Why does a Ragdoll cost so much?

Opportunity Costs

When I first googled “ragdoll kitten near me,” I was living in the Hudson Valley, New York. My search efforts were not rewarded right away. In fact, it seemed no one would return my calls/emails/texts. When I finally found a breeder who would be able to place me on a wait list, I was amazed that the cost of the kitten without a pedigree or breeding rights was $900. That was in 2014.

The breeder was a stay-at-home mom. She homeschooled her children; she enjoyed watching her kiddos learn.  Animal husbandry was a big part of her family’s culture. She was often busy, but at ease. I would see her kids on social media occasionally: three children were getting first-hand experience with both biology and business from home. Her kids learned what it took to care for animals and manage a business. This mother was more than capable of a day job earning $100K/year. She was college educated, socially responsible, and she had a plethora of soft skills which many mothers don’t waste on the corporate world because they stay home to care for their children.

I was impressed. Not only with the ragdoll kittens, but the entire way in which this clever breeder organized her life: the dedicated space in her home, her children’s acumen, her breeder’s knowledge, and most importantly, her ability to enjoy her life. She was doing what she loved and it was rewarding.

In economics, we talk about opportunity costs. Those are the things we give up in order to enjoy another thing. For example, we buy a diet coke in order to justify the chocolate chunk cookie. We omit the calories in a traditional soda in order to enjoy the cookie. We buy a pre-owned vehicle in order to afford a home in a good school district.

This family gave up the potential to earn a regular salary in order to have an available mom at home. She did not earn six figures, but she earned enough to pay for her kids’ participation in music lessons, local theater, and sports clubs. Even though this mom worked from sun-up to sun-down helping with long division and scooping litter boxes, she derived a certain pleasure from her work. She inclined her ear toward her high school freshman who was helping a kindergartener grappling with phonics. She administered vaccines while her middle schooler looked on, learning about what science has achieved. At three o’clock on a school day, this mom could throw some veggies and frozen chicken tenders in the crockpot before taking a 10-week-old litter to her local veterinarian for a wellness check. And she took the time to snap a photo to post on social media to show her clients that their anticipated kittens would be coming home soon!

So whenever I hear the question: why does a Ragdoll kitten cost so much, I remember this family.

Some of us live in parts of the country where the cost of a home is $300/SF. In others, the cost of a home is closer to $150/SF (taxes, insurance, principal). That directly influences the price of a kitten. If I’m dedicating half of my home to kitten breeding in an area of the United States where my overhead is much higher, then the price of the kitten will be higher. If the breeder is located in the deep South where housing and care is less, then obviously, a price can be less. This is normal business behavior.

Another factor in kitten pricing is related to the parentage. A breeder may spend anywhere from $$ to $$$ on a ragdoll breeder kitten. On the day in which I publish this blog, I could say the cost is $3500 for a quality breeder kitten; in a year from this publication, the price could increase or decrease. My point is this: it is important for a buyer to keep in mind that if they spent $1,500-1,700 for their kitten, they can realize that the breeder spent at least twelve times that on the mother in the first year.

This is merely a sample budget. Often there are additional costs associated with a queen.

The cost of the breeder queen extends beyond the cost of the cat, pedigree and registration fees, food, veterinarian visits, DNA testing, supplements, and litter. It also includes the cost of labor for the stay-at-home breeder. He/she has given up the opportunity of working outside the home. She remains nearby to observe behavior and study litter box contents. She sits in the room with the breeder dams and sires to learn them. He stays up all night to oversee the labor and delivery process. He takes calls from families eager to get on a waitlist. She updates her website, takes photos, builds “catios”, scrubs carpeted cat trees, orders kitty litter and food. He schedules vet appointments. She is busy. Lest we are forgetful of his sacrifice: he doesn’t take vacation without considerable lamentation. Leaving the cattery is a big deal. A capable, trustworthy stand-in is required to come house-sit with a keen attention to the demands of a cattery–litter, dry food, wet food, outdoor rotations.

Also note the lifespan of a ragdoll. According to VCA, the ragdoll kitten can live from 15-25 years. She is an intelligent lap cat who is good for children and the elderly and even dogs. She is a low-maintenance cat. Her biggest requirement besides food and clean water is companionship.

All told, that $1,500 – 1,700 ragdoll who lives 15 years will end up costing $100 – 113/year + annual vaccinations and vet visits.

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