I have just made a move to Tucson AZ and it is like starting all over once again. I had a major loss of breeders in California and now am left with only 1 Stud Jupiter and Queen Aries and forever Pet La Nina. Once again this is not the easiest way to live and do not ever think you will make a constant living on it. I do it only for the love of my Bengal Cats and it is a hobby if that. I wild cat got into my cattery back in Campo through a broken window that my Landlord did not fix and he clawed Fantasy and one of her kittens and brought in the DRY form of FIP. I had to put down all 6 of my breeders after testing and 13 kittens. That was over a year and 1/2 ago and once I recovered from the pain and grief of all of this I decided to move out of the county area above the Indian Res. where people just dump the cats they don’t want.
No one is always happy with breeding Bengal Cats. It would be a lie to tell you that I don’t love breeding, but I would not want anyone to go into it without fully knowing what to expect, either. Most importantly, I want to to stress that Bengal breeding will not make you rich and, in fact, you’ll be very lucky to even break even. So, don’t go into it thinking it will make you money. Yes, after many years of paying their dues and building a good reputation some Bengal breeders do make money, but I don’t know ANY who have gotten rich at it. We’ve been at it now for 18 years and are still in the red.
The only reason to get into Bengal breeding is to improve the breed and do what you love with a passion. You have to love the Bengal cats and the breed, each and every one, to make it worthwhile. This is NOT for everyone.
I have had only 1 vacation of 7 days long, since I started breeding 18 years ago. I find it very hard to leave my Bengal Queens and Bengal Studs and most of all, the Bengal kittens, in the care of any one else but “MYSELF”. I do think this too, makes a good breeder because your Bengal cats are really very attached to you. They do depend on the breeder and do not like being left with just anyone. That is part of the Bengal trait!
OK, lets talk money. Many people see the price of a Bengal (or other top pedigreed cat, dog, horse, etc.) and think the Bengal breeder MUST be making a bundle to charge so much for those Bengal kittens! Not so. A quality Bengal queen runs from $2,800 up to as much as $3,500 and sometimes even much more. A quality Bengal stud is usually just about the same or more depending if they have been shown in T.I.C.A. cat shows. Stud fees run from $1,500 – $2,500 and shipping adds another $250+ dollars (within the states). If you decide to keep a Bengal stud, you’ll want to include the cost of developing his housing, as it is rare that a whole Bengal male will be able to run loose in the home (this is also required for many Bengal Queens). So, long before Bengal kittens are a consideration, some real money must be spent. I do not send my Queens out to other people Studs for I am a closed Cattery and do not want to bring any sickness into my home or my Bengal Cattery.
There are the normal vet bills, food, litter and the other usual equipment multiplied by however many cats you have. Then, there will be the cost of extra vitamins/nutrients for your Bengal queen during her pregnancy and maybe she’ll deliver without added vet bills, but there can be many unexpected expenses: emergency post delivery exam, or even intervention during or just after delivery, sometimes X-rays or ultra-sounds are necessary and even a C-section to the tune of $1000.oo – $1,500 depending on your area and the nature of the complication.
Lets talk food for a moment. I give my Bengal cats and Kittens the best. Royal Canin and A Taste of the Wild , Natural Balance, Evo and other high quality foods are available that are grain-free. A Taste of the Wild has NO grain what so ever, so do the others I mentioned, so it is a bit more expensive, because grains, especially corn, is a cheap filler in most pet food. Grain-free food is so much better for your Bengal cat or Kitten. Lower generation cats, F1-F3 really do much better on this diet. All Bengal Queens need to stay on kitten food, at least 4 bags a month (we will add this up at the end). Bengal kittens, after 4 months, get Royal Canin kitten or Taste of the Wild (or what ever your choice is). Kittens below 4 months and weaning get Baby Cat. Adult bengal studs get Adult Indoor Royal Canin.
Bengal Adults 3 bags $105.00
Bengal kittens 4 bags $140.00
Baby Bengals 4 bags $125.00
Taste of the Wild: 15 pounds $22.00 each
Forget the adding up. They eat better than I do and that is really all I need to know.
A Bengal loves raw meat, so it also costs to have your refrigerator full of London Broil made into hamburger meat. The Bengal is a smart breed, so once you start feeding them London Broil they expected it every day. They love it and you love the way the love it! Just take a look at the picture in my photo album. Plus they need the extra protein and they have the enzymes to digest this meat. I do not feed as much raw London Broil as I did in years past because of the high prices and quality. I have found better options in Whole Food stores for Organic and some Quilty Pet food stores I now use since I am staying much smaller.
Now I know the “back yard breeder” can not be feeding this well and taking care of their kittens this good or they would be charging more than $300.00. A Bengal kitten is what it eats and how it is taken care of. Oh, You will sell for a while ’till you have your first case of “MOTHER NATURE’S REVENGE.” If you love you Bengal Cats, that will cost you!
Once the Bengal kittens are born, you may be able to enjoy them with a mom who is able to take care of their needs 100%. You will still need to spend ($$$) on vaccinations, about $35. each for the first shot including an exam, and then $16. each for the subsequent shots given by a tech w/out an exam. (Even giving my own vaccinations, they still run about $20-$30 per kitten in the long run.) You will also be spending extra on the food for mom and babies as they learn to eat.
Occasionally hand feeding a litter of kittens every 2-3 hours around the clock for 4-5 weeks is needed. Are you willing to give up your sleep for that amount of time? Could you take that much time away from your job ($$$), or do you have someone you could trust to help with that??? For myself breeding is a full time job. I don’t have time for anything else. I love to have my home clean, and the litter boxes need to be cleaned “OFTEN.” “Oh MY”
Bengal kittens need a lot of love and attention. At least I feel that way because they are so different than any other cat that I have ever known! The Bengal Cat does not live with me by no means! I do live with them and I am their provider and I take this position very seriously. There is no easy way to get out from under the care of your Bengal cat and kittens.
You grow to love them like family and it gets harder to adopt out the older ones that have been with you for the long haul and sell the young ones who have stolen your heart. So, the best you can do for the ones who will stay is spay and neuter but you are still going to have to take care of them the rest of their life. So, if you didn’t keep your numbers low (8) you are looking at a bunch of loving Bengals to feed and keep for many years to come. You get very attached to the Bengal kittens. I know my mentor has at least 14 cats around her home. Good thing she was able to retire into a big home! You really learn to let go.
Bengal Breeding naturally means you will be keeping your cats whole. And, of course at some point around age 6-9 months, your Bengal queen will start coming into heat. That can mean she is anything from extra loving and rubbing all over you and the furniture, to wailing, yelling, and moaning at the top of her lungs with her posterior in the air (AND this continues all day and into the middle of the night)! How often does this happen? Well, about every 2-5 weeks until she’s bred and lasts for about a week to two weeks, each and every time. How happy the neighbors must be. I don’t like to breed my Bengal girls till close to 1 year if possible.
In addition to their heat cycles, many Bengal queens will begin spraying about this time. Oh, yes, queens DO spray. On your stove, counter top, clean dish drainer, your socks or shirt left in the dirty clothes, etc, etc, etc. Sound inviting? Oh, don’t forget the neighborhood Toms hanging around your place, serenading your Bengal queen all night to the delight of your neighbors. And, if you have a Bengal stud of your own, he’ll be answering your girl AND those neighborhood toms, also at the top of his lungs.
But OK, if you think you (and your neighbors) can handle that, lets proceed. Your next hurdle is, who you are going to breed your queen(s) to? Maybe the breeder you purchased her from will be interested in doing a stud service for you, but nothing is free. Stud fees run from $600 – $2000+ and while there can be a Bengal kitten back or similar arrangement, the owner of the stud might want a Bengal kitten of their choice out of your queen for that to be workable. AND THEN THERE ARE THE PEOPLE WHO WILL CHEAT YOU OUT OF THE KITTEN. WATCH OUT FOR THEM! If the Bengal breeder you bought the queen from isn’t interested, you’ll have to find a Bengal breeder who allows outside stud service and most do not – good luck.
But, if you’re still hanging in there, and you’ve found a male, you’ll need to have your queen and the male examined by a vet ($$$) and deliver your girl to the owner of the male for a stay of a few days to several weeks. When she arrives home (hopefully pregnant) you’ll want to keep a good eye on her for complications (infections, etc), increase her protein, calcium and vitamin intake ($$$) and prepare a safe place for the Bengal kittens to be delivered. Read up on potential complications of delivery and prepare to stay up with her (sometimes for several days – the longest for us has been 4 nights and days, so far). By this time, if you haven’t spent about $300. 00 in reading material and joined an email list of breeders who are experienced (at least that one is free) for additional important help and information, you are unprepared!
While most deliveries go without complications, there is usually at least some help required by humans. We’ve had to swing (CPR) kittens, rub them to dry or stimulate them, even interfere to save a kitten from a mom in pain, and worst of all — be prepared to put one down, if necessary (injury too severe to survive, birth defect, etc). There are X-rays and ultra sounds, C section, Pyometra (a disease of the uterus), infection of all kinds and other possibilities of major VET expenses ahead. As the kittens are delivering, you need to keep track of the placentas to be sure they are all delivered, accounted for, and to make sure all kittens are nursing well. You must also keep an eye on your Bengal queen for possible infection, fever and extra bleeding for the next several days.
But, most important of all, you must find quality homes for the Bengal kittens you produce. Even if you just give them away they need to go to good homes. And what will you do if they are not all placed??? Better answer this question before proceeding to any other decision. All of the above is meaningless if you can’t answer this question.
What are the requirements of the county or city (or both) where you live? You may not even be allowed to own more than three cats (or any that are unaltered). you’ll want to find this out before you start making any decisions. If you decide to go ahead you will need a mentor: a Bengal breeder who will help you learn the ropes, recommend books, help you learn genetics, husbandry practice, grooming and show etiquette, birthing techniques, avoiding common feline diseases, and the ins and outs of contracts.
One more thing to consider. As if all of this isn’t enough, cats are a “livestock” whether or not we like to think of them like that, and are subject to diseases like any other animal. Your whole cattery can be wiped out or at least thrown into quarantine suddenly. You will be hit by major vet bills, unable to sell cats and kittens, or bring in new animals or even show. Not all illnesses can be vaccinated against and some do not have cures. FIP is only one of these and the effects on a cattery can be disastrous. Even if the worst doesn’t happen with these illnesses, you’ll be faced with some hard decisions and heartaches, if they are contracted by any of your kitties.
Other “surprises” that you can be infected with are ringworm, chronic nasal infections, and many others. You’ll need to learn all you can to avoid these and to be able to deal with an outbreak, if the worst should happen.
If you still aren’t frightened off, contact me and I’ll be open and honest with you in any questions you still have. I would also be more than happy to mentor anyone serious about getting involved in breeding; but, I want you to go into it with your eyes open.
“but I only want to breed her once . . .”
If you are purchasing your Bengal(s) from a reputable Bengal breeder this WILL be an issue, as your contract will require the Bengal kitten be altered by a specified date or will be sold to you already altered. It is pure myth that your cat will be happier unaltered!! They are far healthier if altered and mine who are altered (retired breeders) get along better with other cats, and are far more content than those who are perpetual teenagers with raging hormones ruling constantly. Have your animal altered and do it at the youngest possible age!
Having one litter of kittens does not make a queen more content after altering, and there is some evidence that it does exactly the opposite. Normally, they don’t know what they are missing if they haven’t had “it” and, they will be more kitten-like as adults if they are altered young (before sexual maturity). Breed them once and they’ll know what “it” is. While it is rare, some queens will look for babies for years after the kittens are grown, altered or not. That is sad. A cat can not read and will only know about babies and breeding by the messages from the hormones — without hormones, no desires.
I raise my kittens now one litter at a time. They move into my bedroom and living area without a cage once they are litter train at 6 weeks old. They are with me 24 hours a day. This is how I socialize “MY Bengals Kittens.” I have mentored a coupe of people who do the same thing that are still back in CA and I will be putting links to their sites up soon. I do not respect any breeders from what I have learned personally who hoard Bengal Cats and do multiple breeding and that don’t have the time to handle their kittens. This is how the Bengal kitten got the reputation of being wild and crazy. They are far from that if raised properly and should go home sleeping with you as soon as they get to know you. They are extremely loving Cats.
The Life of a breeder is many things. Above all things it is just that…A life. Not a hobby. Not a business … A life.
… A life. Yes, it is sometimes a life of joy and pride. It is also a life of stringent goals and small accomplishments. It is always a life of litter boxes and cleaning supplies. It is a life of sacrifices both great and small. It is a life of love. It is a life of loss.
Loss can seem to overshadow all else when it happens. The joys and the victories dim in the face of loss. When it happens you feel it will swallow you whole. You cannot understand. It is not something to be understood. It is a something that is felt in every fiber of your being. It is not easily weathered. It is never forgotten. But if you breed, the sorrow is something you must be prepared to bear.
Over every litter loss hangs a shadow, ready to descend. You know the threat. You fight it every inch you can. Vet consultations, ultra sounds, and x-rays are your flimsy shields. C-section and tube feeding is your last stand.
You go without sleep for days. You remember to feed the Bengal kitten every hour on the hour. You make sure the Bengal kitten gets exactly the amount of food it should. You forget to eat, as that Bengal kitten is the only thing that has come to matter in your tiny world. You keep the Bengal kitten warm. You sacrifice sleep, food, comfort, and time, saving everything for the Baby Bengal kitten or your favorite Bengal Queen like Natasha above.
You remind yourself chances are not good. But, you still name him/her. You imagine the kitten getting well. Instead the kitten is getting weaker despite all your efforts. At the next feeding you find the kitten motionless. Then you mourn.
It never seems to change after all the years.
In the life of a Bengal breeder, loss becomes a familiar foe. There is always loss, whether it is the cruel loss of a young life or simply turning the kitten over to the new family the kitten seemed to pick for it self. (could this be?) You interview the new owners. You do derive joy from making a family complete, but you always wonder after they leave. You miss the Bengal kitten that you spent 12 weeks getting to know and socializing. Each Bengal kitten holds a place in your heart.
This life of the breeder is love. It is effort. It is sacrifice and it is joy and accomplishment and pride. But there is the heartache as well, pain and sorrow. Sometimes loss.
It is a life filled with litter boxes, food dishes, extra towels and clean bedding. It is a life of kittens and cats. You are working toward something important. You are improving the breed. Are you doing it for the love of owning cats? But, perhaps you are a new breeder? So you must ask yourself…Is this the life you want? Are you prepared to sacrifice? Is it worth it?
After the shock of the monetary sacrifices has worn off you start to notice a more insidious sacrifice; the sacrifice is a lot of time. Weekends and vacations become a thing of the past. This leaves little time for recreation if you start to do shows.
Space in your home is sacrificed as well. Your home is no longer your home. It really belongs to all your cats. You tend to spend your money on new cat condos, not new furniture.
Quiet is sacrificed. Your home is filled with the chatter of Bengal cats and the howls of queens in heat. The calls of studs looking for mates fill the air. The occasional spat can be heard. Always there is the thunder of padded paws scurrying throughout the house and up the cat trees. They are sounds you get accustomed too.
Solitude is sacrificed. Visits from prospective buyers end your plans for a bike ride that day. Your home is not simply a place of privacy but is now your cattery and it is open to other breeders and to buyers. Should you prefer a life of solitude to company this will become a major life change. It was for me, but not one that I regret. The breeders life is a social one. It can be a great blessing. Relationships with other breeders are forged. You make friends and get to know people that share your passion. As a community, you share knowledge and learn new things, developing a network of trusted (not always?) people. Some just want you for what you have. The knowledgeable, true friends are a vital aspect in a breeders life.
For some the sacrifice is too great. For others devotion to the breed is all and sacrifices are weathered with time. It is a life that many people could not abide. To a very special few, this life, the life of a breeder, is one they could not and would not do without.
Written by Nichole Palmer of Sunday Bengals
You Must love what you Do!