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Finding and Choosing a Purebred Cat Breeder

By: J. Anne Helgren

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As with all important decisions, buying a purebred cat requires thought and planning. You are about to embark upon a relationship that may span fifteen to twenty years – longer than many marriages. So make sure you spend some time finding the right breeder.

You can save yourself veterinary expense and grief by finding a responsible, caring breeder whose goal is to produce healthy, genetically sound, well socialized kittens; a breeder who truly cares about your chosen breed and wants good homes for his or her special kids. Resist the urge to buy on impulse, and know your source before plucking down your hard-earned cash. A bit of patience can make the difference between years of happiness with your feline friend and years of heartache.

Why buy from a breeder rather than a pet store, private party, or newspaper ad? While buying from a breeder does not insure you a healthy, well socialized cat, buying from pet stores or newspaper ads is often risky business, and may cause you considerable grief and expense in the long run.

Reputable breeders do not sell their kittens to pet shops, so pet shops often obtain their kittens from less than pristine sources, such as the so-called backyard breeders or kitten mills. Such kitten producers breed only for profit and care little about the health, happiness, and long lives of their animals. Their cats often live in deplorable overcrowded conditions, have infrequent handling and no socialization, and little veterinary care. No effort is made to ensure genetic health by carefully planning the breeding and choosing the most genetically compatible mates.

Don't assume that any breeder who maintains a cattery in his or her residence is a backyard breeder, however. Most reputable breeders operate their catteries out of their homes, so they can give their cats the attention and care they need. The emotionally loaded term "backyard breeder" can be misleading; it actually refers to the quality of care and concern and the slipshod, assembly-line method of breeding, not the location where the breeding is done.

Newspaper ads can be placed by reputable breeders, but are more often placed by kitten mills and people who have bred their pet-quality purebreds, violating their purchase agreements since pet-quality purebreds are almost never sold with breeding rights. In fact, most breeders withhold the papers of their pet-quality purebreds until the owners have provided proof of alteration to prevent these matings.

While these kittens may be less expensive than a breeder-bred kitten, you generally get what you pay for. Such people generally know little or nothing about breeding cats. Too, these cats usually cannot be registered or shown since the owners cannot provide pedigrees or registration papers, and without papers you can't tell if the cat you're buying is a true purebred at all. If you buy from a newspaper ad, be even more scrupulous about investigating the seller.

First Things First

Before you begin shopping for your dream cat, you'll need to do your homework. First, you'll want to decide which breed is best for you. See Finding the Right Purebred Cat.

Once you've chosen the breed, it's very important to learn as much as you can about it before you begin looking for a breeder. That means becoming familiar with the breed's standard, characteristics, personality, strengths and weaknesses, potential genetic and health problems, and grooming requirements and other special needs. You need this information if you are to be an informed consumer.

Fortunately, the Internet is a wonderful resource for breed information. Begin by reading the PetPlace Breed Profiles. The Cat Fanciers Web Site at www.fanciers.com is also an excellent online resource. Also, visit the cat associations online, since many offer standards and other information on each breed they recognize:

  • American Association of Cat Enthusiasts (AACE) www.aaceinc.org
  • American Cat Fancier's Association (ACFA) www.acfacat.com
  • Canadian Cat Association (CCA) www.cca-afc.com
  • Cat Fanciers' Association (CFA) www.cfainc.org
  • Cat Fanciers' Federation (CFF) www.cffinc.org
  • National Cat Fanciers' Association (NCFA) www.nationalcatfanciers.com
  • The International Cat Association (TICA) www.tica.org
  • The Traditional Cat Association, Inc. (TCA) www.traditionalcats.com

    Finding a Breeder

    After you've chosen and learned all you can about your breed, check out the breeder listings in cat magazines such as Cats and Kittens (www.catsandkittens.com) or Cat Fancy (www.animalnetwork.com/cats). Their websites also have breeder listings.

    In addition, extensive lists of breeders can be found at the Fanciers Breeder Referral List, www.breedlist.com, as well as a wealth of information and links to breeder sites. Breed-specific clubs or societies also exist and can provide lists of breeder members. These groups usually have a written code of ethics their members agree to uphold. Many of the cat associations also can provide breeder lists.

    The cat association websites also have listings of their upcoming shows. Attending a cat show is a great way to meet reputable breeders and see their cats. Breeders who show strive to produce cats that meet the breed standard – the physical ideal for that particular breed. At shows breeders and their cats are subject to scrutiny by experienced judges and exhibitors who can quickly spot a bad apple in their bunch. Therefore, cat shows are usually good places to meet reputable breeders. Kitten producers care nothing about the breed standard or showing their cats, since they are breeding for profit rather than to improve the breed.

    Depending upon the breed you've chosen, you may or may not be able to find a breeder with available kittens. The less common breeds and the breeds in high demand generally are sold through waiting lists. If you find a breeder you like but he or she has no kittens available, you may want to ask to be put on the breeder's waiting list (you'll have to put down a deposit), or the breeder may recommend other breeders who have available kittens. Responsible breeders associate with one another and help each other meet the demand for kittens. If you're flexible on color, pattern and gender you'll have an easier time obtaining a kitten. Or you can ask the breeder to inform you when kittens become available. Be patient. It's better to wait and get a quality kitten from a reputable breeder than buy on impulse.

    If possible, find a breeder in your area, so you can visit the cattery and see the kitten before you buy. However, this is not always possible, particularly with the less common breeds, and you may have to go outside your area to find a good breeder. In that case, you'll need a breeder who is willing to ship the kitten to you. If the breeder lives out of your area, at least see a photo of your kitten (the entire litter if you can) and photos of the parents before buying. Many breeders have websites where photos of their cats can be seen; be sure to ask.

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