When starting any new hobby, it is best to have a guide. Someone to answer your questions, point you to resources where you can learn topics of interest, and save you from some pitfalls that often come when trying new adventures on your own.
That is a mentor. Someone to guide you. A person to lend an ear and listen to your questions, concerns, and fears.
When starting a cattery/breeding program people have a lot of questions: where to I find a good cat, what are the physical requirements needed, diet, exercise, show needs, breed standards, how often should I breed my cat? The list goes on and on. Trying to learn all of this at one time is like drinking through a fire hose! You will need to take small baby steps, learn about that a particular topic before moving on. Many times, we get so excited and want to know everything at once. That is not mentally possible and often leads to disappointment.
A mentor will guide you, help you learn what you need to know at the proper time, and increase your knowledge at the time when needed and proper to the situation.
Some may think the perfect mentor will keep them from making mistakes. Often, we learn our best lessons through our errors. A mentor should guide and educate, but not be a dictator or ruler. The protégé should be able to make their own decisions. Not everyone has the same finances, physical space, or physical abilities. A mentor should educate and guide, but the final decisions are up to the protégé.
Sometimes it’s easier to describe what someone should not be rather than the positives. Here is a partial list of both:
Patient and kind
Answer specific questions
Knowledgeable about the breed
Tips and suggestions for grooming
Refer and introduce to other breeders
Knows show rules
Should NOT do/be:
Impatient and rude
Give information too quickly
Too limited in knowledge
Groom the cat for the protégé
Selfish and does not introduce to other breeders
Not familiar with all show rule
Being a mentor can consume a lot of time, so the protégé should always remember people have lives and commitments that may limit their availability. The same qualities of patience and kindness are needed from both parties.
Working closely with someone to guide your breeding and showing path enhances the journey for both the Mentor and the Protégé. The road will have bumps along the way, but together you will learn from the difficult times, and laugh at the fun times.
How to Be a Good Mentor
You have agreed to mentor a new breeder. You have the knowledge, patience and time as well as the memory of what it was like for you. Here are some suggestions from a new breeder:
- Be realistic, but in a positive way
- If you need to say something negative, balance it with a positive comment
- Be honest
- Keep in contact, even if the protégé doesn’t reach out to you, check in with them often
- Tell the protégé that every show is different, and each judge is an individual. Your grooming, cat condition, competition can change from one show to a next. Just because judge “A” put your cat in their final this week, doesn’t guarantee a final the next show.
- Help them with locating information in the time they need it. Too much too soon is overwhelming, too little is confusing
- Contact, contact, contact! Keep checking in with them