I suspected that a comment I made during my time on the show Animo on ICI Radio-Canada TV would cause a bit of controversy or even shock some breeders. The director warmed me and even offered not to broadcast this segment.
On the show, I said that ‘it is my most cherished wish that some breeders stop breeding cats for specific physical characteristics, ignoring behaviour or at the expense of the animal’. I insisted that this be broadcasted, hoping to change things and make people aware of this kind of practice.
LET’S BE CLEAR — To seek to obtain a particular trait, especially breed-specific traits is all good, even necessary. After all, we must preserve the traits of each breeds and the majority of breeders agree. However, when beauty takes over and individuals with behaviour issues are paired in order to gain or accentuate a particular trait (often to win shows), I’m triggered. A beautiful cat suffering from anxiety disorders, hyperactivity, who is not sociable or afraid of its own shadow, as gorgeous as it is, suffers emotionally and makes its owners unhappy. In addition, it faces being abandoned or euthanized.
DON’T PUT EVERYONE ON THE SAME BOAT — I know many breeders who are concerned with the behaviour or their breeding stock. Some even go as far as to reproduce individuals who lack the perfect morphological traits for shows, but who are absolute pearls behaviour-wise. Moreover, if the behaviour of cats was taken into account in feline shows, more breeders would care. Judges and breeders should all have had behavioural training in order to learn how to handle and desensitize cats to the varied stimuli that come with such competitions. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case.
A DIFFICULT PROFESSION — Being a breeder is demanding. On the emotional front, breeders sometimes have to learn to accept the death of kittens or their mothers in birth, or to deal with various diseases. It can also be difficult to part with some kittens when they are adopted. Long cat shows are held on weekends around the world. These are pretty much mandatory, as they are often the only way for breeders to meet with other breeders and trade to vary the genetic baggage of their animals. In addition, I don’t know anyone who can live solely on a cat-related profession. The same goes for our team of feline behaviour consultants. We therefore practice out profession out of passion. Even breeders often lose more money than they earn.
As with every profession, there are good and bad breeders. I feel that many people are not able to tell the difference between the two. In fact, as breeding has never been regulated, many bad breeders have emerged, tarnishing the image of the whole and many have ceased their activities. It’s a bit like garages; those who profit from our ignorance have altered the reputation of those who do their job well.
According to our analysis, good breeders keep kittens with their mother until at least 12 weeks of age. They raise them in a family environment, never separate them from their mother, socialize them and desensitize them to many stimuli! (See our column Choosing a good kitten at a good breeder). If you are a good breeder, see this column as a chance to stand out and not as a negative critique of the profession. If your practices match what we preach, people will contact you and you will have good answers to provide. It’s your chance to distinguish yourself!
ENCOURAGE BEHAVIOURAL TRAINING — In the same idea, don’t diss breeders who have not had the chance to learn concepts of feline behaviour. Remember that there are very few feline behaviour consultants in Quebec and training is almost non-existent. Instead of condemning ignorance, encourage breeders to become interested in behaviour and attend seminars.
I take this opportunity to respond to a comment I’ve heard often from breeders: ‘I’ve been doing this for 15 years. In my experience, I’ve probably learned more than anyone with behavioural training’. If you say this, know that your experience has probably given you good tools. However, professional behaviour training will help you better understand the science behind the cats’ actions, allowing you to adjust and update your practices. I don’t count the number of breeders who thought they knew a lot about cats but who, after attending one of our conferences, confessed that they never thought they were so ignorant. This is perfectly normal! Even I, who have had more than 200 hours of training, continue to be amazed every time I attend a new conference.
WHY ARE THERE BREEDERS WHEN SHELTERS ARE FULL? – Breeders don’t cause overcrowding. In fact, the vast majority of them help to reduce this plague by making it mandatory to spay or neuter the kittens they sell. Without breeders, some superb cat breeds could disappear. Breeders preserve fabulous specimens! There are people who choose to adopt purebred cats. Others prefer shelter cats. To each their own preferences… keeping in mind that it’s possible to opt for both!
Please note that we also offer counseling to breeders.
President, Cat Educator