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Let's talk about the cost of a kitten

Our kittens are $3000 each.

This is based on the following factors that can be quantified with a dollar value:

- Vet work > kittens come desexed ($140-200 depending on gender), vaccinated x 3 ($90) microchipped ($25), worming (2 tabs x $11 and they are wormed every fortnight from 2 weeks old) they all come with a physical health record. This doesn’t include routine vet work of all adult breeding cats (routine = vaccinations, dentals, pregnancy stuff).

- Food costs:
   - 25kg meat $120 /fortnight + Raw Meow completer powder for a balanced raw mix $65 kitten mix 400g, $71 adult mix 420g + water to mix = approx. 35kg of food per fortnight (which works out to about $3 per cat, per day – this comparable in cost to any other premium commercial food on the market such as Royal Canin or Hills, but we prefer it as it is based on a whole prey diet, it gives them shiny coats, less poop overall with less smell, more energy, and less hairballs >> This is their main diet, the rest listed are supplementary foods for variety and to prevent sensitivities to any one food.

    - Big Dog for Cats premade raw ($15-19 /1.38kg)

    - Ziwi Peak and Feline Naturals ($28-60 air/freeze dried 350g-1kg bag) or ($2-5 /85-185g tins)

    - Pron8ure probiotic ($75 /250g)

    - Soft raw bones every week to maintain dental health (chicken necks/wings/feet, duck wings, sometimes turkey or rabbit if we can find some) (~ $20)

- Litter costs ($3 - 4 /kg) we go through at least 16kg per week.

- Health testing of the parents (DNA screening $200, heart scanning $280, hip scoring $550)

- Maintenance of our catios – ongoing costs. For some context, we just made up 3 catios from scratch, no labour cost as we did everything ourselves. The materials cost $700 (timber, mesh, screws, nails, paint, latches, hinges – not including actual tools). This was just the cost of the catio frame/shell, we haven't finished the platforms or the fun stuff yet. It also costs to maintain them over time.

- Climbing trees (average quality cat tree $400), toys ($50 new set each litter), blankets & towels.

- Kittening supplies: miracle nipples ($20 pk/2), syringes/bottles ($0.20-$4 each), colostrum ($60 /250g), milk replacer ($30 /1kg), Nutrigel ($17 /200g) suction bulb ($4.5), heat disc ($70), enteral tubes ($15 for tube, syringe, and sterilisation bag) – this doesn’t include fluids, needles, alcohol swabs and a heap of other bits and pieces.

- Some mothers require vet intervention when giving birth, this could be in the form of a hormone injection to induce labour (oxytocin) ($20+) or it could be a surgery (c-section) ($800+). They may also need to give drugs when resuscitating a kitten (adrenaline) ($20+). This doesn’t include consult costs or follow up care.

- Diagnostic x-rays or ultrasounds to monitor the health of a pregnant queen ($70+ each)

- Cleaning products – F10 Veterinary disinfectant 1L concentrate ($106) > veterinary grade must be used, in comparison to regular domestic cleaners, most of which are toxic to cats.

- Bringing in new stud males to go over upcoming queens ($4000+ from a local breeder or $10,000+ imported from overseas)

- Registration costs
    - DACO ($75/year)
    - GCCFSA ($10/year)
    - Litter registration ($10/litter)
    - Pedigree ($8/cat)

- Show costs (cages, curtains, bathing products, benching fees, fuel/travel time). We participate in some shows to gain a neutral third-party critical evaluation on our cats to make sure that we remain within the breed standard (approx. $80 per show, more for multiple cats)

It’s also based on a lot of other factors that are impossible to quantify in a dollar value:

- Socialisation/exposure of the babies to everyday life things like a vacuum cleaner, hair dryer, TV, music, loud sounds, going to the vet, riding in a vehicle, handling, grooming, nail clipping. The kittens take time to develop confidence to explore new places, and to adapt to sights, sounds, smells. A confident and brave cat = a happy, healthy cat. This takes weeks to develop. They also grow up around our dog and our child.

- The time it takes to raise a litter with supplemental feeding if required alongside the mother, sleepless nights

- Cleaning (endless cleaning!)

- Appropriate play with toys and learning to play on a cat tree or scratcher is a learned behaviour. We start this from day-1 with them. It takes a lot of time to show them the right way to play - redirection is required to show them not to roughly bite your hands/body (as they do with their siblings) and to scratch on their cat tree instead of furniture. 

-  When a kitten is offered, we provide LOADS of real-time updates in the form of videos and photos. This takes a lot of time, but I feel it's important for their new humans to bond with them from the start - plus it's just really nice to receive regular updates as they grow.

- Social media posts - a lot of time is put into photos, videos, and educational posts.

- Research into genetics, biosecurity (preventing and managing diseases), and reputable breeding practices.

You can see that some costs go towards an individual litter, and some costs go towards the adult cats. 

Some health testing is once-off (hip scores) and some is ongoing (heart scans). Food, litter, cleaning and maintenance costs are ongoing. Routine vet work is ongoing. 

Although not every dollar may be spent specifically on a single kitten – our program wouldn’t exist without all the adult cats and all the factors as a whole.

If we don’t feed our adult cats daily or provide them with clean litter, they won’t thrive. If we don’t maintain the catios and provide them with enrichment, they won’t thrive. If we don’t provide routine vet work, we’re not preventing or controlling illness, and most importantly, we’re not promoting wellness, and they won’t thrive. If we don’t bring in new breeding cats, they will become inbred, and their health and genetics will suffer.

The biggest thing that simply cannot be quantified is time and effort that is invested. In a regular business, as an employee you would get paid for the time spent cleaning something. Most companies these days have a dedicated IT/social media person that manages their platforms – you don’t get paid for these aspects in a hobby. There is always give and take with investing time and money into things, but also being able to get something back (this may be emotional or physical or may be expressed in a dollar value).

Financially... we aim to break even to maintain the ability to pay for health testing, ongoing food costs, vet work and to maintain our catios and supplies – comfortably. I think the key word there is ‘comfortably’. We’re not in it to make a profit. We just want to keep rolling along, so that we can enrich and preserve this wonderful breed. This isn’t our source of income, we have full time study and jobs that we also maintain. We don’t accumulate this money in our savings (what savings?), or pay the rent or utility bills or the car rego with it. The money that comes in from kittens goes straight back into the program – often onto our waiting vet bill balance which never ends.

For a 14 week period (the age of kittens when they leave), this is how much we will invest:

- Vet work for 1 kitten $290, average litter 5 kittens = $1475

- Food for everyone for 14 weeks = $2646 (based on $3 per cat, per day, with 9 adult cats - this is just the bare minimum Raw Meow + meat, and doesn't include extra rotational food that we include or the weekly bones)

- Litter for everyone for 14 weeks = $896

- Health testing of 1 sire + 1 dam = $2060
(DNA x 1, Hips x 1, Heart x 1)
The DNA & hips are only once off, and the heart is ongoing every 2 years.
So this is a baseline just for this example. Some cats will only ever have one litter, some cats will have 2-4 litters. A sire will be put over several queens. Or they may only go over 1 queen. This will depend on their traits, pedigree.. and nature has the final say as to whether a queen will conceive or not.

So for the above example we will have invested $7077
If each kitten is $3000 each, and we adopt out 3 and run 2 girls on evaluate them as future queens, this brings back in $9000. 

Our previous kitten price was $2500 each. So up until now, in this example, we only got $7500 back on a $7077 investment. 

It looks like a huge profit, right? Not exactly. This didn't include any routine vet costs for any of the adults. It didn't include any rotational food in their diet. It didn't include any kittening supplies. It didn't include emergency vet costs if the queen needed a c-section. It didn't include the cost of bringing in a new male to go over the next generation of queens that we've brought up. It didn't include any costs that go towards the catios, toys, linen, social media, education, responding to enquiries, or research into better practices. It didn't include the time it took me to write this blog. It didn't include how my heart feels when I hold a stillborn kitten, or the hour I spent with my vet resuscitating his sibling. Yes, I was in there, with the vet because I work there. Not all breeders do that, but some do. I've been at work with a dog breeder that came in and assisted with the puppies as they were born via c-section. 

And remember, this was just the cost for that 14 week period, what about the rest of the year? We have to keep the cats alive and thriving so they can even become pregnant to begin with. 

I'm not asking anyone to evaluate our finances or the choices we're making. All I'm asking, is that you consider what goes on behind the scenes. 

Some litters you will get 10 kittens, and others you will get only 1. It's about taking all of the factors into account and creating a balance. This is what I'm talking about when I say we'd like to break even, financially and emotionally.

People choose to invest their money into many things… investment shares, cars, hobbies, smoking, alcohol etc…. we choose to put it into our cats.

We started in the negative, and have remained there so far, our import cats cost over $50,000 (including the losses). We chose to absorb a heck of a lot of that (maybe we’re crazy) because we went in knowing the risks. So, yes, a single kitten may be $3000, but when you put ALL of the puzzle pieces altogether – please know that we’re not out to swindle you. We just want to keep bringing you these beautiful kids. 

EDIT: So I talked about give and take - a person will invest in the cost of a kitten, and also give your home to them. You'll feed them and vet them for the rest of their lives. But what you get back from them is insurmountable. You'll get unconditional love from this animal. You become their entire world. If course, our cats will probably boss you around and tell you you're doing everything wrong, because that's how a coonie supervisor is lol! 

I've just been really frustrated with how cagey most breeders are (in general), and I really want to change that. None of the prices that I listed are secret, you can look anything up freely. Kittening / whelping information is no secret, there's a million resources on it. But it's about taking information and learning what's right for your own program.

I saw a comment on social media, on a show page, and it said something like "I don't want other breeders to know what I have in my program, I want to turn up to a show with a surprise". I know they probably meant it as a weird kind of joke - but to me, this is an old-school toxic mindset. It's about being competitive and underhanded. 

At the end of the day, there is a massive 'market' for Maine Coons. If it was about simply making a sale and undercutting another breeder to make that sale. Then perhaps you would be sneaky and cut corners. In the current climate - we as breeders are massively spoilt for choice for homes for our kittens. If one person passes on a kitten because it's not the colour they would like, I have (literally) 100 people more putting their hands up for the same kitten. I don't have to worry about another breeder "hawking their wares" at the stall next door (or in another state), and me missing out on a buyer. There is so much demand, we simply cannot supply enough kittens to match that. 

And it's NOT ABOUT COMPETITION. We, as breeders should be focusing on a common goal. We need to help each other expand the gene pool. Encourage each other. Point out the great things about our cats, but also call each other out on the things we can improve on. And not get offended about it?! I can't control what my cat's ear set looks like, nature controls that. I can control what cats I pair together with an aim of achieving a better ear set, but I ultimately cannot control how their offspring are produced. 

There is no sense in getting offended if an experienced breeder says to me: your cat's ear set is too wide. Usually, I'm freaking grateful, because I'm still learning about the breed standard. There are so many nuances that only experienced eyes can see. And I accept that I'm not there yet, so I gratefully take on advice from others. 

This is how we should be acting. We should be lifting each other up as breeders and making plans and sharing the ups and the downs. We should congratulate each other on winning a 'best in show' but also on receiving a challenge certificate, because that's the certificate that tells you your cat is within the breed standard. Ribbons are a bonus, but they're not the point of a show! My mentor breeder has taught me so much already (and I'm sure I'm only at the tip of the iceberg). It sounds so silly - like I'm giving a silly lecture on something that - to me - is just common sense. But honestly, the way I've seen breeders behave sometimes..... my 11 year old son shows more maturity. Anyway... I digress. TLDR I'm passionate about this shit. 

What I've essentially done is just condensed it all the cost stuff into a single document and how it relates to us.

I hope this has given you a bit more insight into what goes into a well-bred purebred. 

Rosie xx



 

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