When we got Malik pretty much everyone around us thought that it was because we intended to breed Siada and Layla with him and have the cutest babies ever. Most folks don't know that Malik couldn't produce kittens even if we wanted him to (as early generation boys are infertile). Despite that, I won't say that the thought never crossed my mind, but I will say, the fleeting whim was never serious. There is too much that goes into it, to many life-altering considerations. We will love our kittons to pieces, but when and if we want another, we will seek out another ethical breeder and choose a baby.
This poignant post by Trish Savannahs, of AllEarz Savannahs & Nevada Lykoi, made a post tonight on one of the forums in which I participate that just needs to be shared. If you have ever considered breeding any sort of animal, I highly recommend reading this before making further plans. With her permission, here it is:
Why YOU Should Be a Breeder, by Trish Savannahs
Let’s flip the script a bit and talk about why you should become a breeder. You’ve found the breed of your dreams, you love it (dog or cat) and you simply want to produce adorable squishy faced babies to sell.
Alright. We all begin somewhere, so instead of discussing why you shouldn’t become a breeder—let’s talk about all of the perks about being one.
First, we are going to cover money. Because everyone loves money—and money makes the world go round!
Now, I’m not going to say there’s no ability to make a profit with breeding and doing it responsibly. Instead let’s walk through a good year… You produce four litters this year of five babies each. You sell these kittens or puppies for $2000. What a great year-- you just netted $40,000!
But wait… Out of that $40,000—you spent $300 a month on quality food. You spent $200 a month on various routine vet visits (vaccines, checkups, etc.). You spent $1000 on health testing because both the mom and dad needed various health checks before breeding. You spent $5000 on emergency vet appointments because trust me—babies like to keep you on your toes! You are out $1500 on basic supplies (new kennels, enclosures, litter, etc) and $1000 on toys because you can’t have babies running around with nothing to play with! If you practice early spay and neuter (most dog breeders don’t, but a lot of cat breeders do)—we can estimate $100 per baby for alter surgeries so that is $2000 out of pocket.
Well, that’s not too bad, right? Now your $40,000 is $23,500. Oh wait—you also went to a few cat or dog shows because a reputable breeder likes to ensure they are on the top of their game. That’s about $2000 more out the door, but we will stop there. Let’s say in the end—you net $20,000 because you had an amazing year breeding and produced 4 litters.
Now take that $20,000 and divide it by 365 days a year--- you’re still doing great! You are making $54 a day! However that $54 a day is 24/7 work. It’s clean up, it’s midwife duty, it’s midnight vet runs and trips to the pet store. It’s talking to other breeders to maintain breed education, it’s skipping vacations because your pregnant dog or cat is due right on that day. It’s missing school performances because a newborn is sick and it’s staying up all night for weeks on end hand feeding an infant that cannot get the hang of nursing. So $54 a day divided by 24 hours is $2.25 an hour.
I mean—not chump change, right? It’s at least some kind of profit for your passion and who doesn’t want to profit from something they love?
Just remember—this is a hypothetical good year. A lot of breeders never see this hypothetical good year. They see a lot of vet bills, they see a lot of struggle, they see a lot of debt—but what they don’t see is this profitable good year and the one time they might see it—it passes quickly into another year filled with high vet bills and loss.
Okay, okay, but I am trying to convince you to breed—not to run away from the thought screaming. So how about all of the happiness involved in raising newborns? How about holding babies when they are just born and getting to kiss puppies and kittens all day long? That has to be a positive aspect of breeding every breeder gets to experience!
Not so fast, not so fast. There are people who have invested into breeding—good reputable want-to-be breeders who have paired up their animals, done the health testing and never seen a single litter. There are breeders who have done the same and held premature dead or dying babies in their hands as tears stream down their face. So breeding—as silly as it might seem—does not guarantee kittens or puppies.
But let’s go with another good year. Let’s say that yes, you have babies and they are born healthy. Now it’s ensuring mom is nursing them, it’s weighing them daily, it’s trying to give mom a nice quiet place that mom likes to raise her family, it’s keeping the house pristine to ensure no random virus enters the household (have you ever tried to keep a house medically sterile while still going to the vet and going to cat or dog shows and I mean going shopping or to school?)
If you are lucky—you have a healthy litter that encounters no bumps or bruises along the way. Meanwhile, you are committed to maintaining a clean environment (this means sweeping/mopping/cleaning 24-7 whether it’s puppies or kittens because babies love stepping in poop and then just keep going!). It means you are committed to being there even when your family may need you elsewhere. It means devoting yourself to this litter for at least ten weeks for puppies to 12-16 weeks for kittens.
But hey, at least you get the joy of cuddling a kitten or puppy when you aren’t busy cleaning up after them!
Again—this is a good year. Because guess what? Oh yes—the bad years are going to come too. And those bad years involve a lot of loss. They involve a lot of second guessing. Midnight vet runs. Constant discussion with your vet, other breeders, woulda/shoulda/couldas… There will be years where nothing goes right.
Hmmm… Okay, okay—this all seems rather discouraging. So why not talk about potential pet homes and the joy of finding new homes? That can be rather uplifting—when things go right.
Of course, you are going to deal with dozens of tire kickers, the occasional crazy person, and drama long the way, but eventually, you will find amazing buyers for your babies. At least—you hope they are amazing.
For the most part, if you are diligent, they will be the best of homes, but when you misjudge… When you misjudge a home, it can turn into a nightmare situation, but let’s just not talk about that.
Sigh… Apparently I’m not doing the best at convincing you that breeding is worth it. How about owning unaltered pets? Isn’t that a joy?
Um- yeah, that one I simply can’t put a single positive spin on. Unaltered cats pee everywhere. They pee on their beds, their hammocks, their cat wheels, the walls and in their water and food bowls. They caterwaul in heat, out of heat, when they feel like it—why? Hormones. That’s why. Unaltered dogs lift their legs, get possessive, fight, can be moodier than your average spayed/neutered pet. Again-- hormones.
Do we love them? Of course, we do, but you know what? I would love them more if I wasn’t spending my days scrubbing pee from every surface.
So why do we breed? Because we are passionate about the breeds we work with. Because we believe someone has to do this responsibly and because we are good at animal husbandry.
For myself, I cut my teeth working with rescues for over a decade before choosing to have a litter of my own. I also worked as a vet tech. I educated myself for years and continue to educate myself. I use my mentors even a decade later for advice and talk to newer breeders for a fresh point of view.
Breeding simply isn’t for the faint of heart. It isn’t for people who cannot take loss, criticism or advice from others. Breeding can break you. It can take the toughest person out there and simply snap their heart in two—and it will do it time and time again. I’m not talking from a lofty pedestal—I am just as capable of breaking as the next person and have found myself literally on my knees with tears streaming down my face more than once in this business/hobby/passion.
If you want to do this—go into it with your eyes wide open. Accept criticism. Accept harsh advice because guess what? In the middle of the night when you are trying to hold death back, that person giving you that advice may also be the person willing to stay up with you and hold your hand throughout the long dark hours.
And know—it’s not rainbows and unicorns. It’s fucking hard. Harder than you will ever imagine from the outside and some days, it’s totally worth it. But realize there will be dark days where it’s not… And we have lost more amazing respectable breeders to those dark days than I can count.
Before we got Nimar I joined the old YahooGroups for Savannah cats. I learned so much in my first few years there about diet, genetics, and general feline health, and also had the benefit of getting to know more about the various breeders and the wonderful cats that the other members of the community had welcomed into their homes.
In more recent years, the old style of boards have given way to social platforms like Facebook, which is tremendous given how visual these outlets can be. Now I can see daily pictures of kittens while reading the funny, and occasionally sad, tales from the other participants. I see people there learning how to choose the right kitten and how to care for him or her. I also see people celebrating triumphs as they over come issues with their feline friends or people seeking solace over a loss.
If you are ever considering getting a Savannah Cat, I cannot recommend enough that you join some of these forums now. This will give you an opportunity to get to know the breeders (and see their kittens), become more educated about how to make the best home possible for these cats, and how to avoid scammers.
Online scams are prevalent everywhere, but those looking for "cheap" Savannah cats make particularly easy targets. Trust me when I say that any deal that seems too good to be true absolutely is. If you haunt Craigs List looking for a cat, or bargain shop websites, you are likely opening yourself up to a world of heartbreak.
My recommendation is to first look for breeders that are TICA approved. ( tica.org/en/ ) Look to see if there are reports on sick kittens or unethical practices online (BBB or websites that house information on bad catteries). Join discussion groups and forums and see if the breeders are there. Just because they are not there does not mean they are bad (Select Exotics, who bred Siada and Layla are not active participants of the online groups, but the other breeders there know the cattery and know that it has a reputation of producing healthy, socialized kittens). The reputable breeders are also masters at spotting scammers (who often swipe other photos to populate their own sites and ads with adorable kittens). If in doubt, just ask.
If you know that your timeline for getting a kitten is years away, then by joining the groups you will have a chance to follow the journey of other owners as they raise their kittens and that might help you make up your mind on what breeder you want to talk to when the time comes.
Are you interested in a more old-school platform? SavannahCatChat still has a thriving message board community where you can learn about the breed, share health concerns, ask about breeders (or leave reviews) and get your fill of adorable cat photos!
If you are just hoping to avoid potential scams, you can check out the Savannah Cat Breeders Facebook page which maintains a list of legitimate breeders. If your preferred breeder is not on that list, just ask about them, as there are often new members that need to be added, or someone might just have been overlooked. Remember that these tools are maintained by members of the community in effort to help you find your perfect Savannah companion and to promote the breed in the best ways possible.
Edited to add a Facebook page specifically dedicated to Savannah scams: https://www.facebook.com/groups/svcats/?fref=nf
Savannah Caretaker who is honored to do the job.