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.