The decision to become a breeder, in particular, a Ragdoll breeder, is not one that should be made lightly. Breeding is a huge responsibility, ethically and financially, and can take a toll on you and your family, physically, mentally, and emotionally. But it also comes with rewards, you make new friends, join a new community with a shared interest, have fun through friendships and cat shows, develop new lifelong friendships with the families you adopt to, and the best of all, you get to raise kittens. Finding a mentor to establish a new mentor-mentee relationship will aid you greatly in your new adventure. Most established breeders will not sell breeding rights to a new breeder. Your mentor will help you network with established breeders, and help you on this new breeding journey from registration, to securing breeding cats, to raising kittens, and will be there every step of the way to answer all of your questions.
I very much believe in supporting new breeders and those that wish to embark on their new journey in becoming an ethical breeder. The Ragdoll breed community is flooded with unethical breeders slapping a Ragdoll label + price tag on cats that are NOT great representatives of the Ragdoll breed. The integrity of the Ragdoll breed is sustained by its ethical breeding community. Too often new breeders or interested breeders are shot-down quickly by established breeders, not given a chance, and they end up in the wrong hands in the wrong direction. Simultaneously, some new breeders or interested breeders just don't give a darn and will pay for the cheapest Ragdoll that is not breeder-quality, with some breeders out there willing to sell to anyone willing to pay for breeding rights, and then end up producing kittens that are NOT great representatives of the Ragdoll breed, America's most loved cat breed. Big pointy ears, green / aqua / gold eyes, black cats, orange tabby cats, etc., are NOT Ragdolls.
I don't agree to take on a mentee lightly. I have turned down many requests in the past. When I agree to mentor you, I am agreeing to be there for you in helping you establish your breeding program from the paperwork aspect, all the way to being available to you at 1am or 2am if you have a newborn emergency. I represent you and put in a good word for you in networking with other established breeders who may not be as inclined to work with you and place breeding rights with you. I help you with guidance on the paperwork aspect (registration, legal compliance, tax compliance, etc.). Although I do hold a law degree, I DO NOT / WILL NOT provide you with legal advice to form any type of attorney-client relationship. I help teach you the breed standard and help you establish your breeding program goals. I may be there (depending on availability and distance) at your first cat show to help you learn how to competitively show. I am investing my time, energy, and money into you so that you can then contribute back to the Ragdoll breeder community and pay it forward, whether that be through advocating for the breed, maintaining the integrity of the breed, helping another new breeder develop an ethical breeding program breeding to standard, etc.
One thing I look for in a mentee, is whether you have what it takes to become a good, ethical, and hard-working Ragdoll breeder: If you are just looking to make money, I'm not the mentor for you. Simultaneously, if you breed multiple other breeds, or have a farm where you breed dogs and cats, I'm not the mentor for you. If you have a full-time job and young kids to take care of, I'm not the mentor for you. If I am going to mentor someone, they need to give me a time commitment just like I commit my time to them. You cannot fit breeding into your life, your life needs to adjust to breeding.
Another thing I look for in a mentee is what your breeding goals are. I breed to standard, and I expect my mentee to breed to standard while being mentored, and beyond. If you wish to breed minks / sepias / solids / BEWs, I am not the mentor for you. Showing is not required if I mentor you, however it is encouraged.
Breeding requires honesty, integrity, and good character. Everything you do as a mentee, will reflect on me, as your mentor. Cat lives are being entrusted into your care on the premise that you will do right by them. There's really no way to immediately measure your honesty, integrity, and good character right up front; it's a slow assessment that takes place over the establishment of our relationship. But during the entirety of the relationship from the start, I will be continuously assessing your character, including your ability to maintain professionalism and not get caught up or involved in the "catty drama" in the breeding world. I am a professional, and I expect my mentee to be professional as well.
Breeding requires adequate housing and ventilation. It is necessary for you to have separate areas in your home designated for the cats to avoid accidental breedings, quarantining, nursery space, etc. If you live in a trailer / apartment / townhouse / condo, I'm not the mentor for you. Simultaneously if you live in a tiny house or small home, I'm not the mentor for you. For context, when I started my breeding program, my home was 4,642 sq. ft. My home now is 4,676 sq. ft. with spacious areas of my home dedicated exclusively to my cats.
One important aspect that breeding requires, and what I look for is, whether you have the financial means to start a breeding program. Breeding is VERY expensive, and starting a breeding program is even MORE expensive. Your start-up costs will be the most costly, cattery space (or costs to "cattery-proof" your designated cat spaces in your home), registration fees, permit fees, cat supplies such as cat trees, foods/bowls, toys, supplements, food, litter box and litter costs, breeding cats, genetic testing, veterinary bills, increase in utility bills, etc. Additionally, you will need to have enough funds to maintain your breeding program until you reach a level where your breeding program becomes self-sustainable. For context, when I started my breeding program (2 boys, 6 girls), my first year's expenses were approximately $55,000 using my own personal funds.
Breeding rights for each cat will cost approximately $3,500-5,000, transportation costs $500, genetic testing $100-300, initial veterinary testing $400-600. So depending on how many cats you plan to start your breeding program with, it may cost approximately $4,500 - $6,400, plus the monthly costs of food, litter, housing, and routine vet care, per cat. The general rule of thumb is to have 3 girls for every 1 boy. After your first year's expenses, you will also have monthly maintenance expenses: food, litter, utility bills, etc. You will also need enough funds on hand in case you have an emergency situation. For context, I had to get one of my breeding cats into emergency surgery and it cost a couple thousand dollars in-between x-rays, bloodwork, surgical costs, etc., and I still lost her because she had to be humanely euthanized following surgery. I was still responsible for all of those vet bills.
If you are looking to start a Ragdoll breeding program, you will need a minimum of $25,000 - $35,000 AND have other reliable and continuous income you rely on for your normal cost of living expenses. I will not mentor someone who has to budget for breeding. This is in no way discriminating against any particular "classes" -- rather this is me ensuring that you are not talked into something you are not financially equipped to handle, and should an emergency arise with one of your cats, or sick call for one of your kittens, that you are equipped to ensure your cats and kittens receive the best care and veterinary services, a decision that will not be compromised based on a lack of financial resources. When we choose to enter the field of bringing living, breathing, precious animals into the world, we are responsible for them before they are born, and until their natural life comes to an end. That is the approach I take as a mentor, so when looking for a mentor, you should understand your mentor's approach and perspectives before asking them if they will agree to take you under their wing.
One final consideration before deciding on whether this mentor-mentee relationship can happen, is whether we agree on the same cattery / breeding policies because I will expect my mentee to simultaneously adopt these same policies in their breeding program:
Practicing early spay / neuter ("ESN"). I practice ESN for a variety of reasons, but most importantly, studies have been done to show that ESN does not affect a kitten's development into adulthood. All kittens must be ESN'ed prior to placement in their forever homes. I will require that my mentee find a vet who does ESN prior to placing a cat with them or having one of my networks place a cat with the mentee, so that we avoid the issue of the mentee being unable to find a vet that will ESN when kittens are already born.
No breeding rights. When I place a cat with breeding rights with my mentee, it will be under a limited breeding rights contract wherein you are prohibited from selling any of the kitten offspring with breeding rights to other breeders / people / etc. Many of my Ragdoll breeder colleagues practice this same policy of limited breeding rights for new breeders. You should focus on developing your breeding program and developing your own bloodlines before you even consider selling breeding rights.
Breed to standard. I breed to established registry standards, and I expect my mentee to do the same, even beyond our mentor-mentee relationship.
No declawing. I do not declaw my cats, and my contract (pets and breeders) prohibits declawing. I expect my mentee to follow this same practice and prohibition.
Ethical breeding. You do not become an ethical breeder just by virtue of becoming a registered breeder. Those are two different things. There are "papered" backyard breeders out there who engage in the same breeding practices as backyard breeders, but just have the registration aspect.
Ethical breeding means you treat your cats humanely, you raise them in your home with you and your family, you give them the best care possible, take care of their health needs, and properly socialize them; you take responsibility for every kitten you played a role in bringing into this world; you do not overbreed your cats over and over, but allow them ample time to heal and take a break in-between litters; you do not take in more cats than you are equipped to handle and raise yourself just so you can pump out kittens as much as possible; you do not price gouge your families and charge $5000+ for one kitten; you properly retire out breeding cats at an appropriate age, after an appropriate amount of litters, or when they are not producing quality and well-temperamented kittens.
Additionally, ethical breeding means you are honest with me as your mentor, and especially to the families you place your kittens with, and practice full-disclosure. Finally, ethical breeding means you embrace the Ragdoll breeding community with a kind-heart, avoid conflict, avoid drama, be courteous and polite to fellow breeders, and respond to rude breeders with kindness and professionalism.