Category: Kitten Buying 101

Kitten Buying 101 – Recognizing An Unethical Breeder

When you are talking to breeders about a pedigreed kitten, there are a few warning signs that you can pick up on by arming yourself with knowledge.

Here are a few things that you ought to look out for when reading advertisements or breeder websites. Ads that rely solely on "Champion lines" without ever mentioning health, temperament or standard are suspect. All “Champion Lines” means is that there is a cat somewhere in your kitten’s family that was a champion. It says little about the quality and health of your kitten. Anyone can buy a kitten from a champion, but it does not mean that the breeder has any other interest in the breed, but to bank on the name and make money, in particular if they cannot back this claim up with an actual pedigree. This is an indicator something is off.

Kittens are offered at a substantial discount if you do not insist on papers and usually you are told that “it’s a pet and what do you need papers for anyway”. Registration is automatic if you buy from a reputable breeder. They will provide all necessary paperwork when you buy a kitten. It is not a selling point, and shouldn't be treated as one. Take note here that registering an entire litter in any of the major registries is anywhere between $10 - $15.

Be wary of other lesser known ”registries”. i.e. REFR, etc. These registries offer to register your moggie brown tabby longhaired domestic cat as a Maine Coon as long as you certify that it is indeed a Maine Coon.

"Extra-big", "Extra-small" - breeders trying for extremes are rarely raising healthy kittens, and any breeder/ad that has to repeatedly stress the size and weight of the kitten/cat to sell them are suspect. Usually, these kittens are outside of the breed standard and are subject to their own medical problems due to excessive size or lack of it.

“Rare" – The term “rare” is almost always used to justify grossly inflated pricing. Always check that the “rare” condition a breeder touts is in line with the breed standard. Off colors can be an indicator of an “oops” breeding and you will not be purchasing a purebred kitten after all. There are even some people selling cross breeds as "rare" cats, and people buy them thinking they are getting some unique treasure. The dog fancy has a ton of them – the Labradoodle, the Cockapoo, the Maltipoo, etc. What you are really dealing with is a sophisticated backyard breeder asking you to pay big bucks for mutt cat.

Shop with care.

Kitten Buying 101- Choosing a Breed & Breeder

There really is no secret to buying a good purebred kitten. It all depends on the knowledge of the buyer and the willingness of the buyer to utilize that knowledge when speaking to a breeder in order to correlate that this breeder is on point with all their knowledge. An informed buyer is less likely to be taken by a bad breeder.

The first step before choosing a breeder is to decide on the right breed for your family. The internet offers several venues for testing your personality and matching it with certain breeds. Reading all you can about breeds and familiarizing yourself with traits and characteristics is a must. Once you have completed that part of the process, study your breed’s history in detail. When was is recognized and who is the founder? Find and read the breed standard and look for champion show cats of that breed in order to assess and have some degree of knowledge when looking at a breeder’s kittens and adult cats.

Once a breed has been chosen, the search for a buying resource is next on the list.

Pet shops: Certainly an easy way to buy kittens, but they are mass produced and little attention has been paid to health, if any. Often they do not come with registration papers. Also, these kittens are sold with hefty price tags. Guarantees are sketchy at best and a return policy is usually for thirty days. Zero support or background is offered. If anything happens, you are on your own.

Basic Backyard Breeders: These people have two kittens or dozens. Breeding plans do not exist and there is no commitment to improving health or breeding to standard. These individuals decide "Kitty A” is in heat and throw it in with “Kitty B.” Parents are not registered and/or are mixed breed. The breeders will usually try to pass off their cats as an accidental litter that happened prior to neutering/spaying. After all it is a great way to show kids the miracle of birth and it’s easy money. Many times this type of breeder thinks what they are doing is a great idea, to the buyer though it often is a disaster waiting to happen. These kittens are born from untested parents and zero pedigree research is done on the parents. There are no contracts, no guarantees and on the first sign of trouble – the breeder’s phone gets disconnected or your number will be blocked.

Next is the Sophisticated Backyard Breeder. They may dabble in showing, breed multiple breeds/species, but maybe has not accomplished much. They have some knowledge, but more than likely do not test nor produce for the betterment of the breed. They produce to sell to you and make money! They tout the Champion Lines as their main selling point and their kittens are all sold/offered as breeders/show quality kittens and every single kitten is available at two prices – pet price and “with breeding rights price”. These trigger phrases are meant to impress the buyer. In fact, many things are done to impress a buyer and marketing is important. Again health testing is probably not done on the parents of the litter and if there is any health testing, it is minimal. If testing is done, the results will either cost you to view because they have to call vet or you will get a document that has more blacked out sections than an FBI top secret file. These breeders are also more likely to fraudulently give results on another cat that they downloaded and photoshopped making this breeder difficult, but not impossible to catch.

The last breeder is the Serious Breeder.  These are people who are truly interested in their breed. They are most likely involved in showing (there are exceptions), have champions, have or had mentors in the breed or other breeders they look up to and have years of experience under their belts. Their reputation depends on the kittens they sell, so they are very careful about the pedigrees of their litters and the health testing done on the sire and dam. They have a lot of money invested in their breeding cats and take care of them. Not only do the kittens look good, but temperament is consistently nice. Serious breeders are dedicated to the welfare of their chosen breed. They advertise less often because their kittens sell themselves. The have waiting lists and questionnaires for buyers to make sure their cats go to homes that meet their standards. They offer ongoing support and personally friend you on social media. They also consider the temperament of each kitten as it would suit your individual home and will return a deposit or cancel a transaction if their criteria is not met. They also REFUSE to sell animals during holidays and search the buyer’s background as much as you have searched theirs.  

Kitten Buying 101 – What questions to ask a breeder

This is the next article in our Kitten Buying – Do’s & Don’ts series.  We have already reviewed what to look for in a contract.  Now it is time to discuss questions you should ask a breeder.

You should first ask yourself two questions to determine what kind of breeder you want to buy from. Do you want a small hobby breeder or a larger, more commercial breeder?  Do you want to be able to visit the cattery or are you comfortable buying sight unseen?

Here are just a couple of very important questions you need to ask a breeder. Based on the answers you are getting, these questions allow you to determine the size of the breeder and how trustworthy they are.

1. How long have you been breeding and what registry do you belong to?

Honestly, the answer does not matter. Length of doing business does not guarantee that you are dealing with a responsible breeder. You still want to ask this question so you can find out if the breeder is honest.  For example, if a breeder tells you they have been breeding for five years and they register with TICA, you should call TICA and verify that they are a breed in good standing.  TICA will tell you for how long this breeder has been a member.  If the information obtained from the breeder does not match what the registry gives you, you may very well be looking at a deceptive person.

2. How many breeding cats do you have?

This question is not about the number of cats, but rather about the breeder’s integrity and honesty. Prior to the phone call, you should look at their website/facebook page and see for yourself how many breeding cats a breeder appears to have.  Pay special attention to the female cats a breeder has.  You might see only 2 or 3 on their website, but might notice more on their Facebook page.  You may see female cat names that are not listed on the website.  Sometimes, a cat can be referred to on an official website differently than on a Facebook page, i.e. ”XYZ Cattery Queen Sheeba” on the website vs. “Honey Bunny” on Facebook.

A sure fire indicator that you are dealing with a breeder who has more than 4 breeding females is if they do not offer shipping. Shipping sight unseen is not allowed without a USDA license if a breeder owns more than four (4) breeding females. Some breeders may state they do not ship out of concern for the welfare of the kitten.  Please note that airlines are heavily regulated to ensure that the kitten stays safe, so this argument needs to considered a “reddish” flag.  The breeder might state that they use private pet transporters.  Please note that this does not circumvent USDA licensing unless you are given the option to decline the kitten with a full refund of your purchase price.

If you cannot find any information whatsoever about the breeder, stay clear. 99.9% of breeders have a web presence of some sort.  Not finding anything at all (not even show report listings) is not a good sign.

3. Do you show?

 If the answer is yes, great! It shows a breeder’s commitment to improve on his/her cats which is the ultimate goal of any program.  If the answer is no – don’t automatically discard the breeder.  A breeder might not be able to show because of non-compatible commitments in his/her personal life, i.e. kids.  Don’t listen to a breeder telling you that you are a fool buying from someone who does not show.  This is a frequently used tool to discredit another breeder to get sales.  Not showing does not mean that you are dealing with an irresponsible breeder.

4. Can I come visit?

Even if you are located thousands of miles away clear across the country, ask that one question. Stay clear of any breeder telling you that you cannot come visit or that wants to meet you in a parking lot.  You will be told that “I live by myself and it’s just too dangerous” or “My cats are very valuable and who knows what germs would be dragged in” or any other possible excuse they can come up with.  This is never a good sign.  At a minimum you should be able to see the kitten in person as well as its mother.  Just because you are asking, does not mean you will actually visit (great if you can).  Once the breeder extends an invitation to visit, you can tell the breeder that it is probably too far, but you were wondering if they could arrange for a Skype session.  The breeder should be happily obliging.

5. Can you send me a blank copy of your contract for review?

A breeder should gladly send you a copy of their contract. If the breeder tells you they do not believe in contracts or refuse to send you a copy without getting a deposit first - big red flag!

6. When do you let your kittens go?

Any breeder should answer that question the same way: “After the second vaccine at 12+ weeks”. Under no circumstance should they let a kitten go any earlier – ever.

If you are still not sure after having had this conversation with the breeder and want to make sure you re indeed dealing with a reputable and responsible breeder, contact us.  For a minimal fee we will research the breeder of your choice and give you peace of mind.

Kitten Buying 101 – What to look for in a contract

One of the steps in researching a potential breeder is taking a look at their contract before you ever give them any money.  This is when you have the most leverage and can suggest additions/amendments to the document prior to handing over your deposit.  Some contracts might be just a page long, others might consist of eight plus pages.  Regardless of how extensive a contract is, there are some pitfalls you definitely want to avoid:

No contract?  Do not consider buying from a breeder who does not offer a contract – Ever!  No ifs, and's or but's about it!

Any contract you sign should at least offer the following information:

1.  Kitten's name, DOB, Litter # and physical description of the kitten including breed. 2.  Name of both the dam and sire. 3   Contain a  basic health guarantee.  Three days to have a vet check from date of pickup/receipt. Congenital defect/hereditary illness clause. The best contracts contain additional life-time guarantees for replacement and state how/when/what the kitten will be replaced for (FIP, HCM, Hip Dysplasia, Congenital Disease, etc.)   and what they will replace with (kitten of similar value, same color, same sex, when available, etc.) 4.  A replacement/refund policy and time allowance for the return of deposits, payments, etc. 5.  A paragraph of your responsibilities such as kitten care, no declaw, etc. 6.  A spay/neuter clause (if applicable), or state whether the kitten will come spayed/neutered. 7.  A designation of legal venue if any issues arise. Usually the breeder's location. 8.  A list of what the kitten comes with (vaccines, wormings, etc.). 9.  A return policy for the kitten for any other reasons not stated. 10. List the veterinary clinics name where kitten received its assessments and vaccinations.

1. The basic kitten description should include the kitten’s date of birth and parentage, plus litter number and physical attributes. Example: Female: Cattery Name-Princess Description: Short Haired,  Brown-Black Spotted Tabby. DOB: 2016-03-12, Litter Reg # BV596943, Sire Name: Cattery Name-Handsome Boy, Dam Name: Cattery Name-BeautyQueen.

2. Most breeders will guarantee a kitten/cat to arrive free of disease and parasites (negative for Feline Aids and Feline Leukemia, negative for intestinal parasites, no obvious signs of a kitty cold) for a standard period of 72 hours.  You must take the kitten to the vet within that three day period and have it tested to verify it is healthy.  Because of incubation periods, you cannot expect a breeder to uphold a health guarantee past 72 hours as any positive test may very well be the result of exposure at the kitten’s new home – your home.

Typical basic testing should include a test for Feline Aids/Feline Leukemia and a fecal float for detecting worms.  Because some “bugs” are not detected through this very basic test protocol, we also highly recommend you have two specific test panels performed :

The gastro-intestinal panel that will rest for clostridium perfringens, cryptosporidium, feline coronavirus (FCoV), feline panleukopenia virus, Giardia, Salmonella, Toxoplasma gondii and Tritrichomonas foetus

The upper respiratory panel that tests for herpes, calici, chlamydia, bortadella and mycoplasma infections.

These tests are not cheap (around $150/each), but will give you peace of mind knowing that your kitten is 100% o.k.

Make sure that the contract clearly states what happens if a kitten is diagnosed with any of these “bugs” within the initial guarantee period.  You need to ask if the breeder would pay for treatment. Any breeder not willing to pay for treatment of illnesses discovered during the initial guarantee period is not one we recommend you buy from.

3. Should a kitten be diagnosed with a life threatening or incurable illness (such as HCM, FIP, PKD, FeLV/FIV, etc), the breeder will usually want it returned in order to grant a refund/replacement.  No good breeder should make you return your pet to receive a refund/replacement.  A good breeder will offer, but never demand and make a return the condition for a replacement or refund.  It is bad enough if a pet buyer has to go through the heartache of dealing with a sick and doomed kitten, but a return is unimaginable for most as they of course fall in love with their new family member almost instantaneously.  Be aware that breeders bank on the emotional bond you form with your new furry friend and know that you will not return it giving them the contractual right to refuse a refund/replacement.

In the event of the demise of your pet, the breeder will most likely ask for a necropsy.  In great many instances, this is not necessary.  HCM is diagnosed without a necropsy.  PKD is diagnosed without a necropsy.  And in many instances, FIP is also diagnosed without a necropsy.  You need to be prepared to perform a necropsy in the event that your vet does not know what the issue is or feels there is lack of evidence supporting a definitive diagnosis.  A breeder wants to make sure that a kitten did not die from neglect or a non-genetic issue, but rather from an illness/defect they are responsible for.

A lot of the life threatening illnesses are hereditary.  Please educate yourself about your chosen breed and make sure that the breeder includes a guarantee specifically for any genetic issues a specific breed might have.  Many breeders scan their cats before and regularly during breeding and you can ask for proof of this.

4. A contract should outline your responsibilities as a pet owner, requiring you to provide regular (annual) vet care and reasonable emergency care.  It should require you to keep your cat indoors and also not to declaw it.

5. The breeder should require you to spay or neuter your kitten by a pre-defined date unless it is already altered when you take possession.  There might be a monetary penalty in the event you fail to fix the kitten. The aim here is to reduce pedigree cats from contributing to the overpopulation of shelters and feral colonies, Backyard Breeders etc.

6. It is very typical for a breeder to designate their county of residence as the legal venue in the event of a contractual disagreement.

7. The contract should list how many vaccines and which vaccines the kitten has received as well as any surgical procedures and/or wormings.

8. The contract should have a paragraph requiring you to return the kitten to the breeder in the event that you can no longer keep it (no refund).

9. If the breeder does not disclose the Vet Clinic where the kitten received assessment or care for you to verify this is a red flag moment. Keep in mind though some breeders give their own vaccinations, but this is rare and in many cases illegal/limited.

In the era of social media, several breeders have added non-disclosure paragraphs to their contracts, also referred to as “gag orders”.  Some are reasonable, some not so much.  It is perfectly o.k. for a breeder to ask you to agree that you do not discuss any details of the contract with anyone other than legal counsel.  It is not o.k. if a breeder asks you to refrain from posting anything negative on social media.  Chances are that upset pet buyers used social media to raise awareness of the breeder’s less than stellar business practices.  So the breeder simply institutes a gag order to prevent this from happening again instead of improving the way he/she does business.

If you are not sure that the contract you are looking at is adequate, please contact us.  We gladly review the contract for a minimal fee. In most instances we can help modify the contract to be mutually beneficial. A good contract is clear, concise and communicative, don't settle for anything less.

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