Quite often have people come to me for a kitten following some truly heartbreaking circumstances.
These people have often gone to what we would term a 'back yard breeder' and got themselves a kitten. How many times have you seen an advert '8 week old Ragdoll kitten - £400' and 'Pedigree Ragdoll kittens - no papers - ready now - £450'.
Many people see these as a 'cheap' alternative to a registered, pedigree Ragdoll from a true Ragdoll Breeder. In truth, these unregistered kittens cost them far more, both financially and emotionally. One of many stories I have heard...
A family came to me for a kitten. They had bought a 'cheap' Ragdoll after seeing an advert for 'Pedigree Ragdoll kittens - not registered, hence £450'. They went to see the kitten and the conditions were terrible. They felt sorry for the kitten, and decided to 'save' it, so they bought it. The kitten was desperately ill, had fleas, ear mites, and was only 5 or 6 weeks old in the vets opinion (they had been told the kitten was 8 weeks when they collected it). The kitten continued to be ill, going back and forth to the vets, and had to be put to sleep 11 weeks later. The 'bargain' £450 kitten ended up costing them just over £1,000. Not such a bargain after all. I repeatedly hear stories of kittens sold before 13 weeks old who have serious medical problems or die very young, for a variety of reasons.
Forgetting the health of the kitten, think about the health and welfare of cats that are being bred from. I today saw an email from a rehoming group, trying to find a home for a Persian cat who had been left with them by a back yard breeder:
"Olivia is a pedigree blue point persian who has been treated as a breeding machine her whole life. She has been aged at about 4-5 years, based on general body condition and also teeth condition, though the poor state of her teeth may be due to a lifetime of bad diet. She was brought to the Cat Haven late on Saturday night by someone who tried to call herself a breeder and when asked for more details about the cats she was dropping off, this woman (after becoming agitated and angry with the staff member) said that the female "has had a few litters but every time she gets pregnant she has to have a caesarian, so she is no use to me anymore." Poor Olivia really has not been looked after well at all, as is usually the case with backyard breeders who don't care about the animals they are breeding, only the money they are making. She had terribly bad earmites and had to have her ears cleaned and flushed, her fur was quite matted and she had urine staining on her belly, feet and tail, indicating that she has been sitting in her own urine for some time thanks to insufficient cage cleaning. A staff member bathed her and groomed out all the matts in her fur and she purred non-stop the entire time!
This little darling has obviously had a life devoid of love and attention and yet she is so trusting and desperate to give love to anyone who will take it. She loves cuddles and chin scratches and is just incredibly affectionate. One particular staff member just can't think of enough words to say how wonderful this little girl is, after everything she has been through so far, all Olivia wants is love.
In addition to the things mentioned above, it appears that due to her unsanitary living conditions and lack of proper veterinary care, Olivia has been allowed to become repeatedly infected with cat flu and as a result she is most likely a chronic carrier of one of the many strains of cat flu."
By buying a kitten from a back yard breeder you are funding this kind of poor animal husbandry. You are just as responsible for what is happening as the back yard breeder is. If people weren't buying their cats, they'd soon stop breeding...
So how do you know if the breeder is reputable?
First of all, they will usually be a member of a breed cat club. Ask them - if they say they are, don't take their word for it - check with the breed club. The breed clubs will set down rules, guidelines and codes of ethics for their breeders to follow. Ask if the kittens are registered, and which registering body they are registered with. The breeder should say that the kittens are registered with either the GCCF, FIFe (Also known as Felis Britannica in the UK), or TICA. When you go to see the kitten, ask to see the registration paperwork. The breeder may well withhold the paperwork until they have received proof of neutering, but they should still be able to show you the registration slip. There are times when this may not be available, such as if there are delays with the registering office. In these instances, ask to see the registration paperwork for the parents. Make sure there is nothing on the registration saying 'Cat is on the non-active register - No progeny to be registered' (The wording may vary between registries). If this wording does appear, then the cat is not registered as a breeding cat, and you are buying from a back yard breeder. If you buy a kitten, make sure you get the paperwork, or sign a contract to say that the breeder will provide this to you when you supply them with proof of neutering. The contract is there to protect you, the breeder and the kitten.
Perhaps the easiest way to find a reputable breeder is to find one through one of the 'GCCF Member' Ragdoll breed clubs - The British Ragdoll Cat Club or the Progressive Ragdoll Breed Cat Club. They will have a list of kittens available, and a list of registered breeders in your area. These kittens will be from cats who are registered for breeding, and will leave home at 13 weeks, fully vaccinated, wormed, insured for 4 weeks and thoroughly loved. You will also have the backup of the club and the registering body if anything goes wrong.
Visit more than one breeder, and don't buy the first kitten you see. Make sure you are absolutely happy with the kitten and the breeder that you are considering.
Why buy your new kitten from registered breeder? (Courtesy Cuddleton BSH)
Purebred kittens are like designer handbags. Sounds crazy but it's true. We all know that there is the authentic designer bag then there are the cheap knock offs. The real designer bags are hand crafted, made with care and attention to detail. They are good quality and you know you are getting what you pay for, the real thing! Cheap knock offs are slapped together in sweatshops from substandard materials. They appear similar to the real thing but look closely and it is clear they are just an imitation. Sadly they often don't last as long as the real deal because they are not well made.
It is the same with registered purebred kittens. A kitten from a registered breeder comes with a registration slip that proves it is the breed they say it is. Unregistered breeders just breed cats that look like the real thing. The only difference between kittens and designers bags (aside from the fur!) is that kittens from registered breeders dont cost more. In some cases they cost less especially when they have vaccinations, microchipping and desexing included in the price. Registered breeders follow the standards set by their associations and breed for love not money.
So buyer beware. Don't make the mistake of buying your kitten from an unregistered breeder. Why have a cheap knock off when you can have the real thing?"
There are no guarantees that nothing will go wrong. A kitten is a living animal - not a washing machine or a vacuum cleaner. It doesn't have replaceable parts. Buying from a reputable breeder will mean however that the breeder has bred the kitten in accordance with the guidelines and rules of the registering body and any cat clubs that they are members of. Eiserblew Ragdolls strongly recommends that new owners continue the annual pet insurance supplied when each kitten leaves for its new home, at the very least for the first year of the kittens life. Accidents do happen, such as the kitten that left us, and seven weeks after being in his new home climbed on top of a wardrobe, fell and broke his leg!