic condition in order to be a respected member of the Fancy (and I don’t mean just show circles - not at all) is to have a firm sense of where you are heading.
Since this is a Persian web site we assume you fell in love with the Persian breed. But this rule applies to any breed, your goal needs to be very specific and should include betterment of the breed in some way not just to create more purebreds... that as we said is fairly easy.
Choosing a goal to someone who has just entered the breeding hobby is often very hard. The reason is that most people that want to start breeding cats of a certain breed are usually not very acquainted with the breed they wish to breed. Most of us when we start breeding have seen a few pets from the breed, but didn’t have a clue on what the breed in general should really look like. And of course have not much clue about the breed's standard, not even mentioning what are the health, look and temperament issues in the breed that need betterment.
This brings us to the 4 next steps in our formula that all start with the words 'Gaining knowledge'.
Step 2 - Gaining knowledge about the breed standard
This step in chronological order should probably be Step 1. And yet I have chosen "your goal" as step 1 because I feel it is the essence of purebred breeding. The reason for that is that if you don’t know where you are going, you are going nowhere.
As I mentioned, gaining knowledge in order to focus on a goal is crucial. The first tool to broaden your view on the breed is simply reading the breed standard. This is fairly easy to find on a major cat registry web site or in correspondence with one, and yet it is not enough.
All breed standards were given physical interpretation by breeders (they are the ones that have actually written them) and to really understand what the breed standard means you need to see actual cats that you know that answer to the standard as it is interpreted today. The place to find such cats is the show hall. The reason is that in shows cats are judged by the registries official judges according to the breed standard, and that is the place breeders bring their 'Top of the crop' to be judged and compete according to the breed standard. When you actually go to a show take the printed breed standard with you, so you can actually see how the wording in it applies on the winning cats.
You may find that show cats which are closest to the standard are very different from the pets you have known from the breed. You may even find that you don’t like their look. A trait like the Persians typical face and nose or the Main Coons huge upright ears may look less appealing to you than the pet qulity look of a specific breed you dreamed to breed. At this point many think "Ah ha! I know what my goal is! I will breed to change the breed standard". As legitimate that goal is (and it is really) and although there is a place in the fancy for new spirits of change, there are a few things to remember before taking this road.
- There is a breed for almost any taste. So if the breed you wanted actually doesn’t answer to your taste, walking the show halls with an open mind would almost surely make you bump into a breed whose breed standard does answer your taste.
- Changing a breed standard even in one word is very difficult and long process. The reason is that the breed standard was accepted by the majority of breeders of that breed and they actually really like their breed as it is and would fight to keep it that way. Actually most of them may perceive what you find ugly as their largest achievement.
- One needs to be very, very experienced and see numerous cats to really have an insight on the breeds look and know if a certain look in it actually has enough breeders supporting it in order to actually make a change.
All in all, I personally believe that the right and possibility to make changes in the breed standard is reserved to the ones with lots of breeding experience on their hands, whether from within the breed or from without, and of course to the very dedicated and determined, since usually somewhat if a 'fight' is due for every change. So in determining your goal as a new breeder, I generally recommend defining it within the given standard of the breed. There is a lot to work on within the given boundaries of any breed standard.
Step 3 - Gaining knowledge about the breed's health
Although this will not directly promote your efforts to win at a show, most ethical breeders believe that the most important goal of all is to produce healthy cats. What does a show win mean if it was won in the price of consistently ill kittens? To me personally - nothing at all.