Finding and Choosing a Purebred Cat Breeder
J. Anne Helgren
Questions You Should Ask How are the kittens raised? You want a kitten who has been raised "underfoot" in a loving home environment, rather than in an isolated cattery with little human contact.
Once you narrow down your search to several breeders (it's best to find several possibilities in case one doesn't work out), talk to each one. A caring breeder will be willing to answer all your questions. If the breeder's answers are not satisfactory, or if you get the impression that the breeder is not being forthright, move onto the next one on your list. Ask the following questions:
Can I see both parents, or only the mother? By seeing both parents, you'll have a better idea of the adult appearance and temperament of the offspring. If the father is not available – which is often the case, since not every breeder keeps a male for stud service – ask to see a photo of the father, and be sure to see the mother.
How many litters do you raise each year? A breeder who raises many litters is less likely to be able to socialize each kitten. Early loving contact with humans is vital if the kitten is to grow up to be a well-socialized, friendly, trusting adult cat.
Can you provide names and phone numbers of people who have purchased your cats? If the breeder provides these references, follow through and check them out. Ask these owners about their experiences with the breeder. Of course, keep in mind that a breeder is likely to provide only the numbers of people who have had positive experiences.
Has a veterinarian examined the kittens? What vaccinations will be given before the kittens are sent home? Have the cattery cats been tested for Feline Leukemia (FeLV) and Feline AIDS (FIV)? Depending upon the breed, other health questions should be asked as well, and that's why it's a good idea to become familiar with the breed. Maine coons, for example, are prone to hip dysplasia and a heart disease called cardiomyopathy. When buying a Maine coon, you'll want to ask if the breeder's cats have been screened for these conditions.
Do you provide a written health guarantee for genetic and health problems? You want to choose a breeder who stands behind the quality and health of his or her cats.
In what cat association(s) are your cats registered? This is important if you decide to show the cat, because each cat association has different show standards and rules regarding each breed. Also, this tells you if you're dealing with a breeder who is working to improve the breed rather than just producing sellable kittens. Call the cat association(s) to which the breeder belongs to check his or her credentials before committing.
Do you provide a pedigree and registration papers for your kittens? Even if you want pet quality and do not intend to show your cat, be sure you are buying a kitten that comes with these documents, also called "papers." While papers don't guarantee you a healthy, well-socialized cat, it increases the chances that the breeder is reputable and the cat is what the breeder claims. A cat without papers lacks them for a reason, usually because one or both parents were without papers or because the parents were not sold with breeding rights. A kitten without papers may not be a purebred at all. While part-purebred cats can still make fine companions, you shouldn't have to pay purebred prices for a non-pedigreed cat.
Will you ship your cats? Not all breeders will, although many do. This is important if you're dealing with a breeder who's out of your area.
How much do you charge? Breeders are generally more responsive if you save this question for last. While price is certainly an important factor, breeders tend to be more impressed with prospective owners who don't begin the conversation by giving the impression that getting a bargain basement cat is their most important consideration.
Questions Your Breeder May Ask
A responsible breeder will also ask you questions before agreeing to sell you a kitten. Some of these questions may seem very personal, but don't take offense. Caring breeders are attached to their cats, and want to make sure their special kids go to loving, responsible homes. In fact, a breeder who seems eager to sell to just anybody may be a bad bet. If the breeder isn't concerned about finding good homes for the kittens, how much care do you think he or she put into breeding the kittens in the first place?
Expect the breeder to ask questions about your lifestyle. For example, he or she may ask whether you will be away from home a great deal, whether you have young children, your housing situation, whether you own or rent, and if you're willing to keep the cat indoors (many breeders require this as a condition of sale). The breeder may ask what you will feed the kitten, and your views on declawing and spaying and neutering. The breeder may want to know what you would do if you couldn't keep the cat any longer. He or she may ask how much you know about the breed, and whether you're aware of the grooming and care commitment the breed requires. The breeder may ask if you've owned cats before, and what happened to them.