This week I saw yet another ‘HOW MUCH?’ Post in one of the many UK Maine Coon FB groups.
As usual, the answers from both breeders and buyers included-
A kitten should cost between xxx and xxx, any more and they’re scammers, ripping you off, only breeding for the money, taking the piss, ‘Greeders’ not ‘Breeders’. I got MY kittens from xxxxxxxxxxxx for xxx each, no one should charge more than that. They are cashing on in covid.
And the response that really stung was- A proper, reputable, ethical breeder wouldn’t charge that much.
You see I am priced higher than many but I KNOW I am a proper, reputable and ethical breeder, and when my heart sank I reminded myself of something. . .
I think back to a number of years ago when I set out on this journey. I remember the words my wise mentor said to me in our very first message exchange.
‘Why do you want to be a breeder? You will suffer, your children will suffer and you will only lose money, never make money.’
Undeterred I told her yes, I know, and it’s my dream, you can’t put me off. I passed her test and the rest is history. See she was right. She wanted me to fully understand what I was taking on. I thought I did, but you see a lot has changed since then and I didn’t expect things to be quite this hard.
Another breeder messaged me off the back of my response to that thread. An ugly message and I won’t share, name or shame but in a world where we should be supporting each other, working together and knowing that life and breeding is god damn hard and lonely enough, it’s not OK to try and make it worse. See, I’m damned if I do and damned if I don’t and if I am to continue breeding and swimming against the tide then I need to do what is right for me, but those waves are getting higher and I am getting tired.
I completely understand that to a pet buyer, prices may come as a surprise. How much for a cat??? I get it, I’ve been there! If you’ve never looked into pedigree cats before and if you don’t know what goes into good breeding then read influential statements such as those above, made in part by other breeders, then yes I get it. But other breeders being mean, making public judgments and statements like those, I will never understand, us breeders 100% know what each other go through and should be cheering for each and supporting those trying to do things right and to make things work. Not passing judgment and adding to innaccurate stereotyping which only makes our wonderful world of Maine Coons more isolating, more discriminatory and more and more negative.
So many seem fixated on price, both buyers and breeders alike. I believe we should be supporting good, ethical breeders where possible and not compromising on kitten quality (the stuff you can’t see beyond the fluffy exterior). Such posts are popping up daily and the witch hunt is always the same – Anyone charging more than xxx is all of the above. Yet when did you last see a post asking whether breeders are performing heart ultrasounds to screen for developmental HCM, or x-raying hips to screen for dysplasia, looking at knees for medial petellar luxation. What PCRs and tests for parasites, viruses, FIV/FeLv are they doing? What are they feeding their cats? When did you see someone question how kittens were raised, whether their parents lived happy lives. What nutrition did the kitten receive in those essential first few months while their bones were forming and immune systems developing? What did the breeder do to responsibly contribute towards the breed and not compromise it?
I am here beavering away, suffering major anxiety at all the judgments I’m reading online, yet back yard breeders are being supported to sell their unregistered, sick, non health tested kittens via online pet selling sites for double what I am and quadruple what some other great breeders are charging. They are paying non of the overheads or investments I am, their cats are likely not even pedigrees, many have no breeding rights on them and when your kitten is sick or dies, they are no where to be found. It is good breeders like myself and many others, supporting the ripped off buyers in the groups and via private messages. Yet they don’t get witch hunted online like I would if God forbid, I ever sold a sick kitten. They would just laugh all the way to the bank and the cycle continues. While I would be stressed to the eyeballs trying to support the new kittens family while, in all likeliness it would be broadcast for all to see on one of the FaceBook groups, because I have the guts and integrity to put myself in the public eye and be held accountable for what I do and what I produce. Yet when I suggest I am setting and raising my prices to still a fraction of theirs, I am attacked and judged for it.
If I totalled up the money and hours I put into my cats I would be horrified. I do the heart echos, the X-rays, I feed raw and whole prey, which costs around £600-800 a month, I insure my cats but still get stung on vets fees, I’m constantly replacing carpets, scrubbing sofas, floors, cleaning up hairballs, dragging my kids around to various vet appointments, putting my life on hold around a due date, sleeping with the new Mum for the first few days helping to latch her babies, hand rearing kittens where needed, potty training, socialising, desensitising, kitten vaccinations and neutering, grooming, kitten reservations, providing great service to my buyers plus aftercare. I am constantly on the phone or my FaceBook page or educating myself to be the best I can be. I remove cats from my breeding program at any concerns I have about their genetics, health, temperament or suitability. Each cat removed from a breeding program costs an investment of around £4,000 minimum, plus the same or more to replace it. I’ve just replaced a stud boy and it cost me a total of £9,000. I have removed more cats from my program than I have so far kept in it. If only I shared those dark times. . . but I never would. I keep it all behind closed doors and I suck up the losses, the heartbreaking lows and the hours that I put in behind the scenes. It’s literally 24/7 and the time I miss with my children is significant, the stress is immense and although my page makes it look like I’m living my best life, trust me when I say that more often than not I am wondering why on earth I do it.
I would honestly be far better off going to get a ‘real job’ because pre-covid I ran a successful business which funded my start up and the monthly costs of keeping my cats happy and healthy. Covid struck and my business was closed for over a year, and is still no where near what it was. Yet I still needed to find money to fund my cats since sadly, the government wasn’t offering a cat furlough scheme. The whole situation couldn’t have been a better epiphany for me. It drove home just how much money I was investing into breeding from my own pocket and just how little kitten revenue actually covered and gave back. It was completely unsustainable and it’s a fact that every single kitten I breed actually costs me money. I do joke to myself that when I sell kittens, currently I might as well say ‘here you go honey, this ones on me’, because that is my reality right now. I need to absorb these costs somewhere in order to make breeding viable because when you add together the investment, the losses, the ongoing running costs and the time, it absolutely isn’t.
I do not agree with breeders cashing in on covid. I do not agree with price fixing, I do not agree with breeding purely for profit at the expense of the cats. BUT I do agree with a breeder having the right to set their price without fear of judgment. It means they’ve done the maths. Worked out the costs of doing business, the investment, the losses and what they’re prepared to work for. The school of thought that it’s unacceptable for a good breeder to charge what they need to or want to, or to make a living from breeding is actually really out dated. Profit seems to be a dirty word and yet all other full time jobs do pay your bills, no businesses are expected to operate at a loss just because the culture of the industry tells them they should and yet I feel like I am. Why shouldn’t my time be compensated, why should I work all those hours for free, where a ‘real’ job would pay me for them. Why should I fund kitten breeding from my own pocket and not expect that one day it will fund itself. Why should I be fearful of judgment and why should I have to stop doing something that I am really good at and which gives so much to others, just because it’s unsustainable?
Breeding is not a steady job, not a guaranteed income, not an exact science. As a single mum to 3 kids, one who’s high needs, I know what I need to do to make things work and am completely at peace with the fact that not everyone will be able or willing to pay it. But it certainly does not mean that anyone has been ill treated, ripped off or taken advantage of. It just means that I value my time, my family and my mental health just as we all do and for me personally, that comes at a cost which I believe I am worth. It doesn’t make me wrong or right or better than anybody else. All our circumstances are different, and these are mine.
AS OF JUNE 2021