Email is a good way to start; however, by no means should this be the only form of contact. We recommend the buyer either should make contact by phone or in person at least once. This is a two way street. The buyer can see and/or hear what the breeder is like and the buyer is showing the breeder how dedicated he/she is in his search for the right kitten. The relationship between buyer and breeder is very important. Who else will help the buyer with a breed specific kitten question? A good breeder will be available to answer all questions, even years after a buyer welcomed their new family member into their home.
Be sure to familiarize yourself with the terminology. Know what a pedigree is, know what TICA, CFA, ACFA stands for. Ask questions if you don’t understand something. If the breeder claims to show, ask to see pictures/certificates.
The buyer should ask the breeder questions and if the breeder doesn’t have the answers, the choice of that particular breeder should be re-evaluated. Some of these questions should include:
- How many years have you been involved with this breed? Who was or is your mentor? Who is your breed founder?
- Why did you decide this was the breed for you?
- Do you currently show? Have you ever shown, if yes where and when? If a breeder has never shown, why not? (could be they live too far to show or have small children, etc).
- Do you have pedigrees for both parents? Are both parents registered? (If yes, you want to see these documents. If no, RUN!)
- What breed specific health tests have been done on the parents of the litter? A visit to the veterinarian last week doesn’t count when it comes to health testing. For example, a Maine Coon breeder should regularly test their breeding cats for HCM – via DNA test as well as ultrasound by a board certified cardiologist.
- Do you have a sales contract? Ask to see a sample. Pet kittens should be sold on condition of spaying/neutering or come already spayed/neutered. If there is nothing in the contract about spaying and neutering, ask yourself if this is a person you want to deal with.
- What health warranties do you have? What is the health history of the sire and dam of the litter? Know beforehand what diseases afflict your chosen breed. Every breed has something.
- What happens if I can’t keep this kitten/cat? A good breeder will obligate the buyer to return the cat/kitten at any time, no questions asked and find another home for it. The kitten/cat is the breeder’s responsibility for the kittens entire life. This is called a right of first refusal clause and should be in the contract.
- Can the breeder send you additional pictures? When you see the kitten pics on social media, are they clean, friendly and well fed? Runny eyes or kittens that hide in the corner are indications of problems down the road such as an illness, pain, anxiety or are an indicator of an under-socialized kitten. Ask to see a picture or two of the whole litter, ideally with momma. Don’t accept the excuse that the rest of the kittens are sold and you don’t really need to see them. It is very important that you do see them. Maybe there are problems with the other kittens that the breeder is trying to hide. Look at the background of the photo as well, where is it taken, in a home setting or outside pens, is it clean etc.
- What are the temperaments of the parents like?
- Are the kittens raised in the home? Socialization is important for a well-adjusted kitten. If they are kept in a shed out in the backyard or a kennel, thank the people for their time and drive away.
- Is the breeder a member of the breed club or an affiliate club? These clubs have their own screening processes for membership. If the breeder claims to hold membership, call the registry and ask for verification as well as the current standing of this breeder and if he/she ever had any suspension.
- How does this person interact with the kittens? Posted videos will show how the breeder handles their cats and how often they interact with them by how comfortable the kittens/cats are with the camera. How do the kittens interact with the breeder? Friendly? Fearful? Kittens crave play and affection and observing a litter’s behaviour serves as an important barometer.
- If the breeder has a cattery specific Facebook page, follow it along for a while. Do you repeatedly see the same people commenting that appear to have previously obtained a kitten from this breeder? Consider this an unbiased personal reference.
- Lastly, what is your gut feeling about this person? Trust your instincts and people skills. Be wary of the fast talker, the one who boasts extensively. If they can’t provide proof to any claims, then they aren’t the breeder for you. You should feel comfortable with dealing with this person because you will have a long term working relationship with him.
The least favourite thing a breeder wants to hear is that you “just want a pet”. This implies that you are willing to sacrifice quality for a lower price. This will jeopardize your chances of buying a kitten from a good breeder. You need to dedicate yourself to finding the right kitten for you regardless of the price. Certainly a budget can be made and things have to be taken into account like feeding and vet expenses, but think very carefully about what you really want. A healthy kitten that looks like the breed it is supposed to be will cost money. However, in the long run, it will also be a money saver. Vet expenses will be kept to a minimum over time. This kitten will also be a member of your family for years to come. As with anything, buying a purebred kitten is a “buyer beware market”.
Do your homework, take your time, ask questions and be careful.