The Controversy of Pedigree Cat Breeding – My Exclusive Interview With Steve Dale on This Provocative Subject
Fifty Shades of Grey. No, not the book, but just how complex the subject of pedigree cats and breeding is in a world filled with rampant cat overpopulation. That was the reaction I got when I broached multi award winning pet expert, author, newspaper columnist, radio host, and animal advocate, Steve Dale, about this controversial topic. Not known to shy away from a tough subject, I knew Steve would welcome the challenge when I asked him for an exclusive interview.
This interview was actually one that I never had planned on writing, but based on my own personal revelations that I shared in my previous post, “True Confessions of a Cat Lover,” as a newly established author, cat blogger, and cat activist, I found myself immersed in a world of new found knowledge where the harsh realities of the staggering numbers of cats on the streets and in shelters was staring me in the face. What I saw back in the mirror was an owner of two purebred cats, Zee, my male Maine Coon, and Zoey, my female Bengal. This caused me to question my own life’s decisions and that is why I reached out to Steve to ask him this morally complex question – should cat breeding be banned altogether until the numbers of cats in shelters is greatly reduced or should someone be able to purchase a pedigree cat if they want to?
He started out by saying that first and foremost, unless or until there is no longer a demand for purebred cats, there will be breeders. Whether for allergies, personality, colorings, or whatever personal reason you have, we are a nation of people that have revered breed specific animals for years (cats, dogs, horses, etc.) and that is not going to change. According to Steve, the solution is not to ban breeding, but to make sure that the breeders we do support are responsible and reputable. Breeding farms, commercial breeding, kitten mills, backyard breeding – these so called methods for profit are generally reckless and irresponsible and do pose a danger to the well-being of the animals and these are the ones we should stop supporting so they are forced to go out of business.
Steve elaborated that of the 90 or so million cats that live in U.S. households, only about 5 to 10% of them are actually pedigree cats. So, even if we did ban cat breeding, the demand would still be there (causing dangerous and unreliable black market breeding) and there would still be millions of cats in shelters. The root cause of cat overpopulation is not pedigree cat breeding, according to Steve, it is lack of proper education, human irresponsibility, and the syndrome that cats are “disposable” that causes the majority of cats to be in shelters and on the streets.
The reasons are endless – a cat has a behavior issue that someone does not want to take the time to correct, a person is moving and can’t take the pet, they may have lost a job and cannot afford to care for the pet any longer, they let the cat outdoors without having it spayed or neutered increasing the likelihood of pregnancies, they are starting a family and are concerned about having a cat in the house, and on and on. Steve is adamant that PREVENTATIVE measures – keeping a cat indoors, spaying and neutering, correcting behavior problems, proper institution of TNR programs in communities for outdoor cats, and resources for staff and volunteers at shelters that can provide socialization classes to make cats and kittens more adoptable, is the solution to decreasing the numbers of cats in shelters and the numbers of tragic euthanizations.
Many individuals will also make a very heated argument – if you buy a cat from a breeder, then a cat from a shelter will die as a result. This again, is a very complex subject that Steve feels is subjective. If cat breeding was banned, it does not necessarily go hand in hand that someone will instead go to a shelter and adopt a mixed breed. Some people want what they want, and if they can’t have it, they would rather not have anything. It is just not a simple black and white, one plus one equals two situation. And if we stop breeding, are we actually looking for breed extinction? That is a very frightening thought.
Steve and I agreed, this issue can get as extreme as you want it. Right now our government is contemplating regulation on the size of sodas we drink. Do we also want them to step in and tell us that until every child in an orphanage has a home, that we cannot bear our own children? I realize I am being dramatic, but that is the point I am trying to make and the overriding message that I learned from Steve. The only way the cat overpopulation problem can be solved is through preventative measures, mainstream education, and responsibility. Someone should not be told they cannot purchase a cat from a breeder if they want one. As long as they give it a safe and loving home, shouldn’t that be the ultimate goal? And Steve, like myself and so many others, we have opened our homes and hearts to all types of animals, from strays, to rescues, to purebred and everything in between. The key is keeping them in the home and not letting them end up in a shelter for whatever reason.
And Steve also points out that there are also numerous rescue groups now that are breed specific and these rescue organizations are a great alternative for someone looking to adopt a particular breed of cat, but don’t want to go through a breeder. Not everyone who wants a pedigree cat is concerned with lineage, many just want the breed in general and would be more than happy to adopt from a rescue.
Steve’s real concern is not owning a purebred cat, but the current nature of breeding itself. The trend towards “designer breeds,” overbreeding, or breeding to fit certain criteria or standards for showing that results in harmful proclivities to the animal is a subject that needs to be addressed in a much larger format in his opinion. He says it is more prevalent with dog breeding, but that still does not make the tendency any less alarming.
I thank Steve for his time and thoughtful and provocative answers. If you would like to learn more about Steve and his extensive library of works, please visit his site at http://www.stevedale.tv/ and his blog at www.chicago.com/stevedale. He also has two new ebooks available that are getting great reviews – Good Cat! Practical Answers to Behavior Questions and Good Dog! Practical Answers to Behavior Questions. Stay tuned for the concluding post of this series where I interview Teri Thorsteinson of Curlz and Swirlz who shares her experiences as a Cornish Rex breeder.