Getting a pedigree pet kitten

You've decided you want a pedigree kitten, congratulations! You now have the task of choosing the right cat or kitten for you. Before you approach a breeder, decide exactly what you want and what would suit you and your living situation best. Ask yourself the following questions, would you prefer:

  • Adult or kitten

  • Male or female

  • Temperament

  • Colour

  • Outdoor or indoor cat

Choosing a breeder

There a lot of cat breeders out there, and not all are good. Check that they are registered with a governing body, such as TICA and GCCFI . There are other governing bodies around the world, but these two are by far the most common in Ireland. These governing bodies will have their own code of ethics that registered breeders must sign and adhere to.

Breed standards vary between governing bodies, so you may want to inquire about what standard they show their cats under. This won't matter if you just intend to have a pet cat, but it may give you an idea on the aesthetic differences between a TICA style Maine Coon, and a GCCF style Maine Coon, for example.

Resources for finding a good breeder include:

Avoid sites like donedeal or gumtree, or flyers in shop windows or newspapers. There are no regulations governing who can advertise there, and they are a minefield of “cheap” cats and kitten farmers. You may think you are saving money or avoiding expensive breeders, but breeding and showing healthy cats is not cheap, and cheap prices often means poor quality cats kept in poor quality conditions. Unregistered breeders are often not following the breed standard, and have no incentive to health test, therefore should be avoided.

Take a look at their Facebook pages or websites, they usually have a lot of photos of their cats, and where they're kept. It is important to keep in mind that most breeders will only sell their cats as indoor cats.

Regardless of how you find a breeder, always do your own research. Read up on the breed as much as possible, from reliable sources.

The most important factor in choosing a kitten is health. Pedigree cats can be more prone to health problems because there is a much smaller gene pool compared to moggies, therefore there is a higher likelihood of these diseases being passed on.

The main issues tested for in Maine Coons are:

You should familiarise yourself with at least a brief overview of these diseases and disorders. There are physical and genetic testing for these diseases, and your breeder should provide you with copies of the results. These are not guarantees that your cat will never contract or develop these diseases, but it is far less likely.

Kittens and cats should be fully vaccinated before leaving for their new home. You should be given their vaccination certificate, it is your responsibility to keep these up to date each year.

Kittens should have been treated for internal and external parasites, and the breeder should tell you what products they have used and when. You will be responsible for keeping up this treatment to prevent future infestations.

Your kitten should also be neutered before going to live with you, unless you have an agreement with the breeder stating otherwise

Meeting the kittens and breeder

You should always be able to see the kittens with their mother. NEVER purchase an animal from someone who meets you in a car park or has a third party deliver the cat to you. You will have no idea of the conditions the cat is coming from, or even if it is possibly stolen.

Look out for the following signs of a healthy kitten:

  • Clear, discharge free eyes

  • Clean ears, no discharge

  • Glossy, clean coat

  • No fleas, ticks, mites, ringworm etc.

  • Healthy skin with no dry patches or scabs

  • Clean rear ends; no urine or faeces stuck to them

  • Healthy weight: not thin, or with pot bellies

They should all be friendly and active, and happy with being held. Resist the urge to buy the sad looking quiet kitten, these are often sick and lead to heartbreak and expense. If you are not happy with how the kittens are kept, do not buy from that breeder. Don't be tempted to 'rescue' the sick kitten; in the long run this is encouraging bad breeding and welfare practices and is not helping the cats.

The breeder should always be happy to answer any questions, and be willing to show you proof of health testing, as mentioned above.

If invited to handle the kittens, don't be offended if the breeder asks you to wash your hands or remove your shoes before entering the kitten room. Breeders go to a great deal of trouble to keep their cattery disease free, so please respect any precautions they ask you to take.

If you're not sure who to choose on the day, don't feel you have to decide right away. Be wary of a breeder that tries to lock you down there and then.

Having chosen your kitten

Pedigree kittens do not leave their mothers until they are 14 weeks old. This is to ensure that they have had all their kitten vaccinations, and that they have received as much socialisation from their mothers as possible. This is vital to the development of a physically and mentally healthy adult cat. A responsible breeder will not let you take a kitten before this date, be wary of a breeder who offers to let you do this.

If you have chosen a responsible and caring breeder, you will be asked to sign a contract. These vary between breeders, but the basic purpose is to ensure that you are providing the best home for your kitten.

Common additional clauses in contracts include:

  • Kitten-back clause: this states that should your circumstances change and you are no longer able to look after your cat, that you will return the cat to the breeder.

  • Neuter clause: this is usually only used when a buyer intends to show a cat as an Alter. Neutering too early can prevent cats developing to their full potential, which could affect their show career. You would be expected to neuter the cat as soon as they have reached maturity, and you need to guarantee that you will not let the cat produce or father any litters before this time.

  • Not In My Region clause: this prevents you from breeding or showing your cat in the breeder's region. Becoming more common.

Be patient! You are spending your hard earned cash on this kitten, and they will be with you until the end of their lives, so it should be done right from the start. The breeder needs to know that you are the right owner for this kitten, so they need to be sure that are going to be able to provide a good home. They may well require a home check to ensure your home is suitable, so you should be prepared for this.

A lot of breeders are perfectly happy to send you photos and updates while your kitten is growing up, ask your breeder about this.

Preparing for your kitten's arrival

Pick a day when you will have the time to spend with your kitten, and ideally a few days without leaving them. A weekend is best, or at the start of holiday time. Avoid the busy holiday season, or stressful time such as moving house or a new baby!

Keep in mind that a Maine Coon is a large breed of cat, and that normal cat furniture will probably not stand up to a 7-8kg cat climbing and jumping on them. Investing in good quality cat furniture will save you money in the long run. They also won't fit through standard cat tunnels etc, so keep this in mind! We recommend Tigga Towers; these are extremely well made pieces of furniture, and well worth the investment. Ours have taken a lot of punishment from adult Maine Coons and are still going strong.

The following are essential steps you will need to take:

  • A sturdy cat carrier that will be big enough for an adult Maine Coon: Bear in mind that the males in particular can easily get to 7kg and over, so a standard sized cat box will quickly be outgrown. It is not suitable to transport a kitten in your arms or a cardboard box, particularly in a vehicle. Cats are startled easily, and are dangerous when loose in cars. No matter how tightly you think you have the kitten held, they can still escape. We do not allow our kittens to leave without a secure carrier.

  • A litter tray and litter: there is a huge range of trays and litter available. It's best to stick with the litter the breeder uses at the start, and then switch them over to a litter of your choosing after a week or so. The best thing is to talk to your breeder and see what they recommend. We have tried nearly ever litter available over the years, so we can certainly give you ideas. If you have a multi-cat household, the general rule is one tray per cat plus one, but there are other systems you can use.

  • Food and water bowls: These should be stainless steel, ceramic, or glass. Plastic bowls scratch easily and can harbour bacteria that lead to the development of acne and skin allergies. Keep in mind that ceramic and glass will break if pushed off a height! It's not ideal to place food and water next to each, so double feeder bowls are not recommended. Water fountains are an ideal way to ensure your cat gets fresh water and can encourage healthy drinking habits and kidney health. These are getting more affordable, and we can recommend a few different models.

  • A good quality food: Your breeder will advise you on what the kitten has been weaned on to. It is important to keep them on this food for at least a week, and to change the food gradually over at least seven days. This is to prevent gastric upset, leading to vomiting or diarrhoea. The kitten will be stressed at first as it is, changing their food right away is going to make it worse. We recommend feeding raw, so if you are going to continue this, then be aware that this requires freezer and fridge space.

  • A scratching post: Cats' claws grow constantly; in order to keep them in good shape they need to scratch. If you don't provide a scratching surface, it's going to be hard on your furniture and carpets. It's also an important behavioural need for cats, so it needs to be met in order to reduce stress and keep them happy. You can trim your indoor cat's nails to prevent scratches and damage, but they will still need to scratch. There are many guides online on choosing a product, and we recommend Tigga Towers (Maine Coon-proof!).

  • A quiet room away from small children and other pets: It is best to keep your kitten confined to one area at first, and to introduce them to other pets gradually and with the least amount of stress. If you want to let your cat into your bedroom, this can help the kitten settle in better as they will be used to the company of their littermates and mother. It will also encourage bonding between you.

  • Registering with a vet: It is best practice to have your cat see a vet as soon as possible after taking them home. This will familiarise your vet with your cat, make sure there are no health problems that were missed, and for you to ask any questions of your vet or nurse. Don't forget your nurse is a valuable resource for advice and information too! Always ask your vet for their emergency cover details. All veterinary practices in the Republic of Ireland and the UK are obliged to provide 24 hour emergency cover. If they do not provide this themselves, then it will be an emergency specialist that will take their out of hours calls. Make sure you have their emergency number saved in a number of places, and that your cat is registered with them.

Sources A KITTEN


© Maggie Bent 2016