Cheap Kittens - Buyer Beware

 

                      How Much Does a Kitten Cost?

What has that got to do with the price of kittens?

How much does a kitten cost is something that you may wonder when buying a kitten. So when considering purchasing a pedigree kitten and you are scrolling through the adverts on various websites, you may also notice the wild price differences. For example, I just looked at a well-known pet advertising website to check the variations. The lowest priced ‘Ragdoll’ kitten available was £99 the most expensive £1500. What’s that all about? A Ragdoll is a Ragdoll right? How come some are cheaper than others?
Like everything in this world you get what you pay for (in most cases) and if you don’t pay much then it is not surprising when you don’t get much in return, it really is that simple!

 

Cost of Raising a Litter of Kittens
Let me give you an idea of the costs involved that any legitimate breeder needs to cover when raising a litter of kittens. It will give you some understanding of exactly what you’re paying for when you buy a registered pedigree kitten. Please remember that no two litters are the same so costs will vary but nevertheless this should give you an idea.


Cost of a Breeding Cat
To breed a litter of kittens then firstly the breeder will need a female cat (breeding queen) that is old enough to be mated. The price of a breeding cat can vary but for the sake of this exercise let’s use a Ragdoll cat that cost £2600 (we’ll divide this by 4, as it’s possible she could have 4 litters in her breeding lifetime). £650
She also needs to mature to approximately eighteen months old which is the average age for a Ragdoll to be ready to have her first litter of kittens. In between being a kitten and reaching maturity she will of course need to be fed and will also need to use the litter tray and could well have even needed to see the vet. She will also need testing for the HCM & PKD defective genes that can occur in Ragdolls, this costs around £60. HCM scanning is £140 per cat. Other costs involved – how long is a piece of string, but according to manufacturers feed guidelines, 1 cat alone will eat £130 of dry food a year (plus raw food of approx £150 a year PER cat)! Cat litter is approximately £90 per cat per year, you can add breeding pet insurance to this at £200 per year, cleaning items £25 a year per cat . . . and so it goes on.

 

Stud Fees and Blood Tests
The breeder then needs to find a stud boy to take their queen too. Hours of research goes into finding the right boy for your queen. You have the breeding girl; you have also found the perfect stud cat. Breeding starts with a trip to the vets and a blood test to ensure your queen is free from Feline Aids and Leukaemia (FIV and FELV). Both FIV and FeLV are fatal and are also contagious. The cost of this test is £65 at our vets. All reputable stud owners will insist on this test before accepting a queen into stud.
Now you have shelled out £65 for the test, you have twenty-four hours to get your queen to her mate. I have travelled hundreds of miles in the past to take a girl to the right boy, this is not unusual. Of course this costs money for petrol as well as time. The queen has her honeymoon and stays a few days, after which you drive all the way back to collect her and of course this adds further fuel costs to the ever rising costs, for arguments sake let’s call it £100 for fuel.
When you collect your girl the stud fee is payable, presuming of course the cats have actually mated, if not all costs to date are lost and will be repeated if you decide to try again. Stud fees can cost the price of a kitten and in Ragdolls the stud fee is usually £600+.
Of course, if you have your own stud, you can then add stud quarters (studs usually spray so cannot live in the house), heating and lighting for his accommodation, genetic testing and heart scanning, feeding, vaccinating, testing, cat litter etc etc. The price of a stud is usually more too, for this example, we’ll say £3000

 

Feeding a Pregnant Cat
A pregnant cat requires different nutrition and higher quality food than normal to aid her growing kittens. Most breeders will start their pregnant queen on a high quality kitten food which costs more. A pregnant cat will also be eating for possibly five or 6 so the quantity of food eaten increases too. More food eaten means more waste in the litter tray so more cat litter will also needed. The costs here are difficult to determine so again for arguments sake let’s just call it an extra £90 over the nine weeks a cat is pregnant.
 

Potential C-Section Costs
Birth can be a costly business. Many people don’t realise the risks involved for cats giving birth, the complications can be expensive as well as heart breaking. Thankfully 90% of the time things go well but when disaster strikes you have to be prepared to do whatever you need for your queen and her kittens. Unfortunately I have had first-hand experience of an out of hour’s emergency caesarean section which cost me over £1200, a ton of heartache and two dead kittens. I know other breeders whose journey has ended far worse with the loss of their queen and all the kittens. Please remember £1200 was the fee I was charged but due to wildly varying costs you could be looking at anything between £500 and £1400 depending on the vets.


Cost of Rearing the Kittens
The kittens have arrived; so far the cost of the litter is a minimum of £3500 (and remember, NO kittens have been born yet). This of course is with everything going to plan with no repeat blood test, no repeat fuel cost for a repeat mating and no trips to the vets during pregnancy. When the kitten stork arrives you never know how many she will bring. An average sized litter is five or six kittens. For the first 4-5 weeks all is well and you continue the same diet as in pregnancy for your queen. However if you have kittens that are not feeding well from mum then you will need to supplement them with kitten milk and will also need hand feeding equipment which will both cost money.
Week four arrives and you need to wean the kittens; for arguments sake you have five mouths to feed four times per day. Your queen will continue eating the same increased amounts of food because now she is trying to get herself back in condition. Also your kittens are now far more mobile, they will need litter trays everywhere which also adds to the cost of raising a litter. We would estimate for a litter of 5 kittens, extra food and litter would cost approximately £270.


Registrations, Vaccinations and Finding Homes for Kittens
Your kittens are nine weeks old; they are doing really well with not a single visit to the vets! (in your dreams!) Now it’s time to get them vaccinated and register them. The current price for registering a litter of five kittens with the TICA is $90 (around £70), more if both parents are not registered with TICA. 
Vaccinations should be provided for every pedigree kitten sold, there are two essential vaccinations, flu and enteritis but you can also have FeLV vaccine too. Each kitten costs approximately £90 each to vaccinate, with our vet. Then there are the essential worming and flea prevention treatments and these cost roughly £10 per kitten (£500 for a litter of 5).
Of course, when kitten leaves, it goes with a comprehensive kitten pack - this costs around £60 per kitten, plus micro chipping of £25. Our pet kittens also get early neutered before they leave us, which averages £75 per kitten (an additional £800)

 

Extra Costs for Cleaning
Having extra cats in the house will mean an increase in cleaning cost, having a litter of hooligan’s kittens in the house is a whole different ball game. Think about cleaning materials, bin bags, washing powder and electricity costs for the washer and dryer and the potential damage to your furniture over a thirteen week period. I won’t add this, as it varies from litter to litter, but it can add up!
 

Cat Breeders Wages
This part is easy as I know of not a single reputable breeder who earns any wages whatsoever. The time involved in researching pedigrees, cleaning litter trays and cat sick, taking time off work to go to stud or to be at home when kittens are born, hand feeding kittens are just a few of the things breeders do that eat up their time. They do this though because they love their cats and chosen breed, they don’t expect wages or profit (just as well really).

Don’t forget breeders also have to factor in the costs of smaller litters, fatalities, ill or deformed kittens that end up staying with the breeder permanently and also the costs involved in keeping kittens that don’t find homes by thirteen weeks old and need to stay at home a little while longer.

 

So How Much Does a Kitten Cost Then?
So this is the point where I get the calculator out and show you just how much a kitten costs to rear. If all goes smoothly with the birth, and we use an outside stud (so NOT taking into account the money we spend keeping our own boys) we are talking a MINIMUM of £5140 which if divided by 5 kittens, works out to be £1028 PER KITTEN! We charge £800 for pets! We actually make a loss of approximately £228 PER kitten. We do it because we LOVE it, not because we make pots of money from it (contrary to popular belief)! This calculation doesn't take into account show costs (approximately £500 PER SHOW), heart scanning, DNA Testing and many other things either. 

What I am trying to get across is that breeders don’t make money. After reading this if you still want to purchase a low cost kitten that’s up to you but I personally would opt for a healthy, tested, well socialised, well-bred one - fully vaccinated and neutered already - which you certainly won’t find for under £600 in the case of a QUALITY Ragdoll. Ethical breeders spend a lot of time, effort and money ensuring they select the best lines for their breeding programs, with no known genetic issues, no inbreeding and well adjusted, happy cats. 
Next time you are looking for a kitten and the first question you ask is the price, immediately followed by asking for a discount or complaining that you have seen other kittens on the net for £100 don’t be surprised if the breeder is not amused and declines your offer. It is frankly an insult!