Copyright 2007, Sarah Hartwell

Many would-be cat owners are fooled by advertisements offering "designer breeds" that are simply unregistered crosses between two or more established breeds with no aim in mind except to make money from the public (not to be confused with "designer cats" recognised by by TDCA - The Designer Cat Assocation in the USA).

Designer cat breeders are those that churn out "unique" kittens that are, for example, Siamese/Persian mixes. Some have multiple cats and offer a whole range of mix-and-match combinations of those breeds. They figure that "unique designer kittens" means they can charge more for a crossbred. An owner/breeder with a genuine accidental cross-bred litter (or litter from an experimental cross) will admit to how and why the kittens were bred, but a designer cat breeder will repeat the mating and market the mix-and-match offspring as a product, sometimes under a "breed name". Buyers looking for information about their "breed" will find it is not recognised by any of the recognised registries and is officially designated "a non-pedigree household pet".

Purebred a cat whose ancestors (usually over 3 to 5 generations) are the same breed
Pedigree - a cats whose ancestors (usually over 3 to 5 generations) are registered with a cat registry, but are not necessarily the same breed (e.g. a Himalayan with one or more Persian ancestors).
Allowable Outcross a cat of a closely related breed that is allowed to be used in a pedigree programme to widen the gene pool or maintain the conformation.
Crossbred a cats whose ancestors (usually in the last 3 generations) are different breeds and are not allowable outcrosses; they may or may not be pedigree. For these reasons, a crossbred cat cannot usually be registered.
Random-bred (Moggy) any cat of unknown parentage, regardless of whether it resembles a known breed.

Designer Breeds, Cross-Breeds or New Breeds?

Many breeds began as crosses of other breeds. Having found an accidental cross attractive, or having decided to combine the specific traits of 2 or more breeds, a breeder might decide to register a breed standard with one of the cat registries in their region and to develop the breed to meet that standard.

Modern breeds that began as accidental or intentional crosses include the Himalayan (Colourpoint Persian), Australian Mist, Burmilla and Ocicat. These began as crossbreeds, but the breeders saw potential in them and registered a provisional breed standard. They then bred their cats to meet that standard. After sufficient generations, the cats met the standard and bred true when mated to each other; they then became eligible for recognition as new breeds. There was no need to crossbreed the original parents to produce kittens with the desired "look". Breeders working on new breeds have a goal in mind.

"Persian lookalike kittens, cute chocolate box fluffy designer kittens from Persian/Angora crosses." The advertiser claimed she was doing cats a favour by producing kittens with hybrid vigour for pet lovers. In fact she was simply lining her own purse by fooling buyers that they were getting a unique "designer breed". She had no goal in mind except for "cute", "fluffy" and saleable. There was no intention to create or meet a breed standard nor to register the "breed". Far from something designed, the buying public gets a crossbreed no different to the many cute, fluffy kittens destroyed daily cat shelters due to overpopulation.

The ultimate in parting a fool from his/her money is the Ashera cat, an overpriced serval/Bengal designer hybrid aimed at people who think "expensive = unique." It duplicates the existing (and recognised) Savannah breed. It appeals to people who want to brag about how much they spent on a cat rather than buying a registered pedigree or purebred from a reputable breeder.

That "unique Russian Blue/Persian designer kitten" in the advert is nothing of the sort. Someone is offloading kittens from unneutered pets or is churning out kittens from parents that were sold as "pet quality". Accidental matings can happen, even at reputable breeders' homes, but reputable breeders don't advertise the kittens as unique Russ-Pers or Munch-Xotics.

Twelve Designer Cat Myths

Myth 1: Designer cat breeders (and moggy breeders) claim that snobbish show-cat breeders criticise them because they are cutting on their profit.
Fact: Cat breeding is not profitable because of all the outgoings: stud fees, vet care, food, registry fees and subscriptions etc. If the "breeder" is talking about profit, they are doing it for their own gain, not to develop a breed.

Myth 2: The father is a Persian, because the breeder's friend said he looked just like a Persian they'd seen in a book. And the woman at the pet store assured you the mother was a Siberian.
Fact: Even if the parents resemble a known breed, this doesn't mean they are that breed. Where are the pedigree papers? Which of the major registries are they registered with? If the supposedly purebred kitten wasn't registered, why not?

Myth 3: One Grand Champion in the pedigree is as good as 5 generations of Grand Champions in the pedigree. It's not necessary to have Grand Champions in the pedigree when the breeder is simply breeding cute, sweet-natured kittens for pets.
Fact: Those Championship titles mean the ancestor(s) met the breed standard. A pedigree with more titled ancestors is a better indicator of a controlled breeding programme. A single, solitary Grand Champion 3 generations back may well mean those kittens come from stock not intended for breeding.

Myth 4: The designer breeder is just trying to produce good pets, therefore good pets are all they need for breeding.
Fact: This is known as moggy breeding. A cat breeder has a goal in sight a breed is based on consistent conformation. There are plenty of good pets available at your local cat shelter. Adopt one of those instead of encouraging mix-and-match breeding.

Myth 5: When asked about health testing, a designer breeder may say the female had a health check before breeding and the male has never been sick in his life. They haven't run expensive tests for Polycystic Kidney Disease or Luxating Patella because the cats and kittens look healthy. If they carried such things, they'd look sick wouldn't they?
Fact: Many genetic diseases are passed on by carriers who don't show outward signs. Reputable breeders get tests done to avoid breeding from carriers. This reduces the likelihood of unhealthy kittens. The bottom line is that testing reduces the profit margin on designer breeds.

Myth 6: None of the designer breeder's kittens (nor their offspring) has ever ended up in a shelter. None of that breed has ended up in a shelter. In fact all their friends want a kitten from that female/male there is a waiting list for the kittens.
Fact: There are plenty of that "breed" in local shelters, but the shelters don't try to pass off a cross-breed as something it isn't. They call a Abyssinian-Persian cross an Abyssinian-Persian cross or a random-bred not a "rare Ticked Persian".

Myth 7: The buyer can return any unhealthy kitten and get a replacement, just so long as it is within X months of sale and the buyer didn't make it ill.
Fact: Most buyers are too attached to a kitten to trade it in for a healthier one. Genuine breeders will take back a kitten that develops a genetic illness. Designer breeders claim it is not their fault, because the parents were healthy and the kitten got hybrid vigour and was healthy enough when they sold it etc etc.

Myth 8: The breeder has a rare colour or trait such as miniatures or huge size. They are the only person to be breeding rare Dwarf Colourpoint Maine Coons. Rare varieties are more valuable. The rarity outweighs any need to health test the parents or offspring because it is more urgent to preserve and perpetuate such a rare trait.
Fact: They are breeding moggies that do not meet the breed standard. For example, Maine Coons must not be dwarf nor are colourpoints allowed in that breed. It's a fluffy moggy (save a life by adopting one from a shelter instead).

Myth 9: The breeder has produced dozens (or hundreds) of these designer kittens and must know what they are doing.
Fact: They are a kitten mill. Reputable breeders produce one or two litters per year from their cats.

Myth 10: The crossbred kittens are better because they are not inbred and hybrid vigour is good.
Fact: Never mind that one parent has hip dysplasia and the other has cross eyes and neither has been tested for genetic conditions. If the parents haven't been screened for the problems known to occur in their respective breeds then the kittens could inherit a whole mix-and-match bundle of health issues.

Myth 11: The designer breeder's cats are breeding quality because they have papers.
Fact: They have home-generated papers from the breeder's very own Dwarf Colourpoint Maine Coon breed registry. The word "pedigree" simply means having a documented family tree. What counts is whether that pedigree is registered with a recognised cat registry. Papers are useless unless endorsed (certified) by a recognised body.

Myth 12: The designer breeder will offer support to the owner if something goes wrong later on.
Fact: Emails will bounce, letters will not be answered, phone calls will not be returned. The same "designer cats" will be advertised with another contact address by someone who has absolutely no connection with the person who advertised similar cats 3 months earlier. A genuine breeder may check up on kittens after a period of time. For a designer breeder, once the money is in the bank it's "out of sight, out of mind".