10 Questions for a Cat Breeder

Kitten with breeder

Persian, Siamese, Maine Coon or British Shorthair – no matter which breed you decide on, if you want a real pedigree kitten, the only option is to find a reputable cat breeder. But how do you know that your chosen breeder is really serious, and that their kittens are healthy? To make sure you’ve made the right choice, we’ve put together 10 questions that you should ask your breeder.

Are you sure you are suited to being a cat owner?

Before deciding to get a cat, you need to think about whether you are suitable as a cat owner – getting a cat is a big change. You will suddenly be responsible for a living creature with its own needs and demands, and you must always consider your cat when making decisions. Who will take care of the cat over the next 10 to 15 years, provide it with plenty of exercise and entertainment, feed it a healthy diet and ensure it is properly cared for? And who will look after the cat when you are away? Anyone wanting to buy a cat should think all of these things through carefully before rushing into making a purchase. After all, the last thing anyone wants is for a cat to be abandoned or left at an animal shelter because the owner belatedly realises a cat does not fit into his or her lifestyle.

Does it need to be a certain breed, or definitely a kitten?

If you decide that you are well informed about a cat’s needs and habits, believe you can offer it everything it needs, know which equipment you need to get and everyone in the family has agreed on getting a cat, then there is nothing stopping you from welcoming a velvet-pawed friend into your life!

Maybe there is a certain breed that you have loved since childhood, or you want to follow a cat all through its life from kittenhood to its senior years? If this is the case, then you will need to find a reputable breeder who has experience with your chosen breed and who can assist you with your purchase decision, as well as offering help and advice. Allow plenty of time for choosing a breeder and selecting your kitten. Unfortunately, there are a few black sheep out there, hidden amongst the reputable breeders but much more concerned about making money than about the welfare of their cats and kittens. Before committing to buying from a breeder, make sure you have a good feeling about them and be sure the young cats have been well cared-for. In order to add substance to your gut feelings, we have put together a list of ten questions that can help you test your breeder’s intentions.

10 important questions for breeders:

  • Can I come and visit you?

In order to get a comprehensive picture of a breeder and their cats, paying a personal visit is essential. If the breeder refuses to allow you to visit or suggests meeting on “neutral ground” away from the cats, you can immediately cease contact – a serious breeder will happily invite you to visit and will proudly show you the breeding set up, the cats and any current litters.

  • Where do the cats live with you?

As well as making conversation, visiting a breeder should also involve an inspection of the cats and their living conditions. It’s not about liking their furniture or their choice in carpets, but about seeing whether the cats are growing up in a bright, friendly and clean environment. If the animals are housed separately outdoors, particularly in a cold environment such as a kennel, cellar or shed, then you can be pretty certain that the breeder does not have a love of animals at the forefront of their mind. However independent cats are, they still need close contact with humans and should be used to living alongside us from birth. Therefore, you should only buy from a breeder who houses the animals as a part of the family.

  • May I look at the kittens?

How the kittens react to their breeder and to you can be a good indication of how they are treated and should help with your gut feelings. Are they open-minded and alert? Kittens are curious by nature and want to explore their surroundings. If you find that they are extremely anxious or seem terrified by your visit, or if they are apathetic and cowering, you should be very sceptical. Take a look at the kittens and give them time to sniff you and get to know you. How do the young kittens behave towards you and how they react with one another?

The appearance of the animals can also reveal a lot about their health and wellbeing. Are there bald spots on the coat, is the anal area dirty, and is the stomach bloated? Any of these features can indicate that the breeder is neglecting their animals, and that they are not being cared for and fed in a species-appropriate way. Only buy from a breeder whose kittens are all healthy, with a soft, shiny coat and clean nose, eyes and ears, with no caking or crusting.

  • Can I see the mother cat?

No-one can replace the vital contact that a kitten has with its mother and siblings. Kittens need this proximity to their feline family to ensure they have a good start in life. Together with its siblings, a kitten will learn everything from its mother that it needs to know to have a good life. Therefore, the mother cat should always live in the breeder’s household. If this is not the case or the breeder tries to spin you a sorry tale about the mother dying at birth, be on red alert. Unfortunately, this a scam often used by dubious breeders. Any serious breeder will care greatly for the mother cat and will willingly allow you to see her. The mother should be neither shy nor aggressive, and should happily let the breeder stroke her. Also pay attention to how she behaves with her offspring; if she is annoyed or disinterested, it may be that she is not in fact the real mother of the kittens. You should also ask the breeder when the mother last had a litter. Are sufficient breaks taken between breeding? A reputable breeder will only let a queen have one litter per year at most.

  • When can I take the kitten home?

For a good start in life, developing a healthy character and good socialisation skills, it is important that the kittens are not separated from their mother and litter mates too early. Therefore, a serious breeder will not allow you to take a kitten home with you before it is at least 12 weeks old, and only after they are certain that the kitten is ready to be with its new family. A good breeder who loves and cares for their cats’ welfare will also want to know plenty about the kitten’s new home and family.

  • Are the kittens vaccinated and wormed?

UK law requires that all cats receive so-called “core vaccines”, which protect against panleukopenia, calicivirus, rhinotracheitis (Herpes virus) and rabies. However, there are plenty of other diseases that are commonly vaccinated against, with initial vaccinations happening at nine weeks old with a second set at three months, followed by annual boosters. As kittens are still living with the breeder at this point, any kitten you purchase should already have received all of its necessary vaccinations. Make sure you check with the breeder and see the vaccinations certificates, checking that they include cat flu, infectious enteritis and leukaemia. Check the veterinary stamp, as these first vaccinations can only be carried out by an authorised vet.

Regular worming is also vital for your kitten’s health. As a rule, breeders will worm their cats for the first time about three weeks after birth and approximately every three to four weeks thereafter.

  • Can I see the cat’s papers?

If you value having a pedigree cat then you should pay close attention to the integrity of the papers your breeder gives you. They should include the aforementioned vaccination record as well as a pedigree. For your breeder to have this, they must be a registered member of a recognised breed club. The pedigree will provide information about the parents and grandparents of the kitten, as well as proof that the breeder has met all the breed requirements. A pedigree will only be given to purebred cats coming from responsible breeding, with the parent cats registered at the breed association and testing negative for hereditary diseases.

  • Why did you choose this cat breed?

If you are interested in a particular breed of cat, then chances are you will already have read and learnt a lot about it. You can also assume that a responsible breeder will know everything there is to know about the breed. Ask why they chose this breed and what makes these cats so special in their eyes. A personal conversation with an experienced breeder can not only be very informative but can also act as a small “test” as to the breeder’s seriousness. A breeder should only specialise in a maximum of two breeds and should be able to tell you plenty about their personal experiences dealing with cats. If they are breeding more than two different breeds and can only offer up general, superficial information, then be careful. If you have any doubt, go in search of another more experienced breeder.

  • How much does a kitten cost, and is there a sales contract?

Of course, a good conversation with a breeder should also include a little “business”. A reputable breeder will set a clear purchase price and will not try to persuade you to make a purchase by tempting you with special offers. A real, pedigree cat from a responsible breeder will have its price and will be worth every penny. If the price seems too good to be true, it probably is. Breeders need to invest a lot to breed healthy kittens; the importance of veterinary visits, vaccinations, worming, health checks, high-quality food and good training cannot be underestimated, and a bargain price will not cover these costs. Generally, the wellbeing of the cats and kittens will be suffering to allow a cowboy breeder to offer such a low price. In any case, ask the breeder how they have settled on the price, even if it seems reasonable for the breed. A legitimate breeder will not mind, as they are also looking to stamp out irresponsible breeding and will appreciate your thorough approach!

A reputable breeder should also conclude by making a contract of sale with you, in which you agree to a purchase price and share contact details of both buyer and seller, as well as going through liability conditions and recording identifying features of the pedigree cat.

  • What tips can you give me about diet and care?

In the forefront of every respectable breeder’s mind is a love of cats, as well as the preservative and wellbeing of their chosen breed. It is, therefore, only natural that a breeder will want to know exactly who is taking the kitten home. Personal questions about your job, marital status, housing conditions and hobbies are not asked purely out of curiosity, but allow the breeder to get a more complete picture of you and the home you have to offer. Be open and honest when answering the questions – after all, you also want to be sure that the cat is going to a happy home and that you are well-equipped to look after it for many years to come. Don’t be afraid to admit if you are new to cat-owning and are unsure about feeding or care. It is normal for beginner cat-owners and will not mean that a breeder refuses to sell you a kitten – if anything, a breeder will be happier to know that you are willing to ask questions and take advice rather than merely guessing and risking your kitten’s health! A reputable breeder will also be aware that they have plenty to teach you and will be happy to offer out their extensive knowledge. It is only natural that you will have questions, not only at the beginning but later on. For example, if your cat suddenly starts to behave strangely, refusing food or ignoring its litter box, it can be priceless to be in good contact with an experienced breeder. They will always be happy to help and offer advice, even years after purchase, and will doubtless enjoy keeping in contact and seeing how their kitten has grown!

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