Buying a Pedigreed Cat

Buying a Pedigreed Cat

When you purchase a cat from a reputable breeder who is active in the showing community, you should get a cat from a line whose ancestors were judged as to how well they met the standards of the breed, and which has been part of a program designed to breed healthy and robust examples of the breed in question.

Buying a kitten is an important and long term commitment so you want to choose a breeder that has the best interests of the cat, their breed and you in mind.

A reputable breeder will be registered with TICA and perhaps their breed club, for example with Bengals a breeder might be a member of TIBCS, both organizations have a Code of Ethics.

How to find a pedigreed cat

The best method of finding a breeder of a pedigreed cat is to go to a cat show. If you can't find a cat show that is convenient for you to attend, or if you cannot locate a breeder of your chosen breed at a local show, you can phone or e-mail the various cat registry organizations and ask them for a list of breeders working with a given breed, or you can use Breed groups such as (for Bengals) The International Bengal Cat Association (TIBCS) .

Extensive lists of breeders can be found at The International Cat Association, as well as a wealth of information and links to breeder sites. Breed-specific clubs or societies also exist and can provide lists of breeder members. These groups usually have a written code of ethics their members agree to uphold. Many of the other cat associations also can provide breeder lists.

The cat association websites also have listings of their upcoming shows. As mentioned above attending a cat show is a great way to meet reputable breeders and see their cats. Breeders who show strive to produce cats that meet the breed standard – the physical ideal for that particular breed. At shows breeders and their cats are subject to scrutiny by experienced judges and exhibitors who can quickly spot a bad apple in their bunch. Therefore, cat shows are usually good places to meet reputable breeders. Kitten producers care nothing about the breed standard or showing their cats, since they are breeding for profit rather than to improve the breed.

Depending upon the breed you've chosen, you may or may not be able to find a breeder with available kittens. The less common breeds and the breeds in high demand generally are sold through waiting lists. If you find a breeder you like but he or she has no kittens available, you may want to ask to be put on the breeder's waiting list (you'll have to put down a deposit), or the breeder may recommend other breeders who have available kittens. Responsible breeders associate with one another and help each other meet the demand for kittens. If you're flexible on color, pattern and gender you'll have an easier time obtaining a kitten. Or you can ask the breeder to inform you when kittens become available. Be patient. It's better to wait and get a quality kitten from a reputable breeder than buy on impulse.

If possible, find a breeder in your area, so you can visit the cattery and see the kitten before you buy. However, this is not always possible, particularly with the less common breeds, and you may have to go outside your area to find a good breeder. In that case, you'll need a breeder who is willing to ship the kitten to you. If the breeder lives out of your area, at least see a photo of your kitten (the entire litter if you can) and photos of the parents before buying. Many breeders have websites where photos of their cats can be seen; be sure to ask. And checking references and contacting previous buyers from a breeder is one of the very best things you can do to limit risk.

What to look for when picking out a kitten.

Many people wonder what they should look for when buying a pedigreed kitten. Here are three points of consideration when you are choosing a kitten:

  1. Health. Is the kitten clean and robust looking? Does the skin feel clean and free from "bumps", scabs, or any sign of skin irritation? Are the eyes bright and clear? Does the nose have any discharge? (It shouldn't.) Does the kitten have good muscle tone? Is the kitten skinny looking with ribs or backbone showing, or does it have a "pot" belly? Healthy kittens should not have a "pot" belly, nor be so skinny that they have ribs or backbones protruding. Watch the kitten walk or run about. Inquire about vaccinations that have been given.

  2. Representing the Standard for the Breed: Even when you buy a pet quality kitten, the kitten should bear a strong resemblance to the standard for the particular breed. Read the Breed Description in this publication to understand what characteristics a particular breed should have. Also, look at the Breed illustrations to get a visual idea of what a particular breed should look like.

  3. Personality and Behavior: Healthy well adjusted kittens should be full of bounce and play. Very young kittens might be shy, and even try to run away and hide when they see a new person. There is however, a difference between a shy kitten and a kitten that is ill or has personality problems. A shy, quiet kitten will usually be content to be held and petted. A very lively kitten might be so "busy" that it squirms when you try to hold it. Watch how the kitten behaves when it is held by the breeder, and then see how it behaves when you hold it. The breeder should be able to "show off" the kitten at its best. If the breeder is not able to engage the kitten in play, or handle it without difficulty, you probably should on that kitten. A kitten that is hostile and behaves in a threatening manner is not a good candidate for a pet.

Breeding Pedigreed Cats

When you think about buying a pedigreed kitten it probably seems like a simple task. After all, cats are rather common creatures, they seem to be abundant, and haven't we always assumed that cats reproduce quickly and easily? The pedigreed cat and the breeders of pedigreed cats have not been well publicized in the past, but as cats have moved into the spotlight as the number one choice of a family pet in the United States the pedigreed cat is gaining recognition.

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Breeding Stock

The general public has little awareness of what is involved with breeding pedigreed cats. A breeder must acquire good breeding stock to produce top quality cats. This is no easy task. Breeding cats must have pedigrees and "type" (structure) good enough to produce kittens that will represent the breed and be an improvement of the breed. Top quality breeding cats can cost many thousands of dollars. Buying a pair of top quality breeding cats does not guarantee litters of show quality kittens, and it is not enough to have just one male and one female for a breeding program. Breeders are constantly trying various combinations of their breeding cats to find which mating will produce the best quality kittens. Offspring from one breeding will need to be mated to other cats, thus requiring additional breeding cats and possibly an outside stud service which can cost anywhere from several hundred to several thousand of dollars.

The Cattery

Most breeders establish a cattery area in their home, which means a room or area that is just for cats. Usually the cattery is furnished with special cages for males, and females with young kittens. A grooming area may also be included in the cattery. Some breeders have a separate building to house the cats. Many breeders employ cattery help for cleaning cages, feeding and grooming duties. The cattery area, whether it be a special room or area, or a separate building, will need to be furnished with litter pans, water and food dishes, cages and cat trees and whatever else the breeder feels is necessary to maintain the cats in a good environment

Health and Records

Pedigreed breeders must maintain good health of their animals and of course keep accurate records on all of their cats. Cats must be kept up to date on their vaccinations and treated for any illness that might occur. The breeder is subjected to special health problems in a cattery situation because if one cat becomes ill, the proximity of the other cats means possible exposure. The cat breeder must also deal with breeding dilemmas that few people realize. A breeding male may not be ready to sire at the time when queens all season at the same fume. A planned mating may not result in conception, or a queen could abort a long awaited litter. A queen may require a c-section if she is not able to deliver her kittens easily. A c-section is usually quite expensive, kitten mortalities are high and the queen will usually require a year's rest before another breeding can be planned. Because breadings are planned for producing the best possible results, the breeder soon realizes that planned breedings are a different story than simply allowing random breeding to occur.

Cat Shows

Breeders determine the quality of their pedigreed cats by showing their cats at cat shows, where expert judges score them as to how well they adhere to the standard for the breed, how good their general health and disposition is, and how well groomed they are. Cats that show special merit may become Supreme Grand Champions (terminology varies from association to association), and possibly even go on to be ranked regionally or internationally. There are also special merit awards for breeding cats that produce a large number of Grand Champions to recognize how much they have contributed to their breeds.

The cost of the kitten

You have now had a look at what is involved in the life of the pedigreed cat breeder. You've discovered that the breeder has made a sizeable monetary investment in acquiring breeding stock, setting up a cattery and maintaining the cats, and showing the cats. There are also other miscellaneous costs that the breeder faces such as registration fees for litters and individual cats, cat club dues, subscriptions to cat periodicals that keep the breeder informed about the world of cats, business cards, photographs of the cat, cage curtains for shows, cat beds, toys, etc.

There is also a considerable time investment for the cat breeder. Daily chores must be done; cleaning litter pans, feeding, watering, and grooming. The time spent traveling to shows. And the special times when a breeder sits up all night waiting for a queen to deliver a litter, or when it's necessary to attend to a sick cat. There is also the time required to type up pedigrees, fill out registration papers, fill out entries for shows, and keep records on the cats.

When you purchase a pedigreed kitten the breeder has already invested a great deal of money and time to produce that kitten.

Consider just what is involved from the time the kitten is born until the kitten is old enough to be sold and you can see that there has been a sizeable investment by the breeder. Delivery of kittens must be watched carefully for signs of problems. The diet of nursing queens is often supplemented. Any signs of illness in the Queen or kittens must be treated promptly. During weaning the kittens must be monitored closely to be sure they are eating properly. Some kittens must be hand fed for a few days to teach them to eat solid food. After kittens are weaned they must have their vaccinations, be fed a good diet daily and, of course, be provided with daily care and grooming. The kittens also need to be handled and given the space to develop their growing bodies.

Pet quality kittens are priced far below the cost of buying a breeding cat or show quality cat. Yet, many people seem to assume that a pet quality pedigreed kitten will be priced in the same range as adopting a mixed breed cat from a shelter. Rarely does the public realize that the price for a pet quality pedigreed kitten reflects only a fraction of the cost to the breeder to produce that kitten, and costs just as much to produce as the next show winner or champion breeder.

Pet Quality — No Breeding Allowed

Many times people that are looking to purchase a pedigreed kitten are surprised to learn that the breeder stipulates that the pet kitten must altered, or may already be altered before being placed for sale. There are several reasons that breeders insist on this. The active responsible breeder is dedicated to improving the breed they are working with. This means that only the best quality kittens should be used in a breeding program. Kittens that have "slight faults" which are usually only apparent to a pedigreed cat breeder, will cause the breed to regress instead of improve. Some of the "slight faults" might include ears that are too large or too small, a color fault, poor eye color, or head and / or body conformation that does not meet the standard. To the untrained eye these kittens still look perfect and they make wonderful, loving companions.

Occasionally, a breeder might offer a high quality kitten as a pet perhaps due to having more kittens than normal. In this situation it might seem quite confusing to understand why the breeder still insists that the cat be altered.

Each active show breeder has a cattery name that is used to identify cats that are produced by that breeder. The cattery name appears on pedigrees, registration certificates, in show catalogs or whenever a particular cat is mentioned. Due to the investment of time and money involved with breeding cats, each breeder takes pride in protecting their investment and their cattery name.

Breeder & Show Cats

The show breeder is working towards producing special cats that they can show themselves — expect when asking for a "top show" kitten, that the price will usually be very high, particularly if you just want a "top show" kitten just to say you have one.

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On the other hand, if you are actively interested in showing cats, and learning more about the fancy, be sure to let the breeder know that you may be interested in a "show alter" — a cat that can be competitive in the alter (neuter and spay) classes at cat shows. Often these cats can actively contribute to winning merit awards for their parents, and breeders may be looking for a special home interested in showing to place hese cats.

If you want to purchase a breeder cat as a new breeder, go back and re-read this document a few times, with the shoe on the other foot, and see if you really feel you are ready to dedicate the time and money to this hobby that it requires. If so, then the place to "break in" is by actively showing a cat in an alter class. This allows you to show your commitment to showing, meet breeders, and most importantly, learn to evaluate cats. If you can't evaluate how well a cat meets it's breed standards (and thus how well you can expect it to do at a show), then you certainly won't be able to critically evaluate your own potential breeding stock. Some people rail against the show alter direction as a way of "paying ones dues" before going into breeding, but it protects both you and the cats from making mistakes and doing something you are ultimately going to regret.

Misconceptions

Some people are under the mistaken notion that breeders don't want the pet quality kittens to be used for breeding because the breeder does not want competition in the pet kitten market. The reputable breeder is working hard to breed the "perfect" cat -- and is not in "business" to produce pet kittens.

The breeder's goal is to reach a point of producing top quality kittens that will be able to compete at shows or to contribute to future breeding programs. Producing pets is certainly not the goal of the pedigreed cat breeder! In fact, a breeder would be delighted if every litter never produced a pet quality kitten.

Another misconception is that breeders must make a "nice little income" selling cats. When you add up all the expenses that a breeder encounters you will quickly realize that breeding cats is not an income producing venture! The sale of pet quality kittens probably doesn't come close to covering the cost of just the cat food bill for a couple of weeks for the breeder. The sale of a breeder or show quality cat might cover the cost of a few show weekends. And, keep in mind that breeders only produce a few kittens a year, not hundreds!

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So You Want To Be A Breeder

You love your pedigreed cat, and you know other people would as well. She’s got a beautiful coat, brilliant green eyes, an a great temperament.   But before you begin imagining the adorable kittens you could breed and sell, it’s important to learn about the reality of becoming a cat breeder.

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