Choosing a cat breeder
Why a registered breeder?
You will not be supplied with the cat’s papers and you don’t know anything about the cat’s history. Almost all unregistered breeders offer no guarantee with kittens they sell, many don’t perform routine checks on their animals, nor do they DNA test for genetic diseases.
Most breeders sell kittens microchipped, treated for parasites, fully vaccinated and already desexed. This saves you time running around organising it yourself and also saves money because breeders are able to pass on their veterinary discounts and therefore save you money.
Does the breeder guarantee the health of the kitten and if so for how long? Is it ok for you to e-mail or phone them with any queries once you have the kitten at home? Any breeder worth their salt will be happy to provide you with as much help as is required after you’ve bought your kitten.
A few years ago I bought a black Oriental kitten who passed away from a blood-related disorder 2-3 weeks after we brought him home. I didn’t contact the breeder because to this day I still don’t believe it was anything to do with her, however, somebody else did contact her and when we spoke, she told me she wanted to give me another kitten for free. She didn’t have to do that, especially when it wasn’t her fault, but she said we couldn’t say with 100% certainty why he died of this condition and she felt the responsible thing to do was replace the kitten. We were very grateful for her kindness. I am not suggesting it was her responsibility, but it was a goodwill gesture from an ethical breeder.
Keep a check on emotions:
Don’t buy a kitten just because you feel sorry for him because he looks sick or unhappy. You may think you re doing the right thing by getting the kitten out of such an environment but in the long run, you are not doing any favours. By lining the pockets of unregistered and or unethical breeders who don’t take proper care of their animals you are just encouraging them to continue by buying their stock. Once again, you will often end up hugely out of pocket with veterinary bills etc.
If you are unsure if a breeder is registered with the cat body they claim to be, ask for proof of registration. If they won’t supply this, go elsewhere.
Choosing the right breed for you
Have a think about what you are looking for in a cat. Do you want one who is constantly by your side, or would you prefer a more independent type of cat? What about coat length? Do you want a longhaired cat or a shorthaired cat? The following articles may help you to choose the perfect breed to suit your needs.
How much does a purebred kitten cost?
Prices of pedigree cats can vary on the quality and the breed.
Breeders sometimes sell cats who may have a minor flaw. This can be incorrect eye colour, a slight kink in the tail or a white spot which doesn’t meet the breed standard. These don’t have any effect on his health or personality. So, if you are buying a pedigree cat just as a pet and you don’t plan to show or breed, a pet quality cat is perfect. These are cheaper than show and breeding quality cats. When you speak to the breeder let her know exactly what you want your cat for. If you want to show your cat, you will pay a little more for a show quality cat. Generally, breeding cats are the most expensive to buy.
Less common breeds also tend to be more expensive. It costs a lot of money to obtain breeding stock, particularly with newer or rare breeds who often have to be imported from overseas. As a general rule of thumb, expect to pay $800 for a more readily available breed such as a Burmese, and upwards of $1,000-2,000 plus for less common breeds.
What to look for in a healthy and happy kitten
If possible look at the parents as well as the kittens, their nature will give you a good indication of what their kitten’s nature will be like. Do the cats appear happy and healthy?
When you are deciding on a kitten give him a discreet look over, check his ears, eyes, bottom, and nose. Look at the cat in the photo above, who looks healthy.
Assessing the health of a kitten:
Clear and vibrant, there is no crusting or discharge either from the eyes or the nose. Never buy a kitten with discharge coming from the eyes or nose or dirty ears.
Healthy pink colour with clean white teeth and no bad breath.
The coat should look and feel healthy, you should not see or feel any dry skin, scabs, bald patches or signs of fleas. There should not be a greasy feel to the coat, which could mean the kitten has not been properly groomed by his mother.
Looks and feel well nourished, and not be scrawny (there’s a difference between scrawny and slender, as some breeds naturally are). The belly should be round, but not pot-bellied (which is a sign of roundworms).
The kitten should be confident and outgoing. Most kittens either going at 100% or sleeping. They should be comfortable with strangers and curious.
Many breeders will ask you a lot of questions, this is because they have raised these kittens from birth and want to make sure that they are going to the best possible home and that you, the buyer are fully aware of the responsibility of owning an animal that can live for up to 20 years.
Some questions the breeder may ask you may include
Do you plan for the kitten to be indoors only?
Many breeders won’t sell their kittens to people who plan to let their cats outside, unless they are either supervised, in an enclosure or on a harness. Too many cats are killed on the roads, or by other animals.
Will you be breeding from this cat?
If not, the breeder may well desex the kitten before you take him home.
How much time do you spend at home?
If you are out for long hours daily the breeder may recommend you get a second cat. This is because a cat left for long hours daily will get lonely and could even become destructive.
One final comment, responsible breeders go to a great deal of effort to keep their cattery disease free so please show a little respect when you go to visit a kitten and don’t go directly from one cattery to another. This is especially important when you are handling young kittens as their immune systems are not fully developed.
Questions to ask the cat breeder
When you go to choose a kitten it is important to ask her what you get for your money. The most common questions are:
- Does the kitten come desexed?
- Does the breeder regularly check her cats for infectious diseases? Such as FIV (Feline Immunodeficiency virus) and FeLV (Feline Leukaemia).
- Does the breeder screen for inherited genetic conditions specific to the breed?
- How many vaccinations has the kitten had? When is its next one due? You should get a signed vaccination certificate from the breeder.
- Does the kitten come microchipped?
- Has the kitten been regularly wormed?
- Does the kitten come with official cat club registration papers? If so, do you get the papers when you pick up your kitten or when you show proof the kitten has been desexed? Will the pedigree be transferred into YOUR name or kept in the breeder’s name? Some owners don’t mind what name the official pedigree remains in, while others do. It is better to sort this out before money has exchanged hands.
- Does the breeder offer any kind of medical guarantee for the first few days after you have taken the kitten home?
- Is the breeder registered and if so, with whom?
- Are they willing to provide you with help and advice AFTER you have taken the kitten home?
- Is the kitten you’re buying a pet, show or breeding quality?
- If you want to show your cat, make sure you specify this to the breeder in advance. When you collect your cat, ensure you have the official cat club pedigree, and that it is in YOUR name.
- Get everything in writing, so if there is a dispute at a later date you have evidence of health guarantees, promises made by the breeder. This may help your cause if you have to take either legal action or contact the breeder’s official cat club.
Watch for scammers
Sadly there are people who use the Internet as a way to scam people who are looking for a cat or kitten. Do your homework!
I recently responded to a classified advertisement for a corgi puppy. I am aware that these dogs are rare, so was quite surprised when the seller told me she had four puppies available and could freight one to me immediately. When asked if they were registered and what her prefix was, she chose to ignore my question. She wanted immediate cash payment into her bank account.
- An anonymous name such as Jane Smith or Paul White
- A free email service, gmail or hotmail
- Trying to push you into a quick sale
- Wanting cash (I was told by this person her bank doesn’t accept direct deposit)
- No online presence or results (I Googled her name and nothing came back). Not all cat breeders have a website (and with so many options, it’s easy for a scammer to set one up). But cat breeders DO exhibit their cats at shows, so once you have their prefix (see below), you can search for the name, and you should see show results.
A registered cat breeder MUST have a prefix, which is the name the cattery has registered with the appropriate cat council. If a breeder can not provide you with their registered name AND the cat council who holds the registration, they are either a backyard breeder and/or they are scamming you.
Some of the more well-known cat councils include:
- CFA (Cat Fanciers Association)
- TICA (The International Cat Association)
- GCCF (Governing Council of the Cat Fancy)
- WCF (World Cat Federation)
- FIFe (Fédération Internationale Féline)
- ACF (Australian Cat Federation)
- NSWCFA (New South Wales Cat Fanciers Association)
- ANCATS (Australian National Cats Inc.)
- QFA (Queensland Feline Association)
When you find a breeder, I recommend the following:
Ask for their prefix and search for the name with Google (or another search engine)
- Search for the breeder by name. Ie; Jane Doe, Raggiesarethebest Cattery
- Be wary of breeders who try to rush you into buying a kitten.
- Always leave a paper trail when it comes to payment. Don’t pay cash.
- If it is an online listing with photos, save the photo to your computer by right-clicking, visit www.tineye.com and upload the image. This will show if the photo has been used elsewhere or stolen.
Things to buy for your new cat
Before your kitten comes home you will have to buy a few items.
- A cat bed, with or without a blanket.
- Cat toys, most cats love toy mice, but even basic homemade toys can provide hours of entertainment. Anybody who has owned a cat knows how much pleasure they get out of hiding in paper bags and cardboard boxes. They also enjoy batting around a screwed up piece of paper.
- Food bowls. Stainless steel, china or glass are preferable to plastic bowls. You will need at least two. One for food and one for water. Clean fresh water MUST be available at all times.
- Litter tray. I like to buy the small sized trays to start with. I feel the larger ones can be a little too overwhelming for a small kitten. You can upgrade to a larger one once the kitten has grown. It is best to start by using the same cat litter the breeder used. If you want to change this, do it gradually over a few days by mixing in a little of your preferred litter. There is a lot of controversy over clumping litter and it is not our place to pass judgment on such matters. It is up to you to become informed and choose which kind of litter suits you best. That said if you are planning to use clumping litter, at least wait until the kitten has grown up. Clumping litter should NEVER be used with kittens.
- Scratching post.
Choosing a veterinarian
It is important to find a vet both you and your cat can trust. You will build a relationship with your vet that will last for up to 20 years. Ask friends and neighbours who they use. Your breeder may be able to recommend a vet in your area.
When you find a vet, ask if they have an after hours number. If they don’t, can they recommend an alternative vet for after-hours emergencies? It’s always wise to get this information before the event. Hopefully, you will never have any reason to call an emergency vet, but it’s always prudent to be prepared. Don’t choose a vet based on price alone, the cheapest vet isn’t always the best choice.
Bringing your new kitten home
What the breeder will supply
You are now about to go home with your new kitten, but before you do, have you found out the diet that the kitten has been having and will need to have for a while when you get it home? What type of litter it has been used to. Almost all breeders will give you a starter kit to go with your kitten. It generally includes a small sample pack of the food the kitten has been used to eating, a diet sheet and any other information you need to know relating to the kitten’s care.
Ensure you have a proper cat carrier to take your kitten home in. You will use this quite often as you take your cat back and forth to the vets over time.
The first few days at the new home
Now that you have your kitten home there are a number of things to remember. Your kitten may be quite timid for a few days, this is normal. Make sure that you have the kitten in one quiet room of the house to start with so it can get used to that room and then allow it to explore from there. If you are able to, have the kitten with you for the first few nights as it will need the company to help him get over the shock of suddenly being on its own. A hot water bottle wrapped in a towel and a ticking clock can often help settle your kitten down.
Feeding your new kitten
Your kitten may not eat for the first 24 hours so don’t be too worried if this happens. He will soon get over his reluctance to do so. I have found that small juicy tidbits like cooked chicken meat are very good for this especially when given on my knee.
- Never give your cat cooked chicken bones.
- Don’t give your cat food straight from the fridge, warm it up a little in the microwave first, but be careful it’s not so hot the kitten burns his mouth.
- If you want to give your kitten milk you can buy specially formulated cat milk from the supermarket. This is lactose-free. Cats often have a problem with the lactose in cow’s milk and it can upset their tummy.
If you have any problems, your kitten’s breeder should be more than willing to offer you over the phone support. Most breeders will give you a diet sheet, try to stick to this because a sudden change in diet can upset a cat’s tummy. If you don’t wish to feed the food the breeder has been using then SLOWLY introduce your chosen brand of food over a few days.
Isolate your kitten in a quiet room for a few days to let him settle in. Do not allow contact with other cats you may already have for a week or two. Definitely, hold off doing this until your new kitten has had a thorough check-up with your own vet and been given a clean bill of health.
Kittens can get into all sorts of trouble so it is important to cat proof your home before the new arrival. Make sure the toilet seat and lid are down at all times. Many kittens have drowned in the toilet. If you have houseplants, make sure they are nontoxic to cats.
Make sure cupboard doors are closed at all times and never leave the washing machine or dryer door open. Keep medicines and poisons in a child-proof cupboard.
I STRONGLY recommend taking your new kitten to your own vet for a checkup within a day or so of bringing him home. This way, if there are problems with his health, they can be picked up quickly and you can contact the registered breeder. If s/he has sold you a sick kitten, they have an obligation to either pay the vet’s bills or take the kitten back and give you a full refund. If your kitten is sick, ask the vet to put it down in writing so you can pass this information onto the breeder. Make sure you take a photocopy for your own records.