Once you have decided to purchase a purebred cat and selected the breed, how do you decide where to buy your new family member? Here are a few questions to ask and things to consider.
Is the breeder a member of one or more of the various associations? Are the litters registered? What is the health history of the prior generations? Ask to meet the kittens’ parents. If you are buying a kitten, has it had its shots (get a written record of the vaccinations received, including the specific brand of vaccine) and been checked over by a vet? Have both parents been checked and declared negative for Feline Leukemia and FIV? Many breeders administer vaccinations themselves but do have a vet check the kittens at some point. What kind of health guarantee will the breeder offer in their sales agreement?
Is the price of the kitten substantially higher or lower than the amount charged by other breeders for similar kittens? Prices may vary from breed to breed for kittens, but most breeders of a specific breed will usually sell pets for about the same amount. If the kitten or cat is significantly less expensive than kittens of that breed from all other breeders, ask why. If there is no logical reason – just “that’s what I charge” – stay away. Likewise, if the cat seems to be significantly more expensive compared to other breeders, stay away. Be careful of a breeder who charges significantly more for a “rare” color or pattern. Many times, the rare colors and patterns are not yet accepted by the registering organizations and actually should be sold at a lower price.
Is the breeder currently showing cats of that breed? If not, why? If yes, are they performing well (winning)? If the breeder is changing breeds, ask why. Do they have health problems in the breed they are getting out of? Are they in a judging program and required to breed and show several breeds of different types and don’t have room to keep a large number of cats? How do they look in comparison to others of the breed that are being shown? Most cat breeders are breeding animals to attain the standard of the breed as set forth by one of the registries or associations (CFA, TICA, ACFA, CFF, etc.) and the only way you can know that the breeder is doing a good job in that respect is whether or not the cats in the cattery are judged well at shows.
Request references, both a veterinarian and previous kitten buyers. Contact these references. Ask buyers of kittens or cats if they would purchase from this breeder again. If they say no, ask why – was it the wrong breed for them or were there problems dealing with the breeder?
Go see the breeder’s cattery operation in person. It should be clean and the animals should be healthy (no runny noses or eyes and no sneezing) and display good temperament. Ask which organizations the breeder registers kittens with. Breeders may be members of more than one of the associations. Many of the registries also maintain records of complaints filed against breeders or have taken action against them for violation of various organization rules or ethics.
What kind of agreement will the breeder request you to sign? If you are purchasing a pet kitten or retired show or breeding cat, you will be required to spay or neuter the animal or it will already have been done. Most often, the breeder will withhold the pedigree and registration papers until a receipt for the surgery is presented. Registrations will be filed with the association indicating the animal being sold cannot be used for breeding. If you are considering an animal of show or breeding quality and anticipating breeding and showing, a much more specific contract may be needed, possibly including control of the cat or breeding lines your cat can be mated with. Almost all agreements will require that the cat be kept indoors, receive good quality care, regular veterinary care and not be declawed. Many will also request that the breeder be contacted first if the cat has to be given up for any reason.
Be prepared to answer questions about yourself and your living and family situation. For a breeder, selling a kitten is like finding adoptive parents for a child. They are very concerned that the kitten’s new owners have the resources and knowledge to provide a high quality and quantity of care including regular veterinary care, high-quality food, love, and attention. They may request references and written approval from landlords. You will be asked about your experience in owning cats and what other pets are in the household.
If you have no mentor, have never shown or bred cats and want to buy a show-quality cat or a breeding pair, do not be surprised if the breeder will not sell them to you. Cats of show and breeder quality are rare. A reputable breeder who cannot keep such cats wants to be sure that they are shown and that they are bred properly. Without a mentor known to the breeder, a novice will have a very difficult time convincing a breeder to part with show or breeder quality cats.
Get to know the breeder and his/her cat family, if possible. The breeder can be one of your best sources of information for any adjustment problems your cat may have in making the move to your home, also if any health problems arise. Many breeders love to keep in touch with people who have purchased their kittens.
Send photos and anecdotes. Let the breeder know if there are serious health problems that develop. Even though the breeder may have been very diligent in planning the breeding, an unforeseen condition could develop and the breeder will want to know so the breeding is not repeated with that particular genetic combination.
Do try to find a breeder in your area, or within a day’s drive. Shipping cats and kittens is never a good idea if it can be avoided. Even if you must purchase a kitten from a far-away breeder, do visit the breeder’s facility at least once If you are purchasing a rare breed from far away, consider that you will be spending hundreds to thousands of dollars on the purchase of that cat. Please spend the extra money to go visit the cattery. If the kitten must be shipped, try to make arrangements to fly home with it – in the cabin with you.
Don’t buy a cat or kitten over the Internet from someone you don’t know. Never buy a kitten sight unseen. The Internet is a great information resource for many things but it is only the first step in finding the right breeder for your new pet. You can research breeders online, find out who has kittens online, or even meet the breeder online, but then visit the cattery and do all the evaluation techniques outlined above.
Do go to cat shows and talk to breeders and exhibitors, while they may be a bit preoccupied with the show, most love to talk about their cats. Do ask how often they breed the females (three litters in two years is a good average with most breeds. With the larger breeds, one litter a year is the norm. Higher frequency breeding may cause stress and health problems in the queen). Do take a video camera to the cattery and shows. Do not prepay for an unborn kitten, a deposit for a kitten with payment in full when you pick up the kitten is reasonable. Do take the kitten to your vet within 48 hours, including the vaccination history provided by the breeder.