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ABOUT US

Based in South Australia

Renn & Paul

You might be familiar with our first prefix MAYNETREE. We're now transitioning over to SALTYPAWS.

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Renn here... I live and breathe Maine Coons, and a bit of knitting on the side.
Well actually, who am I kidding, I knit in every spare moment!
We live near the beach in South Australia (inspiration for our new prefix).

We began by importing our original cats from Denmark / USA.
Since then, we've also imported from New Zealand.

Fair warning that I swear and throw a load of dark humour around.
Y'know, past trauma, neurodiversity and all that shit.

I have C-PTSD, major depression, panic disorder and schizoaffective disorder... I'm an ex-paramedic and vet nurse. I try not to mention the dreaded word 'recovery' because that doesn't quite feel right. But in any case, the animals help more than any other therapy could. So there's a fair chance that I'm becoming the crazy cat person from my childhood dreams.

Anyway, I mention the trauma / ND shit because I know a lot of you relate.
And, well... for lack of a better phrase... we've bonded over it.

( And the kittens... we've bonded over those too! )

RAISING OUR KITTENS

The babies are born in our bedroom / lounge room... depending on what other life stuff is happening. They grow up with us and are socialised to everyday worldly things.

I spend a lot of time handling them. They're exposed to the vacuum cleaner, TV, music, cupboards banging, and whatever stuff happens on a daily basis. We aren't quiet around them! I also play crowd sounds, lightning, thunder, sirens etc from sound apps and youtube videos.

From around 3 - 20 days old, I use Early Neurological Stimulation (ENS). Basically, it's applying GENTLE stressors to neonates. It's thought to strengthen their stress response later in life and reduces their startle response and recovery time. It involves holding them in different postures/positions, introduction to warmth and coolness (warming pad / ice packs), and handling their paws, ears, mouth and tail. The first few times, each step is done for only a few seconds. Later, it's gradually increased. Of course this is continued throughout their lives. But some studies have shown that it's particularly beneficial in this neonatal stage. I've definitely seen a difference since I started it. I've noticed that they are less stressed being handled for an exam at the vet, and grooming is so much easier as they grow.

We start a basic grooming routine early on. The idea is that they become indifferent to this whilst they're little... so that it's possible to continue when they grow into big mountain lions, ha! I see so many people asking on the socials "Why does my cat hate grooming? Is there any alternative to having them sedated at the vet??" We show you how to start it, but you do the hard work to keep it consistent. Hard work = 2 mins a day (not too hard, I promise). 

I'm also happy to begin harness training, and more frequent vehicle rides, if you plan on turning them into dog-cats. 

Speaking of dogs, Ziggy is my Assistance Dog and the official Saltypaws second mother. He loves the babies, and they are around him from the first moment. Every single kitten is partially raised by him and very dog-tolerant. They often seek him out to play and sleep with. We've got loads of kitten graduates that live with their own dogs now! 

KITTEN TIMELINE

  • 2 weeks old: deworming paste (Troy's syrup)

  • 4 weeks old: deworming paste

  • 6 weeks old: deworming tablet (Popantel or Milbemax), first vaccination, microchip

  • 8 weeks old: deworming tablet

  • 10 weeks old: deworming tablet, second vaccination

  • 12 weeks old: deworming tablet, desexing

  • 14 - 16 weeks old: ready to go home


We do not send kittens home earlier than 14 weeks. Kittens travelling interstate or overseas may be 16 weeks or older.  ALL pet kittens leave desexed. These are requirements by our registering feline body GCCFSA and The Dog and Cat Management Board of South Australia (DACO).

ADDITIONAL INFO: There is a global shortage of F3 and F4 vaccinations. Most vet practices are having to ration vaccinations. I am trying to stick to the protocol above, but during this shortage, we might only have access to their 1st vaccination. Unfortunately this is out of my control. I'll assist you with getting their 2nd vax through your own vet practice. If so, the kitten price will reflect this.

OUR BREEDER REGISTRATION

We're registered with GCCFSA #743 and DACO #169821.

There's loads of scams going around, so I encourage you to cross reference this info by checking with GCCFSA / DACO.

Word of mouth is invaluable, ask around about us, or come visit a show and say hello! 

PRICE 

Each kitten is $3500 AUD
The price is the same regardless of colour, sex, or paw type. 

A non-refundable deposit will be required when a kitten is offered. This covers: communication, paperwork, photos, video call(s), social media stuff, updates, and time. 

Our price reflects our breeding program as a WHOLE 
[prices are averages]: 

  • Food  [$250 per week]

  • Litter  [$14 per 20kg bag, $33 for replacement litter trays - not often, but sometimes they crack/break]

  • Toys  [a new set of baby toys for each litter / replacing worn out toys, various $$]

  • Pee pads [$20/100]

  • Towels, blankets, vet bedding [$100+++}

  • Vet work for the kittens:
    - desexing [male $150, female$250+]
    - microchipping [$10]
    - vaccinations [$110 each, minimum 2 doses, see kitten timeline and notes about global vaccine shortages]
    - deworming [$3 each dose, 6 doses, fortnightly from 2-12 weeks]

  • Kitten packs (local homes only)
    - food sample [$20]
    - litter sample [$14]
    - favourite toy(s) [from $5+]
    - blanket [$10]
    - harness [$30]
    - litter tray (on request) [$33]
    - carrier (on request) [$55]
    - vet work documentation (included in vet consults)
    - pedigree [$10]
    - 6 weeks pet insurance [free via PetCover]

  • Vet work for the adults:
    - maintenance vaccinations [$110 each]
    - deworming [$3 each dose]
    - pregnancy ultrasounds / check ups [$180]
    - emergency c-sections [$1000+]
    - echocardiograms every 18-24 months by a feline cardiologist to screen for HCM [$400]
    - hip radiographs [from $400+]
    - hip evaluations via Pawpeds Sweden [$25]
    - DNA breed screening for HCM, SMA, PKD, PkDef, blood type and coat colour/pattern traits [from $225]
    - for reference, my vet bill for the last financial year was over $7000
    - this doesn't include any other emergency vet work / hospitalisation / medications that inevitably happens

  • Maintenance of catios (outdoor enclosures, tunnels, platforms, bridges, hammocks, netting, mesh, plus the initial outlay) [various, $500-$1000+ for one complete] 

  • Attending cat shows
    - basic set up, crate, curtains [$150+]
    - entry forms [$20+ each cat, $7 bench fee, $5 catalogue]
    - applying for titles [$10 each]
    - fuel
    - doesn't include all the bits and pieces brought along to a show, grooming products and time 
    - there can be up to 20+ shows each year

  • Breeder registration via DACO [$75 annually, legally required in South Australia]

  • Breeder registration/membership via GCCFSA [$10 annually]

  • Each litter registration [$10]

  • Individual pedigree [$10]

  • Bringing in a new male or female, locally [$7000+], international import with rabies protocol, boarding, flights, import permits, quarantine in Melbourne, travel from Melb > Adl [$12,000+]. For reference, we've imported 4 cats in total so far, from USA, Denmark and New Zealand.

This list doesn't account for:
- recurring costs (eg. a whole year of food averages $250 per week = $13,000)
- multiple adult cats and recurring maintenance vet work, preventative care, breed health testing
- emergency vet work, which is inevitable when you're working with live animals
- time spent handling and socialising kittens
- grooming and handling show cats, or the time taken to attend shows
- social media updates (and the prep which goes into that)
- communication with potential kitten homes (often with no follow through) and existing kitten homes
- time spent on paperwork, creating this website, creating & updating the kitten agreement, pedigree forms
- time spent cleaning (SO much cleaning) 
- sleepless nights when feeding a neonate around the clock every 2 - 4 hours, if a mother is unable to feed for various reasons 

DIET

There are a million options here, so I’ll share what works for us.

Aim for ‘balance over time’. We feed on a rotational basis. This helps to prevent fussiness, and to promote a tolerance to a wide range of foods and ingredients. We do engage in raw feeding. Not everyone agrees with this and that’s okay.

Raw food MUST be balanced (general rule is 80% protein, 10% bone content, 10% excreting organs). Human grade meats are the best. Pet grade meats often contain preservatives and are unregulated in Australia.

Example: If you just fed chicken mince, and only that, they’d get malnourished very quickly. This is usually why vets warn away from raw, because they see the sickest of the sick. Follow safe food handling requirements when dealing with raw food, just like you would for yourself. Freezing meat helps to decrease parasite load. 3 days for regular meats (beef, lamb, chicken, pork) and 3 weeks for game meats (kangaroo, venison etc).

Many people ‘hybrid’ feed, meaning balanced raw alongside a commercial wet/dry food. This is great too. There are loads of options for balanced raw diets, including premade frozen varieties from most large pet stores. We support a local supplier called Raw Fed Riley Australia. You might have something similar to you.

We often win Purina Pro Plan dry food at the cat shows we attend. It seems to be one of the premium food brands, and the cats enjoy it. We rotate that alongside Advance multicat dry food, which is Aussie made and fairly affordable.

A word on ‘grain free’ diets:  This food was a huge trend a while ago. It replaces grains with ingredients like legumes, and is potentially linked to serious cardiac issues. Try and avoid these, or at least feed in combination with other foods to balance it out.

At the end of the day ‘fed is best’.

We each have different budgets and food availability wherever we live.

KITTY LITTER

We use the maxi size sieve tray system by OzPet, with pelleted timber litter. It seems to be the most economical. We receive breeders pricing on their products, so if you’re keen to use them, let us know.

Our kittens should be fine using any type of pelleted litter (wood, paper, corn, tofu etc).

Although paper litter is often the cheapest, we’ve found it’s really sticky and gets all through their coat. It also tracks all over the house. It doesn’t clump, or cover much smell, and you have to replace the whole lot, rather than just what’s used. So in the end, you’ll be paying more because of how much you go through.

We don't recommend crystal or clay litter, it tends to be really dusty and can be inhaled.

A note on transitioning diet and litter…. please do so gradually.
This helps to prevent upset tummies, or behavioural issues.  

GROOMING

Your cat will require regular grooming.

More if it has silver/smoke, as this fur tends to be much finer, more voluminous, and sheds more.

We recommend a ‘greyhound’ comb. We do full show grooms regularly, and even at this level, this is the tool that we always come back to. The comb has enough depth to get through the entire coat to the skin. Some recommend a slicker brush, but we’ve found that it doesn’t reach deep enough, and you often just smooth out the top coat and the undercoat is left untouched which can lead to matting.

We start the grooming process here, but the hard work is up to you. If you do it right, the “hard work” is only about 5 minutes every day. Even if you comb through a few times while they’re eating dinner each night, that should be enough for general maintenance.

The key is consistency and indifference. Many pets grow to hate grooming, which creates a cycle: more time between grooms > because we’re dreading it > leading to more fear from the animal because they’re probably more matted and it hurts more the longer you leave it.

If you’re more frequent and consistent, each grooming session will only need to be short. The more consistent you are, the more indifferent they become to it. They might not love it (some do!), but hopefully at the very least won’t hate it (i.e. indifference). It’s also a form of bonding and enrichment.

If the cat does end up growing resistant... There’s a technique called “cooperative care”. It involves gradually reversing a fear with counter-conditioning and allows the animal to participate willingly. It’s used with dogs, cats, wildlife and zoo animals. You’ll find loads on information with a simple internet search. It’s used for pretty much anything: brushing hair, teeth, nail clipping, giving medication, checking ears, eyes, mouth, handling for vet examinations etc.

Our animals live with us for decades (hopefully!) so although these techniques can take months or years, it’s worth it. It blows my mind that people commit to an animal, their existence is being your loyal friend and companion, and people say: a few months or years?! That’s too long! I don’t have time!

Would you rather spend two minutes a day, for 6 months to reverse that fear…. Or would you just leave it, and spend the next 10 years fighting them, or getting them sedated, and filled with frustration? I feel like there’s hardly even an argument there! You’d do anything for your human friends or family to make their lives easier, so why not also for your furry companion who is going to spend upwards of a decade with you?

The biggest trap people fall into is trying to rush it. Go slow and gradually, and the techniques will reward you.

And… hopefully, our preparation will prevent the need for counter conditioning.

More than just a registration number (just me rambling)

So I tend to bang on about this... 

ANYONE can get a registration number. All you have to do is pay the $75 breeding fee from DACO (or equivalent) and shazam, you're now a breeder! 

If I had a dollar for every time someone said "Oh they're registered, so they're ethical". I'd be filthy rich. 

Reputable breeding is SO much more than this.

There's lots of puzzle pieces that go towards being ethical, here's some below:

- Breed health testing - go HERE to see what's up for MC breeders.

- Kitten contracts - this protects me, you, and the kitten.

- Handling and socialising of kittens - it's more than just cuddles.
  See the earlier section on how kittens are raised. 

- Papers. Every single kitten is registered with GCSA and receives a pedigree. Papers aren't optional! It's a BYB practice to offer a cheaper option for unpapered kittens. Each litter is $10 to register, and a further $10 for each individual kitten. It's one of the cheapest aspects of breeding. I'll never skimp on this, and it often frustrates me that BYB's will claim extra 'profit' over something so inexpensive. I'm proud of their lines and to show our family tree!

- Building relationships with current and future kitten homes - I spend months on this, and I also have a group chat with most of our kitten families. I've spent over 2 years making sure this is a safe, non-judgemental space. We share updates, photos, adventures, fun stuff... but also the troublesome stuff... questions about anything and everything from injuries to illness and behavioural quirks. Often, if I can't answer, someone else will jump in for me. 

- Taking back a kitten / cat if things don't work out - this is for the LIFE of the cat. The offspring of a reputable breeder will NEVER end up in a shelter situation. This includes behavioural issues, or life circumstances that we just can't plan for. 

There are breeders around me that charge the same amount that I do....
Yet, they don't health test (some even say they do, can't offer proof, AND get mad when people call them out).
They don't provide lifetime support, they might not offer a pedigree, they'll sell to the first person with the money,
(or, and this is hideous, they'll tell a pet owner that their kitten died, keep the deposit, offer it to another breeder, often someone new and inexperienced, they won't offer mentorship or support to that breeder, creating a horrible backyard cycle). 

People often tell me, well just raise your prices then? It's not that simple. My prices are carefully chosen (I've written a separate part about this) and they're based on MY program. Not anyone else's. The issue with jacking up prices is that it creates a shitty cycle, and you'll get to the point where people just can't afford or justify the higher price. 

So my answer is, I won't up my price, but I will offer information about why this is happening. And hopefully this will help people make informed decisions.  

Remember that hashtag that went around for a while #AdoptDontShop ??

It was well meaning but displaced. 

It should be #adopt-or-shop-responsibly

You know how everyone says: "For every animal brought from a breeder, you're leaving/killing an animal in a shelter".
This isn't accurate. Hear me out. Why do animals end up in shelters?
They get dumped or surrendered for a multitude of reasons... behavioural problems, medical problems, or they grew up and weren't so cute anymore. A lot of people give puppies, kittens, or rabbits for christmas presents, and the recipient either wasn't ready, wasn't old enough, or the fit wasn't right for whatever reason.

Animals arrive at shelters because they're offspring of backyard breeders who were never accountable for them. 

They sold the animal, washed their hands, and that was the end of it. 
No education about breed traits.
No support.
No taking the animal back if things don't work out. 
No health testing to reduce medical issues, and if shit pops up, again, no support. 

One exception might be feral colony cats... but when you really think about the source, at some point in history, someone let their undesexed cat roam, it bred with another cat and *congratulations* you've now unlocked *exponential breeding cycle*

I grew up with stray trash cats (who are the best, by the way!). You know, the ones that just appeared on your doorstep one day, and yay, now you have a cat!

Actually, I think most of us grew up this way, and it's taken many years and generations for a culture shift ..... people are slowly realising that cats need to be contained, just the same as dogs. Cats go out and kill wildlife, they get lost, or run over, or bitten by snakes. They're so much safer indoors, or in proper outdoor enclosures. It keeps our wildlife safe, and the cats still get to enjoy the sunshine and various forms of enrichment. We don't let our dogs free roam, and this should be the same for cats too. Many of our kitten families also use harnesses, and they get to have outings which is really enriching.

So getting back to my original point.... If we *only ever* adopt shelter animals, we're supporting backyard breeders by proxy.

Read that again. 

Shelter/rescue will always be important in our current world. So please adopt AND shop responsibly.

Some rescues are fronts for puppy or kitten mills, or they send out misleading information, or treat their staff like dirt, so yes, it's important to rescue responsibly too.

Instead of thinking: If you buy an animal from a breeder, it kills a shelter animal.

Adjust your thought to: For every animal you buy from a reputable breeder, this reduces the chances of an animal entering the shelter system.

The only way we can create change, is to be a part of the change. And this is why I became a breeder.

More ramblings!

We aim to break even.
It's tricky because many animal ventures, like stock horses or greyhound racing, bring in huge profits - though controversial of course. 

The vet we use, needs to make a profit.
The food companies that we support need to make profits. 
Even wildlife and zoos need to sustain their conservation programs somehow, and usually, that's by letting the public pay a fee to visit. 
None of this is deemed 'unethical'. Well, I guess it depends on who you speak to...

Yet, it's viewed as unethical for many cat and dog breeders to turn a profit. 
I've thought a lot about this. And I think it's because people think that if we're making a profit, our care for the animals goes down (because of the money-drive I suppose?). On top of that, it's generally expected that you keep up a full time job, and do ALL the cat stuff in your spare time (what spare time?). 

Some of you who follow me, will know that I'm currently on extended leave from working, due to my C-PTSD / schizoaffective flare up in 2023. I had a lengthy time in hospital with some pretty fucked up treatment to keep me alive. It's given me time to have several existential thought spirals, and this is one of them. 

Let me ask you... if someone has a full time job, families, kid stuff, appointments, and then is expected to run an *ethical* breeding program in their *spare time*... where in the fuck will they find the drive and energy to do all the stuff that's really required? (A lot of the things that I described in the section before this.) Literally everything costs money. As we're all aware, the costs of living are outrageous right now, and just the basics are putting people under. 

It's a legitimate fear that the public will find anything unethical and put you on blast on social media. Making a profit is one of those things. OR.... the *perception* that you're making a profit. For whatever reason....the cat fancy culture (and a lot of Dogbook too) have created this ideal that making a profit is wrong. Profit = BYB. Perhaps another side thought is that now you're just making kittens/puppies to keep up, and so your *focus on preservation breeding* has disappeared. I've seen blasts about a breeder who got shamed for using their puppy income to pay some college fees. Fair? Maybe. Maybe not.

So now, you're burnt out from your 40+ hour week job, running around with your family, and how the hell are you supposed to pay for any of the cat stuff? Hopes and dreams? You're running on a loss, and now, you find yourself needing new genetics, usually by bringing in a new stud male. With cats, artificial insemination / importing straws, doesn't exist yet. You have to buy the whole dang cat. You get my drift, right? By this point.... ALL you're thinking about, is money. The thing you're NOT SUPPOSED to be fixating on, because, ethics. 

Then on the other end of the scale... you have people chancing across a cat or a dog that hasn't been desexed, and "how nice would it be if we let them have just one litter?" AND THE FUCKED UP THING, is that due to our distorted culture, if that person announced it in a shopping centre, the majority of people within earshot would congratulate them.
*Hard glare*
*New level unlocked: you've just created a BYB*

Look, it's definitely getting better than it was 10, or 15 years ago. The word is getting around that our animals deserve more. But for the most part, we're preaching to the converted, right? It seems the people we really need to reach (new pet parents) are the ones that aren't in the circles yet. A lot of them are still riding on several generations of advice to *just rescue*. And while rescuing is admirable.... it's misplaced... if you're on the same thought track as me. 

There's also debates about whether 'companionship' is a valid purpose for producing an animal (compared to military dogs, gun dogs, cattle dogs, stock horses etc, those are seen as purpose bred animals). I'm pretty sure I've seen in Dogbook that the ethical community supports companionship as being a valid purpose. Which I agree with, because, just look at the percentage of households globally that have a companion animal. Think of how your pets enrich your life. 

So this leads into the realm of 'supply and demand'. I've seen breeders making posts about this concept, usually in the context of "I can't produce enough of X because this is what people are asking for". Or when people talk about breeders not being vending machines and just popping out anything with the push of a button.

Dogbook often talks about gatekeeping practices, and if you produce enough of something, it won't be exclusive anymore. (I draw a lot of examples from the dog world, because the cat world mostly follows them). There seems to be a very fine line between preserving the history of a breed, and producing *just enough* offspring to participate in showing or sports, but if you produce over a certain amount (a mythical number, usually?) that's *too many* and congratulations you're now a BYB......SHIT. WHERE IS THE LINE?

What are your thoughts? Why are a few okay? But if you cross the imaginary line, then you've gone to the dark side? 
Who determines the line? Is it wrong to be producing enough for the demand that you're experiencing? For example, I've probably got enough serious potential homes waiting in the wings for at least 30 kittens at any given time. I'm not talking about people who have money now or quick sales. I'm talking, serious, genuine humans who've been in contact with me for more than 4 months. These people aren't here for instant gratification. And I'm honoured that they choose to just hang with me while life happens. In saying that, often I'll recommend other breeders who share my values, usually if they've got a kitten available which I don't have. I feel genuine joy if I can help someone connect with another person / kitten. 

I've had a few people say to me over time "Gee you had a lot of kittens last year". I mean, what's "a lot"? Its the same question as the pain scale when I was a medic. How long is a piece of string? The limit is different for every single person. My response was "I had queens that had passed their health testing, they came into heat, and I had the time and space to raise the litters". 

There was another time that I was admitted to hospital and I needed help, which is where some of those comments were fuelled from, and that's fair... but also, that was an extenuating circumstance, it wasn't a holiday that I booked and just took off and left all my responsibilities behind.

If I've got the capacity to raise a litter (or multiple at once), and provide good nutrition, follow vet protocols, do all the socialisation/exposure/grooming stuff, keep up with the paperwork / communication / cleaning side of things... and they emerge as healthy, confident, not-afraid-of-the-vacuum-cleaner kittens, then where is the line? How many is too many? After much thinking.... if you can manage something within your capacity, then that line is individual to your situation. 

So then there's this issue of: am I just breeding to keep this breed alive? Just enough to show, and post a nice example on social media? And no more? Because that's what I've observed to be acceptable on Dogbook. This 'just enough' phenomenon. 

Do we want to start chipping away at the overloaded shelter problems? Or do you want to gatekeep these amazing breeds and keep purebreds 'exclusive', by perpetuating this generational cycle of 'just go and rescue'... so what you're really recommending is 'just go and support all the BYB that didn't care about their animals so they ended up here in the shelter'.

Think about it. I mean. Really. Think. About. It. 

I think breeding the right way can be a double edged sword.... You can preserve the breed,  produce healthy, robust offspring as companions (as a legit purpose) without being all gatekeepery. Especially when we're experiencing such overloaded shelters and rescues. Like I mentioned in the other section earlier... the more people that support reputable breeders, the less chance you'll have animals being surrendered or dumped, because the support will be behind those pets / families! 

But this requires a culture change. 

It requires information to be shared, and mulled over, and talked about. Because how else do you reach those first time pet-parents who have been told for several generations to *just rescue*.

Social media is used for so much shit. Imagine if it was used for all the wholesome things...

 

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