Luxury cat breeders say Covid-19 has pushed demand for high-priced kittens to unprecedented levels.
The Maine Coon –one of the country’s most expensive breeds at $2,500 a cat – soared in demand during the Covid-19 lockdown last March.
Inquiries for the “gentle giant” cats increased from 15 to 20 per week to about 20 per day, as Kiwis increasingly searched for ways to spend their money and time around home, one breeder said.
While demand is at an all-time high, Covid-19’s effect on prices has been minimal as credited breeders aim to avoid undercutting one another.
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While many Kiwis were purchasing via TradeMe and similar websites, a bargain buy was not necessarily the best choice.
Buying from a registered breeder often comes with full vet notes, microchipping, de-sexing, health checks, and a lifetime of contact with the breeder who stays in touch and offers advice for the duration of the cat’s life.
The backdoor cat market on TradeMe and second-hand websites was more of a guessing game. Some were genuine, but many cats were overpriced and cross-bred without the knowledge of buyers, breeder Carolyne Teesdale-Jones said.
The full list of credited cat breeders in New Zealand is available via the New Zealand Cat Fancy website.
Here’s our list of some of the most expensive and most sought after cat breeds post-lockdown.
The waiting list for a Burmese cat is “a mile long” according to one Canterbury breeder.
The market had become “absolutely frantic” since last year’s lockdown, but a tight-knit group of registered breeders were helping each other with supply, Teesdale-Jones said.
The Burmese is a pointed breed available in different colors with its underparts slightly lighter than the back.
They are intelligent, affectionate and adaptable, and good with children.
A Burmese will cost you around $1,100 in today’s market.
The Ragdoll is a semi-longhaired cat and comes in three variations – color pointed, mitted (white feet) or bi-colour, all with blue eyes.
The name comes from the cats’ ability to relax and go limp when being handled, but of course, only when it suits them.
They are playful, gentle and affectionate cats who seem to have a “nothing bothers me” attitude, said breeder Ramsey Huang.
There was a big increase in inquiries for Ragdoll cats during lockdown in Christchurch, said Huang, but many weren’t sold as buyers weren’t prepared for the commitment of owning a cat.
The Ragdoll breed ranges on average from $1,200 to $1,800 from registered breeders.
The Maine Coon breed was developed in the United States, and is the official cat of the state of Maine.
Males can reach up to 10kg in weight and females up to 6kg. It’s the largest domestic breed available in New Zealand.
Canterbury Maine Coon breeder Jo Woodrow said she received over seven times more inquiries for the cats following last year’s Covid-19 lockdown.
The 15 to 20 per week inquiries turned into the same amount per day, she said.
“The price hikes are more prevalent on TradeMe than us registered breeders.”
The Maine Coon breed regularly sells for up to $2,500.
Best known in its blue colour, the British breed comes in many colors and patterns including bi-colour and Himalayan.
The British Shorthair is easygoing, friendly and gentle – they make adaptable pets and are less destructive than many other breeds.
They are known to be one-on-one loving cats with their owners, and often treat strangers with disdain.
Inquiries for buying the cats went from weekly to daily after last year’s lockdown, breeder Anita Cheetham said.
British Shorthair cats sell for around $1,300.
Birmans have a keen intelligence, loving nature and soft voices.
They are friendly and keep themselves spotlessly clean.
The paws are large and round, with distinctive pure white ‘gloves’ on the front paws and ‘gauntlets’ on the rear paws.
Breeder Barbie Muller said demand for the breed had increased “by more than 200 per cent” following last year’s lockdown.
They cost on average from $1,200 to $1,500 from registered breeders.
The Bengal was first bred in the United States by crossing forest dwelling Asian Leopard cats with domestic cats, resulting in a medium to large breed that resembles the mesmerizing, exotic looks and attraction of the wild’s big cats.
The breed comes in a variety of colors including charcoal and brown to gray and silver, which is considered the rarest. Often the color will alter the price by $200 to $300.
Bengal breeder Jan Leedes said there had been a “big surge” in demand for the cats following the Covid-19 lockdown.
The cheapest Bengals go for around $2,000.
The most distinctive feature of this cat is its appearance of hairlessness.
The Sphynx is of medium size and body conformation with surprising weight for its size.
They are sweet-tempered, lively, intelligent, and pleasant to handle.
A Sphynx will cost you between $1,700 and $1,800.
Demand for the breed saw an increase post-Covid but “nothing major”, breeder Sharon Wilson-Tate said.
The crème de la crème of cat breeds in New Zealand is the Pixie-bob breed, first imported by Marius Koekemoer and his wife in 2016.
The Auckland couple spent more than $20,000 importing a breeding pair of Pixie-bob cats into New Zealand, and have since sold 30 kittens at between $3,000 to $5,000 per kitten.
The price is shaped by how much each kitten looks like a bobcat.
Tail length, number of toes and the size of the cats themselves are other factors in determining the price.