Having researched and chosen your desired breed, the first port of call would be to call the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF) or the Cat Association of Great Britain (CA) who are registration bodies for pedigree cats. Their details are given at the end of this article. Both organisations will be able to provide you with contact details of a suitable Breed Club that caters for your chosen breed.
Alternatively, both the GCCF and CA list cat clubs on their web sites, and many clubs now have their own web sites; you may be able to email directly from the club web site and request the club secretary to provide you with information of breeders with kittens available.
Alternatively, you could purchase a cat magazine in a newsagent and check breeders’ adverts for kittens available. Many breeders advertise in the local press too. If, after reading books and magazine articles, you are not sure which breed you want, why not visit a cat show to see all the different breeds and the different colours and patterns which exist; you will not be able to buy a kitten at a show, but you will be able to talk to the owners and breeders about the characteristics of the different breeds.
Never be tempted to buy a pedigree kitten from a pet shop or dealer: no breeder who cares about their kittens will sell through a third party – they will wish to meet the new owners and make sure that they are suitable for their kittens.
What should I ask the breeder ?
Once you have found a breeder, give them a call to discuss the availability of kittens. They should be able to tell you what kittens are available, and the quality of that kitten. Pedigree kittens normally fall into one of three categories:
Show quality pedigree kittens are the most expensive to buy, because their breeders consider them outstanding examples of the breed, based on a standard, and anticipate that they will compete well at shows. If you wish to buy a show quality kitten, consider buying from a breeder with a proven track show record.
Breeder quality pedigree kittens are kittens that fail to meet the show standard in some small way, yet they possess enough good qualities, in addition to their pedigrees, potentially to produce outstanding offspring. Breeder quality kittens may sell for slightly less than show quality kittens.
Pet quality pedigree kittens are usually the most affordable. They may be faultless, but on the other hand they may have some minor flaw that makes them unsuitable for showing or breeding. The ‘pet-quality’ designation in no way means that the kitten is less healthy or less desirable to own.
If the breeder comments that pet quality kittens are available, be sure to find out why the breeder considers them so, and ask the breeder to point out any faults in the kitten. Many breeders will sell only their very best kittens for showing or breeding but will be quite happy for a kitten which is sold as a pet to be shown as a neuter, provided that the kitten has no major faults and the new owner accepts that it will not necessarily be a winner.
Many breeders will only sell male kittens to be pets or show neuters because they do not wish them to be used at stud.
When you make enquiries about kittens, be honest about what you are looking for. If you think that you may wish to breed from your kitten at a later date, or may wish to show it, say so. Do not try to get a cheaper kitten by asking for a pet, since you may find out later that its kittens are ineligible for registration or that it cannot be shown.
What you then need to find out :
Age of the kitten
Reputable breeders will not sell kittens below 13 weeks of age, which is in line with GCCF guidelines. CA specify a minimum of 12 weeks of age. This is because both organisations recommend that kittens are fully vaccinated against FIE (Feline Infectious Enteritis) and ‘cat ‘flu’ before they leave the breeder. This should have been completed at least a week before the kitten leaves home, in order to minimise the stress to the kitten and to ensure that it is fully protected before it goes to its new home.
Temperament of the kitten and its suitability to your lifestyle.
This is a very important subject, as some pedigree cats will not adjust well to a life without companionship if you are out at work. If your circumstances mean that you are away from home a lot, it is kind to consider two kittens to keep each other company. Ask about breed characteristics.
Sex of the kitten.
Both male and female kittens make excellent pets when neutered. Kittens should be neutered at around 4-6 months of age. A few breeders will have their pet kittens neutered before they sell them.
Toilet habits of the kitten.
Do ask if the kitten is litter trained, and what type of litter it is used to, as sudden changes in procedure may upset your kitten’s habits.
The grooming requirements of the kitten.
Some pedigree cats like Persians require a lot of commitment from their owners. Ask the breeder how much grooming is required for the kitten.
Has the kitten been vaccinated?
You should not purchase a kitten that has not yet received its vaccinations. When purchasing, you should be provided with a certificate of vaccination signed by a vet.
Is the kitten insured?
Many pet insurance companies now offer breeders a ‘free’ six weeks insurance period. Moving to a new home is a very stressful period for a young kitten, and so insurance is always welcome to overcome any problems within that period.
Is the kitten registered?
Most reputable breeders will register their kittens with either the GCCF or the CA. This will prove to you that the kitten’s sire (father) and dam (mother) are registered cats. It may act as an indication that you are not dealing with a breeder who has obtained pet quality cats and is breeding them for profit purposes.
How much is the kitten?
Prices of pet kittens vary from area to area and from breed to breed. If you are doubtful of the price quoted, double check with the club secretary what an acceptable price is for that breed.
Visiting the breeder
Having questioned the breeder on these points, the next stage is to visit the breeder at home to view the kitten. Potential buyers should always see kittens in their home environment. When viewing the kittens, you should not be alarmed or upset if the breeder asks you to disinfect your hands before touching the kitten; it is for the kitten’s protection and is a perfectly acceptable and responsible practice. You should avoid visiting different breeders on the same day, as you could be responsible for passing on infections from one kitten to another.
Assess the kitten’s behaviour
Firstly, you should be able to see how the kitten has been reared. Is it well socialised and friendly, or is it scared ? Obtaining a well-socialised kitten is essential. Frightened cats do not make the best pets, they are sometimes impossible to handle and groom.
Ask where the kitten has been reared.
Is it outside in a cattery, or is it inside with constant attention from the breeder ? Kittens which have been reared outside may find it very difficult to adapt to a normal household environment.
Ask the breeder if it is possible to see the sire and dam of the kitten.
Breeders often use male cats owned by other breeders, so do not be suspicious if this is the case, and the male is not on the premises. The mother should be available however, and the breeder should have no hesitation in showing her to you. It is possible that if she has reared a large litter, she may not look in the best condition: some queens will put all their energy into feeding their kittens and become very thin in the process despite being fed an excellent diet. Longhaired queens may have had their coats trimmed, at least underneath. Apart from this the queen, like the kittens, should look clean and healthy.
Ask to see the whole litter.
This will allow you to see how socialised and healthy they are.
Ask to handle the kitten.
Is the kitten in good health and in good condition ? It should have bright, clear eyes and an alert personality. The size and weight will vary between breeds, but the kitten should feel solid and well covered. A healthy kitten should not sneeze or show mucous discharge from its eyes and nose. The ears should be clean and free of wax. The anus should be clean and not show any signs of diarrhoea. The coat should be clean and not show any signs of parasite infection. To inspect the kitten for fleas, check in the coat for grains of black dirt, which is flea excrement. Beware of any scabby patches on the skin, since these could indicate that the kitten has ringworm. Play with the kitten and check how it reacts. Is it playful and relaxed, or is it fearful and unused to being handled ? If so, look elsewhere for a more socialised kitten.
Ask the breeder if their cats are free of Feline Leukaemia Virus (FeLV) and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV).
Responsible breeders will have had their cats tested for these diseases, and will be able to assure you that your new kitten will test negative to these diseases.
Ask about breed-related problems
If you are buying a Persian or Exotic Shorthair kitten, ask if both parents have been screened for Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD). This hereditary disease can lead to an early death from kidney failure, so it is sensible to seek a kitten whose parents have certificates to say that they are clear.
Ask if the kitten has been wormed.
It is important that cats and especially young kittens are wormed on a regular basis.
Ask to see the kitten’s pedigree.
This is a record of its ancestors. It should show the names of the kitten’s parents, grand parents, great grand parents and great great grand parents, together with all their breed numbers and registration numbers. Ask if the kitten is registered or is able to be registered: if either parent is registered on the Non-Active Register with GCCF or is endorsed ‘not for breeding’ with CA, the kitten cannot be registered with either organisation. This is particularly important if you are planning to buy a kitten for showing or breeding. If you are planning to show or breed, you will need to check that the pedigree is acceptable for this: some matings will produce kittens which make excellent pets, and which may be acceptable for breeding, but cannot be shown – these are often known as ‘variants’, such as the shorthaired kittens from a cross between a Balinese and a Siamese.
Ask to see the vaccination certificate.
The kitten should have received two doses of vaccine, usually with a 2-3 week interval in between. The kitten should be vaccinated against FIE (feline infectious enteritis) and ‘cat ‘flu’ as a minimum requirement. Many breeders also vaccinate against feline leukaemia as well.
Ask the breeder to point out any faults on the kitten.
For example, it may have an incorrect dental alignment, or maybe be a male with only one testicle. Ask the breeder the effect of these faults, and if veterinary intervention may be needed, and if so, the anticipated costs of such veterinary care. If you may wish to show your kitten, ask if there are any faults which preclude this. For instance, a tail kink is no problem at all in a pet kitten but is not acceptable on the show bench.
Ask about diet.
It is important that you feed the kitten what has been recommended by the breeder, as sudden changes in diet can lead to upsets.
Take your time
Do not feel rushed to make a decision. Most breeders will be happy for you to go away and think about the kitten – some will even insist on this. After all, it is a very long-term commitment for you to provide love and care to the kitten for many years.
Make sure that both you and the breeder are happy about the kitten sale. If you do not think the kitten is what you are looking for, do not hesitate to say so; the breeder will then know that the kitten is still available for sale and will not be put in the position of refusing further enquiries. On the other hand, if you do want the kitten, make sure that the breeder is prepared to reserve it for you if it is not ready to leave home.
If the kitten is not yet old enough to leave home, the breeder may ask for a deposit to secure the sale of your chosen pet. This is quite acceptable, but do ask for a written receipt for the deposit, giving full details of the kitten which you have booked. Ask if the deposit is refundable if you change your mind.
Collecting your kitten
When you collect your new kitten, you should make sure you have a suitable cat carrier. Please do not carry the kitten unsecured and never ever drive with a cat loose in the car. You should have all accessories ready at home – food supplies, feeding bowl, water bowl, bed, litter, litter tray, grooming equipment etc.
The paperwork you should receive from the breeder is as follows :
Registration/transfer slip which you and the breeder complete to transfer the kitten into your official ownership
Hard copy of the kittens pedigree
If GCCF registered, a copy of the Code of Ethics.
Insurance certificate if the kitten is insured.
Diet sheet outlining the kitten’s care and dietary requirements. The breeder may ask you to sign an agreement to ensure that the kitten is neutered.
Receipt for payment in full. It is strongly recommended that you have the kitten checked by your own vet within 48 hours of purchase.
If, for any reason, you have to part with your kitten, please do contact the breeder before doing so. Many breeders will take the kitten or cat back at any age or, if this impossible, help to find it a suitable home. Some insist that anyone who buys one of their kittens must sign an agreement that if they have to part with the kitten in future, they will contact the breeder first.