Finding a good quality, ethical and responsible breeder to buy breeding cats from can be really hard work. I’ve written in the past on finding quality breeders, most of which was geared towards kitten owners making sure certain boxes were checked in order to get a healthy, well socialized kitten from a quality breeder to avoid scammers, backyard breeders, sick and under socialized kittens.
Up until recently I honestly provided almost the same advice to those looking for mentorship or breeding cats as to potential kitten owners.
While I have only been a breed preservationist for about 5 years, there are very few breeders at this time that I truly trust and work with. In reality most breeders have a small group of breeders they work with, many of whom are close friends, mentors, and mentees.
Unfortunately, there are situations that require you to find a new stud or queen outside of your group for one reason or another and that is where things can get a little sticky.
It's super important to look past close friends, Facebook appearances, beautiful coats, or even extravagant show titles when looking for your next breeding cat.
In general, when Breeders give advice on finding a kitten we suggest finding a breeder who:
-Is registered with a known cat registry such as (but not limited to) TICA, CFA, FiFE etc
-Provides access to their cats and kittens if they are an open cattery via pictures, videos or cattery visits, and If they are a closed cattery through regular pictures, videos, FaceTime or other forms of transparency.
- Send kittens home no sooner than 12 weeks
- Preferably spay and neuter before going home or otherwise have a spay/neuter clause in their contract
-Have a contract
-Cats and kittens are health tested, especially for all relevant breed specific diseases and mutations
These are very basic guidelines for finding a quality breeder whether you are a pet buyer or a breeder looking for a cat or kitten to add to your program, BUT THERE’S MORE!
Breeders want to ask you questions as a potential new owner of one of their kittens, whether you're purchasing a kitten as a breeder or a pet, and it is so important you ask them questions as well. It’s not unreasonable to ask them all the same questions you are being asked by them if you cannot find the answer on their website, and even then, asking in person or on the phone is a great idea. Breeders are less filtered and you can hear the tone in their voice. We all can type whatever we want on our websites, but talking to someone also tells you a lot. Questions that are reasonable to ask include:
What is their home like?
How are their cats housed?
Are they an open cattery or a closed cattery? If a closed cattery, why?
Can you see pictures or get a video walkthrough?
How many males and females do they have? How often do they breed their females?
Is breeding a full time job or a hobby for them?
Why are they breeding and what are their goals or focus?
What are their weaknesses as a breeder?
What weaknesses are there in their program? How do they combat them?
What is their experience with the breed?
Do they have mentors? If so, who?
Do they associate with fellow breeders? If so, who?
Do they show? If not, why and how do they make sure they are breeding to the standard?
Have you ever had a kitten/cat returned and what were the circumstances?
These questions and lists are simply guidelines to evaluate breeders. It is important you feel comfortable with who you are working with and ask as many questions as needed. It's a great way to start a dialogue, get to know a breeder and get them to know you! This will be a partnership. You are trusting them to provide you with a quality cat for your program, but they also are trusting you to provide their baby with a quality life while they are with your cattery.
While the above questions and checklist items should be enough, it's always best to go a step further. There are many situations that I have both experienced and heard of where we all assumed this was enough. We had no red flags, the breeder was reputable, and still fishy things happened. After these experiences, we all question ourselves. What could I have done differently? How did I not know? How can I avoid this in the future?
Some things to further look into include but is not limited to:
We all have a life whether you are a breeder or a buyer. We all have jobs, chores, children, other family members, and deserve time to ourselves. But in reality, breeders run a business and it’s important they communicate and can follow through on that communication. Things to consider:
-What is their response time? If their response will be longer do they let you know AND follow through on getting back to you in that said time span?
-Are YOU the one having to regularly follow up with them?
-How thorough are their responses?
-Do they explain themselves, show a base of knowledge of health, standard, diet, behavior etc? -Do they seem dismissive in their responses?
-How consistent are their responses? Are you noticing things they said before that they aren’t saying now, or are stories and details changing?
-If promises are made (like providing paperwork for example) are they responding in a timely manner or do they forget, procrastinate, and respond with constant excuses?
Are those reasons reasonable and seem legitimate? Is this a trend in communications?
-Check the registered catteries lists on their registry website.
-Keep in mind the classified list (often a separate list from the registered catteries list) is PAID. If the breeder didn’t pay for a listing they won’t be on the list, but this doesn’t mean they are not registered
-Keep in mind the list of registered catteries are ALL catteries registered with that organization in the history of that organization. It doesn’t mean the cattery still is breeding or even in good standings.
-Keep in mind one simply pays a fee and fills out a form to become a registered cattery. They are often not sponsored by the organization or obligated to be inspected by them at the start or during their breeding career.
How to Check registration.
-If the breeder is not willing to show their registration certificate, call the registry to make sure they are a registered cattery. It doesn’t hurt to call to make sure they are in good standings as well or view/ask for the organizations Suspended Members/Disciplinary list
-Keep in mind personal information is on various forms of registration and this information has been used by scammers and backyard breeders before, so if a breeder is skeptical about sharing this or certain information is blacked out, don’t immediately write them off
-Keep in mind a breeder can be suspended and their spouse or other family member might be registering the cats instead
Check the registration of the cat.
-Ask for registration papers or call up the registry.
-If you are purchasing a kitten and not an adult, ask for registration of the parents
-Make sure the breeder is the registered owner of the cat or kitten
-Make sure that they have breeding rights and the right to resell if you are purchasing an adult that did not originate at that cattery.
A registered cattery name appears in a cat’s registered name as well. The first part of the cat’s name is the cattery who produced that cat, while the last part is the cattery that owns the cat.
1. Rowan is the cattery this cat came from
2. Maverick by Design is the cat’s name
3. Of Elysian is the cattery the cat is owned by
-Keep in mind there is a character limit for registered names so sometimes the cattery that owns the cat may not fit in the name but the registration paperwork will tell you who bred the cat and who owns the cat.
I teamed up with another cattery. BengalLily was the cattery of the female and the stud was my cat. I kept and owned this female. On the registration paperwork you will see the Breeder is the owner of BengalLily Cattery and the Owner of the cat is my name. If there was no character limit, her name would have been BengalLily Inverse Enigma of Elysian, but her name filled the character limit.
The catteries a Breeder associates with also can be a good indicator of their work ethic and morals. You quickly can see who and what a breeder is about from reviews, talking with other breeders who have worked with them, google and general happenings and observations on social media sites. The breeders we work with and the lines we carry can greatly reflect our own ethics and values as well.
It isn’t unreasonable to ask a cattery why they chose to work with a particular breeder.
What is their attitude towards other breeders in general?
Were there any issues and if so, how were the issues handled?
How was their disposition when they realized something was not right?
Is there anything you should be aware of or concerned with when working with this breeder?
It’s important to evaluate a breeder based on their past, but also the present. Things do change, and things can go by the wayside, we all have been in that position, but it’s important to recognize when it has gotten to a point where a breeder is overwhelmed and the standard they used to work at is no longer present in their life. Maybe they aren’t health testing like they used to, maybe they have too many cats and can’t remember who was bred to who or lost their program focus. Every interaction contributes to a reputation. Reputations in the current and recent are just as valid and important, as those formed from the past. Request references from the breeder, not only from pet buyers, but also people they have sold breeding cats too. In addition, ask around and do your own research to get a well rounded feel of this breeder.
This is not about cattery bashing or drama. There is always a chance a breeder doesn’t feel comfortable answering these questions. Respect that. Make it perfectly clear that your intention is to get a fully educated and well rounded opinion of those in your community and who you want to work with.
In addition to the catteries a breeder works with and has lines from, it’s important to look at pedigrees. Not only does this provide information about a cat’s history, but this can provide information about health history, genetics, line/inbreeding, diversity and much more.
Make sure the cat/kitten is tested
If you are skeptical about the reports you receive follow up with testing organization -No matter how much you trust a breeder, test the cat//kitten yourself and make sure there are clauses in your contract that clearly outline the procedure if test results do not match what the breeder said, or indicate an unhealthy cat. do not match what the breeder told you, the kitten should be taken back by the breeder and full refund issued immediately.
-If the breeder does provide test results, make sure you understand the results and that you can spot something “off.” For example if one parent is a color point and your kitten doesn’t carry for that gene, they are not the parent.
In addition to questions specifically about the kitten, ask if the breeder has had any illness or disease in their cattery. This is not a gotcha moment. Almost any cattery with a medium to large program will have something that has run through the cattery. This DOES NOT MAKE THEM A BAD BREEDER. You are not a bad parent if your child gets sick, some things are not always in your hands. Illness and disease is so much easier for a cattery setting to acquire. The more animals you have, the quicker illness and disease spread. In addition it is possible to accidentally bring something back from the vet, a cat show, or for visitors to bring something in. Ask about how they dealt with this issue.
Finally, ask if they are open to running a respiratory and fecal polymerase chain reaction test aka PCR. An in-house fecal done by their veterinarian is not sufficient. You need a PCR to truly ensure the cat isn’t carrying parasites. This is an additional cost for them and while some breeders are willing to front the cost, it isn’t a bad idea to offer to pay for these tests yourself. If this is the case:
-Request to directly pay the vet or lab versus the breeder
-Request the veterinarian performs these tests and you are cc’d on all results.
This ensures the breeder is not using the money for something else or forging test results.
-Make sure to include these stipulations in your contract including if the cat is ill, how are you protected, as most breeders will not want to perform these tests without some sort of commitment from the buyer.
Many breeders have a waiting list. They have a demand and they can generally fill that demand for kittens. That being said, a breeder should have the capabilities to hold onto and provide for a kitten should they not find a home if the timeline is extended. However it may be a red flag if breeders consistently offer sales, deals, and payment plans. This could be a sign they are struggling financially and that there will be other red flags or issues down the road. There are times that it is appropriate to offer a discount.
The number one rule is always have a contract in place. Contracts not only protect the breeder but it also protects the buyer. It is common ground to terms and expectations that are understood and followed by all parties. Make sure you request a copy of their contract. You should be allowed to read this before placing any money down or making any commitments.
There really are no exceptions to a contract. Do not agree to the terms of a hand written contract (typed up and edited contracts are ok), contracts written in text message, on facebook or other social media sites or verbal contracts even if the breeder is your best friend or family.
A contract should include but is not limited t
-Specific information about the cat or kitten you are purchasing
-Health guarantees and information in case something goes wrong
-If this cat or kitten is for breeding, fertility guarantees
-Both buyer AND breeder guarantees
-Information on returns and rehoming
-Clearly written out payment terms and conditions.
-Inclusion of additional terms and conditions that were discussed with the breeder outside what is written in their contract
Thoroughly read a contract and make sure you understand the terms of the contract. If you have concerns or changes to suggest, speak with the breeder.
For detailed information on writing, reading and understanding a contract view our article.
There are circumstances where you are purchasing an adult rather than a kitten. There are a few additional things to keep in mind when considering an adult versus a kitten.
-Make sure the breeder is the owner of the cat.
-Know who the breeder of the cat was if it is not the person selling it.
-Ask the breeder and the breeder of the cat if this person has the right to sell this cat. -Ask the breeder the same questions we reflected on in regards to working with the breeder you may be buying from.
Overall, trust your gut - it usually is correct. Acknowledging the red flags now will avoid problems in the future. If something is too good to be true…it probably is. Even if the lines seem good, the cat is beyond beautiful, and the cattery has many titles, it may just not be worth the emotional, financial, and physical costs that will follow instead. If you drive, fly, or pay for transport and you are second guessing things, it is ok to contact the breeder. We absolutely do not want an animal to suffer, but by still purchasing that cat, you are voting with your dollars that what that breeder is doing is perfectly fine. IT IS OK TO SAY NO! It is not worth risking your wellbeing, your reputation or the health of your cattery to go against your gut.