If you wouldn’t buy a second-hand car from a breeder, then you shouldn’t be buying a pet from them either!
A lot has been written on the internet about the benefits of choosing a good breeder, with a strong reputation for health, welfare and good type. Pet owners often find themselves wondering who to trust (and whom to trust their money with!), and how to tell the difference between a “hobby breeder” as described above, and someone “breeding to make wonderful pets”? After all: We all want a wonderful pet. And where better to find that wonderful pet, than in the home of someone not focused on show wins or overly fussy about pedigrees, but who cares passionately about making lovely babies from their pets? Usually, these lovely pets have no documents or “pedigrees” but still look exactly like the internet images of your favourite breed, and their babies are much cheaper than registered pedigree kittens. It is also very possible that these pets will come with perfectly legitimate pedigree registration documents, from genuine pedigree registries, but are registered as “not for breeding” by their breeders.
Often, these “breeders” have dedicated websites which look every bit as convincing as those of “reputable breeders”, but have not looked into the genetic history of their cats, or have jumped onto the fashionable band-waggon of cross-breeding pedigree cats to produce kittens “for improved health”. For you, the buyer, there is no protection from health defects which can kill kittens or cats at a very young age, and which often cost a fortune in vet fees. Often these less-dedicated pet-producers continue breeding, regardless of death and ill-health, spurred on by the fact that unlike reputable breeders who put their lives on hold for their pets (because good breeders count their cats and dogs as pets first), they are able to make a profit from their sales, by cutting corners which will make a big difference to the pocket of the owners as these pets age. However, for these “breeders”, focusing only on quick sales with no return or assistance to their buyers, they will sell kittens younger than 12 weeks, often only vaccinated once -if at all- without micro-chips and always un-castrated. All pedigree kittens from registered breeders in the UK will leave their breeder covered by 4 weeks of free insurance from PetPlan.
Backyard breeders do not invest in new lines and new breeding animals, obtained from top lines of healthy cats. Not for them the best food, the best equipment, the best vet care and an active investment in their cats’ health and welfare. Not for them the careful management of each queen’s reproductive system, to ensure that she does not deplete herself in exhausting litters until her health is poor and her quality of life is affected. Vets will wearily tell of “moggy breeders” whose queens arrive in pitiful states of advanced infection and can not be saved, who are abandoned at the vet for lack of funding, usually with litters of kittens who slowly die over the next weeks, despite 24h veterinary care. Our vet asked us to teach one such “breeder” to nurse her tiny, desperately ill newborn kittens, only to have her return them to our vet in their shopping bag, stating that she just couldn’t do it. Her female had lost 2 nipples from mastitis before she brought her in, and 5 out of 6 kittens died. This is the very real situation in the homes of many such “hobby breeders” who are known by reputable breeders as “Backyard Breeders”. We have heard it all, from our families and vets.
Price is no indicator of reputable breeders, and sometimes you do not get what you have paid for. The general rule is to visit the breeder in question. Ask to see the adults, ask questions about them and listen to the responses. Do the responses seem genuine? Are the breeders able to give you veterinary references or put you in touch with their vets if you need reassurance? How do you feel about them and their home environment? Is it an environment that inspires you with confidence? Does it seem peaceable? Or are there fights breaking out and problems between the residents? How are the breeders dealing with any such problems? Take your time. Visit several breeders, but do not ever visit two breeders on the same day: You can not know the illnesses which might be affecting one breeder, and you are putting the lives of the second breeder’s kittens and cats at very real risk, by visiting them on the same day. Trust your instinct. Does the breeder seem genuine? Are they keen to share knowledge with you? Do they have time to devote to answering your questions and to allowing you to enjoy their cats and kittens? Do you feel rushed or forced into making a decision? Do they offer a lifetime relationship with you, and do you feel able to have one with them?
Often the difference between a good and a bad breeder is not black and white.
Much like the Russian Blue: good practice is declined in shades of grey.