There are two options when looking to bring a new feline into the family – you can either purchase a kitten from a reputable breeder or look to rescue. Whatever your decided pathway to cat ownership is, there are a few things to know before agreeing to take the pet home and here we will try to outline some of the key points to know.
In April 2020, Lucy’s Law was introduced which bans the sale of puppies or kittens in England from third parties, meaning that anyone looking to get a new pet should have to go directly to a breeder or a rescue/rehoming organisation. There is no wrong or right way to bring a kitten or cat into the family, it should always be a family decision on whether you decide to rescue or buy from a breeder. There are benefits and considerations for both options and of course it should never be an impulse, it should always be well informed decision.
Rehoming a Cat or Kitten
There are many fantastic rehoming organisations that often have kittens as well as cats available for rehoming. A good rehoming charity will take the time to get to know you, your family, and your home to assess suitability. This will enable them to help you find the right match with the cats in their care and offer you helpful advice when choosing the right cat. Ensure you do your breed research before meeting any potential cats to check if they will be a good fit for you, there are many pedigree cats needing home but also a lot of mix breeds – so brushing up on breed types and characteristics is important.
A benefit with rehoming is that the carers at the rescue will often have had time to assess the cat and will be able to give an honest review of their personality and characteristics, ensuring the right fit for both the cat and the family adopting them. They will also ensure there is a rehoming contract in place for you giving you further support with your adoption.
When choosing which cat to rehome ask the carers for as much information as they can give, it may be limited with regards to the cat’s history, but they will be able to tell you how the cat is getting on in their care, its likes and dislikes as well as the home they think will best suit them. If possible, work with the rehoming centre to interact with the cat in a secure and safe place and try to take any children the cat will be living with to meet them too – the cat and the whole family need to comfortable with the match for everyone to be happy.
Buying a Kitten from a Breeder
If choosing to purchase a kitten from a breeder it is important to do your research into the breeder first. Many pedigree breeders will be registered with The Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF) or other organisation and/or be licensed with their local authority – this is a good place to start. Asking your local veterinarian and breeder clubs for reputable breeders of your chosen breed will also give you a place to begin your research into the breeder of your potential kitten.
Be aware of kitten dealers and kitten farms. A kitten dealer is someone who buys kittens for the sole purpose of selling them on for profit. If looking at adverts online always look to see if the same phone number has been used with other adverts, often dealers will have several advertisements for different pets/cats running. Kitten farms are a place where kittens are bred for sale in large numbers, again for profit. Sadly, in both scenarios, the kittens and their parent’s health and welfare are not top priority, and these callous sellers should not be supported. You should also never purchase a kitten directly from an advertisement where you meet the breeder to collect the kitten from somewhere other than where the kitten was born and raised (for example a motorway service station or carpark). Some unscrupulous breeders may even offer to deliver the kitten to your house, which is also not recommended.
A reputable and ethical breeder will be more than happy to answer any questions you may have as they truly care about the homes their little ones go to. So never feel pressured into purchasing a pet and always take your time to find out all the information you need to make an informed decision about the kittens and the prospect of becoming a cat parent.
What to Ask the Breeder Before You Visit
Before visiting the breeder, it is important to discuss their kittens and the kittens’ parents over the phone before meeting them. This will help you decide if these kittens are potentially the right match for you, are healthy and bred with welfare in mind before making the journey to view them. A good breeder, with their kitten’s best interests coming first will want to know they are going to a good home – so be ready to answer just as many questions in return.
• Where are the kittens kept? Ideally, they should be being raised in a home environment with plenty of interaction.
• Are the kittens healthy with no concerns, have the kitten’s parents had any health issues?
• Has the breeder de-wormed the kittens? Kittens should be de-wormed for roundworm from 2 weeks of age.
• Will the kittens be given their first dose of vaccinations before they go to their new homes?
• Will the kittens be homed at 8 weeks or older? Any earlier than 8 weeks should be avoided unless instructed by a veterinary and confirmed in writing.
• Will the kittens be microchipped?
• Are the kittens being socialised with people and beginning their litter tray education?
• How many people have been interacting with the kittens? Have they been exposed to the normal hustle and bustle of household life?
• Are the kittens with people all day – if not what sort of schedule are they kept to?
• Have the parents been screened for inherited conditions for their breed? If so, what were the results? If possible, check these results with your veterinarian to ensure they are interpreted correctly.
Visiting the Breeder
It is important that you meet the breeder and the kittens at the place they were born. This should be the breeder’s home and never at another location. Meeting the kittens in their place of birth will enable you to look at the home they are coming from and assess similarities in your own home and the environment the kitten will already be accustomed to. Ideally the kittens will be spending time with the breeder and their family during all periods of the day, both for playtime and for quieter times. This means the kittens will likely be more comfortable with the comings and goings of a normal household.
Meet the Parents
It is law that the mother of the kittens is shown with the kittens for sale. You should be able to meet the mother and potentially the father at the same home as the kittens. This gives you an opportunity to gauge how the kittens will develop and enable you to ask lots of questions about the parent’s health and characteristics – what the parents are like will give you some insight into what the kittens may grow to be.
Unscrupulous vendors may try to pass off another cat as the kitten’s mother, so check for signs that she has recently given birth such as enlarged/very noticeable mammary glands.
Check the Kitten’s Health
Check the kitten’s health when you visit, they should be happy, healthy, and interacting normally. There are some things that when spotted should raise concern such as:
• Red or crusty eyes
• Runny eyes or nose
• Visible ribs
• Dull, scruffy coat
• Signs of external parasites. For example, fleas (seen as black flecks in their coats)
• Weakness, wobbliness, or difficulty standing up
• Noisy or laboured breathing
• Limping, difficulty walking or lifting legs
• Signs of diarrhoea, staining around the tail / bottom
• A hunched or crouched body posture.
• Straining when passing faeces or urine
• If you have any concerns about a kitten’s health it is essential that you consult with your veterinarian before committing to becoming the cat’s new owner. A responsible breeder will only sell healthy, happy kittens so signs of ill health should be seen as a warning.
Ask for Proof and Paperwork
With microchipping, vaccinations, and health screening you should always ask to see the paperwork before committing to purchase. A good breeder will be able to provide all of this information as well as a kitten purchase contract – never buy a kitten without a contract in place.
Stay with us here… never purchase a kitten on the first visit.
If possible, try to visit the breeder at least twice to get to know the kittens and ensure the one you have chosen is the right match. Meeting a kitten for the first time is often overwhelming, they have those gorgeous big round eyes and cute little ears that make us forget all the important questions needing to be asked. Visiting twice or several times allows you to get to know the kittens better, ask all the questions you need to and allows the breeder to get to know you too! If you have children at home, bring them along for the second visit to see how the kitten interacts with them and to meet them before bringing them home.
It is also always a good idea to go home and sleep on it, talk to friends and family and ensure you are making the best decision for you, your family, and the kitten before taking them home.
Please don’t ever be tempted to purchase a kitten because you feel sorry for them, they look unwell or you are concerned for their welfare/safety – If you have any concerns for the welfare of the kittens you have seen, please call the RSPCA on 0300 1234 999.
If you decide that you have the time and ability to care for a new pet, Pets Corner are here to help you. Find out more here.