Rules to Being a Successful Cat Breeder
First and foremost, love and enjoy the companionship of your cats. The primary
reason anyone becomes involved with cat breeding and showing is a fundamental
love of cats. We treasure their love, affection, companionship, loyalty, and
the sheer delight they exude.
We love to have them purr in our ear, warm our laps, sleep on our beds. Their
eagerness to face the new day, even when we wake them up at dreadful hours,
provides us a wonderment that brings back the exuberance of childhood. They
forgive us when we lose our temper, when we are impatient, when we are far
less than they are. They bring out he best of ourselves, they nurture the
" big " us.
THE RAGING EGO
Unfortunately, cat breeding and exhibiting can tempt our " little"
selves. It can feed a fragile ego until it becomes a raging ego. Often, this
need to feel we care better than our fellow man is expressed in our possessions.
We need to have the biggest winner, the producer of the most grand champions,
the most best kittens. We have litter after litter and keep more and more
cats hoping to out-do the competition. Soon we have no time for cat pleasures,
not time to play or rub a grateful belly, no time to scratch behind and ear
or under a grateful chin. Soon we have no room for more cats; we stack them
and crate them and store them as though they were baubles that have no meaning
but to make us feel important. We lose our ability to love.
Cat showing and breeding is a great vocation. It is creative and challenging
and very rewarding. But we must never expect our hobby to take the place of
a psychologist's work. We must never expect an unhealthy mental state to be
cured by self-indulgence. Far too many people take to showing and breeding
for the wrong reasons. Their houses go to ruin, their bank accounts evaporate,
their credit hits the skids, their spouses and children are left to survive
on their own as the breeder pursues their own manifestation of what they perceive
to prove their self worth.
Being a cat breeder is a huge commitment. It means we should assign ourselves
the role of lifetime student. It means we will be humbled in countless ways
and in countless circumstances. It means our lessons will be of the hard knock
variety if we are to truly learn them. It means frustration, long hours, late
nights and early morning. It means never getting to sleep-in again. It means
finding friendships - some of which will last for a lifetime and some of which
will founder, being built on social advantage. It means being quoted and misquoted
and having words put in your mouth. It means being given ample opportunity
to be as " small " as a human being can be. But, hopefully, it can
provide an opportunity to learn to be " big", to be generous, inquisitive,
We should never ask ourselves if we are envied or important or successful.
Those questions are meaningless. At the end of the day, we should ask ourselves,
" Am I proud of the person I have become? ". What we must always
be are cat lovers. We must be their advocates. We must ensure the life of
every cat we breed and every cat we own is fulfilled and an illustration of
humanity at its finest hour. Our vanity must not be stroked by having our
pictures in a magazine ore seeing our name on some ranking system. Our self-worth
must come from knowing we provide for our cats a life of love, of pleasure,
and of happiness.
FOR IMPROVEMENT, NOT WINNERS
It is easy to become lost in the purpose of breeding quality cats. For some,
the attraction of rosettes, the glamour of being " known " in the
show halls or being a national campaigner may cause them to stray from the
Developing a bloodline that is well considered and that is a positive influence
for the breed takes considerable discipline. Too often , the seemingly slow
and carefully orchestrated effort to improve a breed is crossed up with the
immediate desire to breed that one big winner and become famous.
The breeder's pledge must be to harbour and safeguard the breed. No breed
is in perfect shape when the breeder happens upon it, and none shall be perfect
when they leave. But to leave a breed in better shape than it was when you
came upon it is the greatest compliment. To improve type, temperament and
health must be the bottom line for every committed breeder. Such accomplishment
takes a long-range plan that is carefully thought through. It requires dedication
and purpose. All too often, we are side-tracked by our desires to breed to
the latest big winner, and then to the next and the next. Before long the
pedigree is a long list of " who's who " that have no relationship
to each other, other than they found success in the ring.
What is key to success in the ring is not an automatic indication of the cat's
true quality. We all wish one indicated the other but that is too easy. It
would require the removal of human fallacy to be accomplished! Cats do not
excel for all the same reasons. Consequently, you can not simply breed one
big winner to another and produce more big winners. Every feature and their
nature of inheritance must be studied and understood before you can "
manage" the inheritance variables. Once you gain this sill, you are on
the road to produce a line of winners.
THINE OWN SELF BE TRUE
The breeding of fine pedigreed cats should be considered the pursuit of perfection
- it is not the maintenance of it. All cats have faults, all cats are less
than ideal in some ways and areas. If not, the " ideal " has not
been well enough conceived. It is very easy to fall into the trap of being
defensive about one's own cats. This usually happens because what we assume
to be correct is challenged by another as being less so. This disharmony causes
confusion in our mind and ultimately unhappiness. To right ourselves, we often
become defensive and try to rid ourselves of that which is causing us the
discomfort - namely the opinion that does not compliment our own.
We must realise that " truth " is the ultimate standard by which
our decisions should be made. In most cases, poor head is a poor head, whether
we choose to recognise it as such or not. Consequently, the best way for us
to not be put into a position of being unhappily surprises is to pursue knowledge
relentlessly to ensure our opinion is as accurate and close to the "
truth " as possible. This knowledge is gained in many ways, one of which
is learning from fellow breeders. We must flight the urge to make up our minds
about something and refuse to consider another viewpoint. Indeed, we do not
make decisions based on facts when we are first learning, we are depending
upon what we perceive to be the expertise of others to provide that for us.
If that so-called expertise is, in fact, faulty, our whole knowledge base
is called into question. And that causes us great anxiety. The best place
to sit is in the seat of the knowledge seeker. Whenever provided with an opinion
that is different than the one you currently hold, always seek to understand
the viewpoint of the other. Why does the person perceive something differently
than you. Understanding another's point of view can be the road to greater
knowledge, if you shut that door and do not entertain the prospect of learning
something different than what you think is truth you will never actually recognise
the truth and you will not succeed in your goal. Quite honestly, you should
be more critical of your cats than anyone else could possibly be. That is
not to say you should attribute faults to your cats they do not possess, but
your evaluation must be as detailed as possible and you must strive to see
clearly their true faults and virtues. Form this comes the map to success.
WITH OTHERS AS YOU WOULD HAVE THEM DEAL WITH YOU
Sounds a bit like the golden rule that we learn in childhood. Yet it is amazing
how many people forget this very important axiom. In dealing with others,
regardless of the matter, think always of the other person's position. I have
heard repeatedly, people state how they were burned in a kitten purchase contract.
All purchases should be accompanied by a Kitten Contract. But it should be
well and fairly written. All too often the agreement is geared toward benefiting
one part ( often the seller ) over another. Written agreements somehow are
tainted as being only needed in a contentious situation. This is the first
Not having a written agreement should be the very rare exception, even between
If people would stop and think about the likely end result, they would realise
the best possible thing to protect the friendship is to have a written understanding.
People are too willing to tear apart relationships should one person seem
to benefit a bit more than another. This is too sad and is reflective of the
self-benefit motivation that all too many find as the driving force for their
actions. When pressed, it is far better to give than to receive. It is far
better to let the other seemingly benefit than to destroy a relationship and
acquire the reputation of being disreputable and self centered, if for no
other reason than it makes you grow as a human being, which is probably a
fair trade off in the long run.
GIVING YOU HAVE NOTHING TO LOSE
Another pitfall breeders often experience is the inability to celebrate other's
successes. While certainly we feel the route we are taking is the best way
to approach that utopian plateau of breed perfection, there are actually many
routes to that same goal. It takes nothing at all away from our own accomplishments
to recognise the accomplished efforts of other breeders. This inability and
unwillingness to appreciate other's efforts usually comes from having made
a decision not to breed to certain bloodlines or deal with certain persons.
When such a cattery then produces a success, it is difficult for us to acknowledge
such an achievement for we tend to find that inconsistent with our opinion
of that particular person or family of cats. It takes quite an honest and
secure person to recognise and celebrate the accomplishments of others. While
it is probably good advice to hold our criticisms closer to our chest, recognising
another's achievement only brings good things. By being someone who can see
the virtues in breeding lines other than your own, you gain a reputation of
fairness and objectivity that is a very rare pearl in catdom.
You may find, over time, your point of view and your philosophies are taken
with much greater weight when others do not perceive them to have originated
in a mind consumed with self-aggrandisement. Thus, by doing so you lose nothing
and yet you gain so very much.
USE OF OTHER'S ACHIEVEMENTS
One of the worst situations a breeder can find her/himself in is to partition
themselves off from another cattery or bloodline. It is highly unlikely that
all improvements toward the perfection of a breed are going to come from on
single cattery or bloodline. Like flowers n the field, they will spring up
in various places. The clever breeder is the one who knows how to pick from
all the field those who will make the ultimate, sublime bouquet. And to do
this, you must be able to use the strengths of other catteries and bloodlines.
Breeders will tend to have certain biases; and quite honestly, there are certain
strengths and weaknesses in most bloodlines. While you may feel you have achieved
the highest ground in certain areas, there will doubtless be other areas in
which your cats and bloodlines are less strong than others. Not to recognise
this fact is to ensure you will plateau quite early in your breeding career.
And by that I mean you will stabilise and go no further. You must always keep
a watchful eye for that very special bloom that will enhance your bouquet.
It is this sophisticated combining of families without losing the good points
of your own bloodline that strengthen a cattery and move it forward in breed
importance. It takes careful consideration, orchestration and pruning to come
ARE ONLY AS GOOD AS YOUR MORALS
My last axiom addresses the whole truth of morality. It has many facets and
many ways of expressing itself. Spreading rumours, the accuracy of which might
be doubtful, is one very good example. Selling cats on co-ownerships as a
means to control other breeders is certainly another. Accusing other lines
of genetic problems while being less than entirely honest about your won is
yet another. In all, it goes to the very core of who we are. Stuffing shows
to manipulate your cat in the national standings is another. Do we know right
from wrong? Do we practice right in all circumstances?
Cat breeding is not about that one great win or that one great winner, it
is about breed improvement over time, it is about protecting a breed.
Too many people are in search of some kind of sign of their self worth and
they think they will obtain some special level of respect and honour if they
have a big winner. Cat breeding is a lifetime's work. It is a continuum which
no matter how quickly you want to " put yourself on the map ", you
will ultimately be a reflection of your true character. To wit, you can't
fool all of the people all of the time. There is no honour in " adjusting
" reality to give you the appearance of achieving something you do not
Politicking for wins will not make your cats any better than they are. Faking
your cats will not make them any better than they are. You may think you can
fool the world, but you will ultimately pay the price. No one wants to be
a pretender. And yet, some of the worst pretenders are people who seem to
be infatuated with spreading rumours about other people and cats. These people
live in glass houses and invariably they know it.
The breeding of cats is not about how you impress the neighbours, your peers
or anyone else. It is the expression of your love of cats and your personal
pursuit in creating an art.
You can not lie about the art you create; you cannot lie to yourself. While
this list, I am quite sure, sounds like a sermon from the mount, it encompasses
the many pitfalls that we cat breeders face every day. Some of us are equipped
to navigate them. We are all tested from time to time, even the most educated,
psychologically balanced, intelligent and honest amongst us.
There are times when it feels much better to zing someone who has been hurtful,
to control those whom we feel do not have the proper motivation, to become
the ones who attract the adulation. Only through careful thought and well-considered
action can we hope to become better people and therefore better cat breeders.
Remember and honour the first nine rules…….