The term “registered breeder” denotes that a person is a member of one of the numerous cat registering bodies. These are located all over the world and have similar aim and objectives, cat welfare being the most important. Being a member of a club does not automatically make you a registered breeder. Registered breeders have a cattery prefix or suffix to identify themselves and registered their cats using these names. They only breed purebred cats according to the recognised standards set out by their registering club. All their breeding cats are registered and have registration papers. Registered breeders should adhere to the rules and regulations of their clubs concerning the keeping and selling of their cats.
The term “backyard breeder” denotes a person who breeds cats and is not a member of a cat registering body and does not have a cattery prefix. They may have purebred or domestic cats. If they have purebred cats, their cats may have originally come from a registered breeder who sold the kittens as pet only without papers, expecting the new owners to have the kittens desexed. They might have been given a kitten by a friend and decided they want to have kittens of their own. Or, in some cases, they see cat breeding as a way to make money, because they see lots of kittens in pet shops selling for high prices. To these people, cats are a commodity, not an animal.
Whether someone sells their kittens undesexed cannot be used to differentiate between a registered breeder and backyard breeder, nor whether someone sells their kittens to pet shops.
Early desexing (from 7 weeks of age) is a topic of great debate between breeders, rescue organisations and vets. Advocates for early altering believe it contributes to reducing the number of kittens and cats in shelters. Advocates against it believe that it subjects the kittens to various risks due to their physical immaturity. It is true that the vast majority of backyard breeders sell their kittens undesexed, many registered breeders do as well. The difference is that most registered breeders sell with a desexing contract that is signed by both parties when the kitten is sold.
There is also the person who, due to ignorance, lets their female cat have a litter. This may happen because they do not have her desexed before she comes into heat and she is allowed to roam outside or because they wrongly believe a female cat should have “just one litter” before being desexed. They are not backyard breeders, just misguided in their knowledge of cats. Most will have their female desexed after one litter. If they do not, they can then be classed as backyard breeders.
Why buy from a breeder rather than a pet store, private party, or newspaper ad? While buying from a breeder does not insure you a healthy, well socialized cat, buying from pet stores or newspaper ads is often risky business, and may cause you considerable grief and expense in the long run.
Reputable breeders do not sell their kittens to pet shops, so pet shops often obtain their kittens from less than pristine sources, such as the so-called backyard breeders or kitten mills. Such kitten producers breed only for profit and care little about the health, happiness, and long lives of their animals. Their cats often live in deplorable overcrowded conditions; have infrequent handling and no socialization, and little veterinary care. No effort is made to ensure genetic health by carefully planning the breeding and choosing the most genetically compatible mates.
Don't assume that any breeder who maintains a cattery in his or her residence is a backyard breeder, however. Most reputable breeders operate their catteries out of their homes, so they can give their cats the attention and care they need. The emotionally loaded term "backyard breeder" can be misleading; it actually refers to the quality of care and concern and the slipshod, assembly-line method of breeding, not the location where the breeding is done.
Newspaper ads can be placed by reputable breeders, but are more often placed by kitten mills and people who have bred their pet-quality purebreds, violating their purchase agreements since pet-quality purebreds are almost never sold with breeding rights. In fact, most breeders withhold the papers of their pet-quality purebreds until the owners have provided proof of alteration to prevent these matings.
While these kittens may be less expensive than a breeder-bred kitten, you generally get what you pay for. Such people generally know little or nothing about breeding cats. Too, these cats usually cannot be registered or shown since the owners cannot provide pedigrees or registration papers, and without papers you can't tell if the cat you're buying is a true purebred at all. If you buy from a newspaper ad, be even more scrupulous about investigating the seller.
First Things First
Before you begin shopping for your dream cat, you'll need to do your homework. First, you'll want to decide which breed is best for you.
Once you've chosen the breed, it's very important to learn as much as you can about it before you begin looking for a breeder. That means becoming familiar with the breed's standard, characteristics, personality, strengths and weaknesses, potential genetic and health problems, and grooming requirements and other special needs. You need this information if you are to be an informed consumer.
Fortunately, the Internet is a wonderful resource for breed information. Begin by reading the PetPlace Breed Profiles. The Cat Fanciers Web Site at www.fanciers.com is also an excellent online resource. Also, visit the cat associations online, since many offer standards and other information on each breed they recognize:
· American Association of Cat Enthusiasts (AACE) www.aaceinc.org
· American Cat Fancier's Association (ACFA) www.acfacat.com
· Canadian Cat Association (CCA) www.cca-afc.com
· Cat Fanciers' Association (CFA) www.cfainc.org
· Cat Fanciers' Federation (CFF) www.cffinc.org
· National Cat Fanciers' Association (NCFA) www.nationalcatfanciers.com
· The International Cat Association (TICA) www.tica.org
· The Traditional Cat Association, Inc. (TCA) www.traditionalcats.com
Finding a Breeder
After you've chosen and learned all you can about your breed, check out the breeder listings in cat magazines such as Cats and Kittens (www.catsandkittens.com) or Cat Fancy (www.animalnetwork.com/cats). Their websites also have breeder listings.
In addition, extensive lists of breeders can be found at the Fanciers Breeder Referral List, www.breedlist.com, 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 cat associations also can provide breeder lists.
The cat association websites also have listings of their upcoming shows. 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.
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.
Below is a "checklist" to help you recognize a reputable breeder.
- Has no more than 2 or 3 breeds of dogs or cats.
- Their breeding dogs or cats and offspring are healthy, well socialized and appear to be receiving good care.
- Does not breed females that are too young or too old.
- Puppies or kittens are raised indoors (not in barns or outbuildings), where they are exposed to various household noises, are handled by many different people and are kept clean, warm and well fed.
- Won’t let puppies go to new homes before 8 weeks of age and not less than 10 weeks for kittens.
- Openly discusses positive and negative aspects of the animal/breed.
- Asks you many questions about your lifestyle and experience with animals to ensure you are a good match for one of their puppies or kittens.
- Is a member of their breed club; many breed clubs require members to comply with a code of ethics.
- Is knowledgeable about heritable disorders in the breed and will discuss how they breed to avoid such disorders.
- Provides, at no extra charge, valid paperwork for registration and vaccine certificates for the puppy or kitten you are purchasing.
- Never sells puppies or kittens to a companion animal dealer or pet store.
- Has a contract for you to sign that lists your responsibilities to the animal you are purchasing as well as their responsibilities, and outlines their health guarantee for the animal.