WHAT IS A CONTRACT? A contract actually is quite simple. It’s a lawful and enforceable mutual understanding exchanging some type of good, service or money. Everyday we abide by contracts whether that is pumping gas at a gas station in exchange for money or trading an apple for an orange at lunch.
While it can be legitimate, verbal contracts and even contracts written on a napkin are not situations you want to find yourself in when it comes to purchasing a cat or kitten. There are much better ways to execute a contract. It's best to sign a document that has been typed, edited and signed at a notary, with a lawyer or through an e-doc signing program that provides a paper trail.
Whether you are a buyer or a breeder, contracts are not meant to catch someone in the act. It is an opportunity to get everyone on the same page. It reminds everyone that this adoption is serious, and outlines what each party should expect from the other in return for this beautiful companion. It also serves as an all-in-one place to lay out everything that was spoken about and provides something that can be looked back upon if something goes wrong to avoid a he said, she said situation.
You want a contract to be lawful AND enforceable. A lawful contract means the contract was agreed upon by two able minded individuals and something must be exchanged that is legally allowed to be exchanged. To be enforceable it must be able to go to court and be enforced by a court of law. For example, verbal contracts are lawful, but not really enforceable in court, as nothing really proves what was said by either party.
WHO CAN WRITE A CONTRACT?
It is completely legal for two individuals to write up and sign a contract. A lawyer does not need to write it, however it is a good idea to consult one to make sure your contract is lawful and enforceable, should something happen. WHO CAN SIGN A CONTRACT? Primarily any able bodied, of sound mind adult can sign a contract. Those that cannot sign a contract or at least wouldn’t be considered lawful and enforceable in a court of law include:
Really any individual that is unable to make a decision for themselves or is unable to understand what terms they are signing.
An Offer/Acceptance Clause
An offer is made by one party, while the other party accepts it, often in exchange for a good or service. In a contract involving an animal, the animal is considered the “good”. Despite our personal feelings about our companion animals, the term is simply used to classify something outside intangible goods, like a stock or services from a tangible item.
A breeder is offering a kitten. A buyer is
“purchasing” this kitten for money or other determined agreement.
Value exchange (money, kitten trade, stud trade etc.)
What is going to be exchanged for this cat or kitten? For pet buyers this often is money. For breeders this can be money, a kitten back, a stud trade or other agreement both parties have collaborated and defined.
Both breeder and buyer agree to the terms of the contract. This is proven by the written contract being initialed and/or signed by all parties. Timeframe of Offer
In regards to a contract involving a cat or kitten typically there are numerous time frames that should be outlined in the document. A few examples include: -Health guarantees (72 hour health guarantees, genetic guarantees, congenital guarantees etc.) -Returns and refund policies
-Pick up/transport dates
-When payments are due
Obligations and Party Guarantees
This section provides the expectations of each party, what they bring to the table, what they do in exchange for the agreement and terms if these stipulations are not followed.
Considerations on what is received for each party when the contract is fulfilled
Cat/Kitten contracts are lifetime, long term contracts. As long as you pay for, and take care of this cat/kitten you continue to own this cat until it passes away or, in some circumstances, the cattery dissolves/goes out of business, at which time the contract typically is voided.
Legal - how will disputes be resolved
This section details what happens if the buyer and/or breeder breaches the contract. It describes where disputes will be taken care of and how the parties will come to a solution.
Acceptance - signature
As is typical and standard, once all terms are agreed upon both parties will sign and date the contract.
ARE CONTRACTS INVOLVING ANIMALS MORE INVOLVED? In the case of contracts with a breeder, things get a little more detailed outside this basic framework. It’s important that all these items are written down.
This document is not only a bill of sale but an adoption contract. A bill of sale details who you are buying from, who you are, what you are buying and the cost of that kitten or cat. In short it details the sale itself. An adoption contract is the terms buyer and seller agree to in the health and well-being of the cat or kitten and what happens if these terms are not met.
In addition to the basic components of a contract, a breeder should also include (but isn’t limited too):
Information about Cat/Kitten
This can include the cat/kitten’s name, generation, color, pattern, identifying markings, collar color, date of birth, litter theme, parents’ name, registration etc.
The heath guarantees should make statements addressing such things as:
Being free of illness or disease at the time of coming home
A period of time they will be free of communicable disease
A period of time they will be free of genetic and/or congenital disease
Medications or Vaccinations that have or have not been given
A period of time the cat or kitten must be evaluated by a vet to confirm the cats health
If the vet finds something now or even in the future, how should this information be documented and how does it need to be presented to the breeder
Quarantine periods from arrival
Stipulations of pet insurance
Things the Health Policy doesn’t cover
This section applies only to cats sold with breeding rights. It should include:
When this cat can be bred
How long is acceptable if this cat does not produce before a replacement or refund is appropriate and what that looks like for both breeder and buyer
Situations required to prove infertility
Breeding related illness such as pyometra
Breeder Guarantees This is a broad topic and is very subjective to each individual breeder. Some strictly stick to what is reflected in the health guarantees only. Others may make more extensive guarantees covering topics such as:
Cosmetic defects like a kink in the tail or a strange marking
Whether that cat is spayed or neutered
Paperwork and test results that are provided
Additional clauses may be stated if the cat is being sold for breeding or showing such as:
Development after leaving the cattery
The kittens that they produce
Who the kittens can or cannot be sold too
Breeding rights for said kittens.
Again this is a broad topic, but it includes statements generally concerning the welfare and basic care of the cat or kitten:
If this cat should remain inside
Declawing and Devocalization
Selling or giving the cat to someone else or an organization
Kitten never to be SOLD, LEASED, or GIVEN AWAY to any Pet Shop, Shelter, Research Facility, or any similar Facilities.
Transport and Pick Up
When this period is
If it is included in the purchase price
Terms if the cat or kitten isn’t picked up on time
Price breakdown and due dates which can include purchase price, deposits, payment plans, final balances and discounts.
What is nonrefundable
Payment options and if there are fees or other special instructions
How long a buyer has to respond to messages sent by the breeder prior to picking the kitten up before that kitten is considered forfeit by the buyer
Returns, Rehoming, Refunds and Replacement
Situations where a cat can be surrendered back to the breeder
(Again know laws for your location, in some states for example, pet laws will not allow for “repossession”, but a pet can be “returned” (surrendered voluntarily)
What qualifies for a return Stipulations that must be met before the cat is returned
Terms if the owner cannot keep the cat
Terms if the cat is ill
Terms if the cat passes away
Terms if the buyer wants a refund (in full or in part)
Terms when a “Replacement Kitten” comes into play, if offered.
Be concise yet very specific. Even if this makes your contract long, you do not want to leave room for interpretation. If you ever have to go to court these statements will help the judge determine what kind of breaches of contract there are on either party's part. You want to make sure to include statements that can also account for any unforeseeable issues in the future. NOTE: Make sure you are aware of specific clauses that are required by law in your municipal, state or country and include these in the contract.
READING A CONTRACT
Thoroughly read a contract and make sure you understand the terms of the document. If you have concerns or changes to suggest, speak to an attorney, as well as with the breeder. While statements and clauses may be long, don’t skip and submit. Even if you don’t read a contract, if you initial and sign, those marks are giving the assumption that you have read and agree to all aspects of that contract.
While reading a contract you may notice a few things that hit your gut or make you second guess what you are doing. These are called red flags and you absolutely need to listen to them. Red flags now, likely mean red flags down the road. It is valid to bring these concerns to your breeder’s attention. Proceeding will heavily depend on how they handle this situation and resolve any concerns you may have.
Common Red Flags
There is no contract
The contract is written by hand, verbal, in a social media message etc.
There are no health guarantees
You cannot return the cat or kitten or the breeder will not help you find a new home,
if you cannot continue to own this cat
Kittens are rehomed before 12 weeks of age
No spay/neuter clause if the kitten isn’t already spayed or neutered
No statement of registration for your kitten
Once you are done reading the contract you should have very little questions, meaning the breeder has answered all questions and tied loose ends within the contract. Of course if you do still have questions by all means reach out to the breeder for clarifications and modifications. Remember contracts exist in our world on a very daily basis whether that is a trade, a verbal agreement or even a promise.
If you are a breeder, know how to write a lawful and enforceable contract that can hold up in a court of law. A contract is just as much protection for you as it is for your buyer. It is a common ground, where information is all out on the table where both you and the buyer know exactly what to expect during this agreement.
As a buyer, when it comes to purchasing a kitten or cat whether as a pet or for breeding always have a lawful and enforceable contract agreed upon and signed by both yourself and the breeder. Make sure everything is written down, that you understand what is being described and that there is equal consent to the terms of the contract. Regardless if you are a Breeder or Buyer, if there are any red flags, listen and proceed with caution or walk away. Never jeopardize you or a kitten’s future by ignore them.
DISCLAIMER: The author of this article is not a lawyer or attorney and this article does not replace legal advice or oversight. This article is intended for educational purposes only.