Mike and Gill Godfrey never planned to breed cats but 15 years on from buying their first ragdoll they have almost 90 felines strutting around their Te Puna property.

With nine pet ragdolls of their own, 24 breeding females and 13 breeding males and 40-odd kittens, Mr Godfrey said it was a lifestyle that had become more intensive than a full-time job.

When the couple first looked at their Te Puna home, a ragdoll was sprawled out in front of the fireplace and they instantly fell for the breed.

They set out to find one of their own and came across Mysti, the only kitten available in New Zealand at the time.

Advertisement
Mike and Gill Godrey own 90 cats. Photo/George Novak
Mike and Gill Godrey own 90 cats. Photo/George Novak

The couple began breeding them after Mr Godfrey's garden centre business took a turn for the worse and he walked away from it.

He has not looked back.

The breed's personality won them over, Mr Godfrey said.

"They are very laidback and floppy like a ragdoll, hence their name. They seek you out and want to be with you," he said.

They never dreamed of having 23 breeding females, initially they thought 12 would be tops when they started.

"But the primary purpose is to improve the breed. You are always aiming to breed the perfect cat and no one ever has. You try and get as close as you can to it. If you breed from a particular cat and its kittens are superior to them, then that is progress. If you breed from the same pair of cats for 12 years, you've got nowhere."

The couple imported four cats from Sweden, got several from Australia and one from Taiwan to mix their blood lines.

Each female cat could breed from the age of about 1, then breed for three to four years before being retired from the service and sold on as a pet.

Advertisement

Ninety per cent of the kittens they do breed are sold, de-sexed and vaccinated, as a pet, for $750 to $800 a cat. The other 10 per cent may make it to cat shows around New Zealand where their profile, head size and shape, colour and placement of their eyes, colourings and patterns are judged. These can sell for up to $2000.

Kept in several enclosures on their property, the cats were better left inside than out, he said.

"They are far safer like this, because there are stray cats around. There are dogs, they could get run over, get into cat fights and get diseases."

Mrs Godfrey said there were days where she went "ugh" at the thought of cleaning and feeding all the cats, plus nine Cavalier King Charles spaniels and aviaries full of birds.

"But our motivation is (that) we realise they are such a neat breed, if we help other families have that interaction within their families it's quite a neat kickback for us."