Meet the cat breeder who once travelled more than 1000 miles from Scotland to Switzerland to keep a rare breed alive – and makes a £12,000 loss on her passion.
Heather McRae (37), has played a part in breeding around 20 per cent of Asian cats registered in the UK in the past two years.
The breed was formed in 1981, when a Burmese cat was bred with a Chinchilla, a variation on a Persian cat.
Asian cats are known for being stunningly pretty, and having playful and intelligent character traits, but have never become well-known and are classified as rare.
Heather, from Polmont, fell in love with the breed in 2008, when she bought a kitten for her husband, Richard (37).
She kept the birthday present a secret and only bought Annas – Gaelic for ‘surprise’ – as she was a black kitten, rather than because of the Asian breed.
But the couple found Annas had the temperament they had been looking for in a pet, and despite having several other cats, including a Maine Coon, Devon Rex, and also rescue moggies, they were besotted. They now have 16 cats, and have bred 153 kittens since 2010.
The costs are enormous, and Heather, the director of an advertising agency, estimates she makes a £12,000 a year loss on her ‘expensive hobby’.
Heather said: “I like Asians because they look like cats, and some people say they have dog-like personalities because they’re so friendly and sociable.
“I don’t like cats with squashed faces or extremely pointy ears - I just want a cat that looks like a cat.
“With a moggie you just don’t know what you’re going to get, but each breed has different characteristics.
“The Asian breed is our passion. Most years our losses are about £12,000.
“Responsible breeders do not make money, they do it because they love the breed and they want it to survive.”
In a bid to introduce new bloodlines into the Asian breed, the couple even travelled across Europe to deliver a cat to another breeder.
Heather and Richard travel to cat shows so the general public can admire their pets, including Meet the Breeds at Supreme - the cat equivalent of Crufts.
They recently upped their price from £400 per cat, to £500, to cover rising costs - but in order to break even, a kitten would have to be sold for around £900.
She said: “There’s the cost of buying a cat, the cost of using a stud, or building a stud pen and ensuring it’s ventilated, and travel costs.
“Pregnant cats cost twice as much to feed, and we get through four kilos of food for a litter of kittens every two days.
“Each kitten needs two vaccinations, they have to be wormed three times and neutered before they leave.
“Then there is the mum’s vaccinations and vets bills, and insurance is about £200 a month.
“But our passion is this breed.”