I have bred pedigree cats for over four decades and it breaks my heart every time I see someone taken for a ride when buying a pedigree kitten. The aim of this thread is to demystify the whole process, to let you know what we breeders do so you know what to look for beyond the obvious clean eyes, flea free coats, and only one litter a year stuff you already know to ask.
There's nothing special or magic about a breeder. Anyone can be a breeder and with cats it's quite normal for a breeding girl to be kept as any pet cat would be. What makes us different to a pet owner who simply doesn't bother to get their cat spayed/neutered is a passion for a particular breed partnered with acceptance of a set of rules and recommendations set by our chosen registry. By far the biggest in the UK is the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF). Breeders can and do register kittens with others eg The International Cat Association (TICA) and the Federation Internationale Feline (FIFe). None is in any way better or worse but throughout I'll use the GCCF for links and examples because I understand them the best and know where to look on the website. None of them are statutory bodies but they have become accepted as a benchmark of proof that the kitten you buy is a pedigree. That's what a registry is, a database carrying details of every pedigree kitten ever bred by breeders who choose to belong to that particular 'club'.
So how do you become a member of that mysterious club? You join a cat club which is affiliated. There are specialist breed clubs (sometimes more than one for a breed) and there are area clubs eg the Suffolk & Norfolk Cat Club. Membership will cost you less than a tenner a year in most cases. Once you've paid this princely sum you can apply to the GCCF for your 'prefix' - a name unique to you within that registry which nobody else can use. All you need to get this prefix is the signature of a breed or area club secretary confirming your membership and a fee of £75. Many then feel having a GCCF prefix means they can refer to themselves as 'registered breeders'. It's meaningless. It's nothing more than a word they have chosen to identify themselves and their cats. No checks are done. You don't even have to own a cat.
What's the lesson to be learned from this? Ask your breeder if they are a current member of a cat club. It's the clubs which make policy on any given breed, recommend various health tests and disseminate information to breeders so the true enthusiast won't have joined for just a single year in order to call themselves a 'registered breeder' and don't be fooled by the term. It definitely doesn't mean the breeder is experienced or knowledgeable. There are plenty of wonderful breeders who never bothered with a prefix and plenty of bad ones who paid the money for one. In between there's the vast majority of us who are prefix holders but don't claim it makes us anything special - because it doesn't.
One of the safest places to find a breeder is the breed club lists. Everyone listed will at least be current members. Just google your chosen breed followed by 'breed club' or 'cat club'. There are some lovely breeders who choose not to be members of a club but you need to know what you're looking for - hence this thread.
OK, so you've found a breeder and they have kittens available soon(ish). Don't expect a pedigree kitten to be available straight away. You may just hit lucky, it does happen that there's a kitten not booked by 13 weeks old but it isn't the norm. What would you need to check?
Well first of all have a look at adverts to get an idea of the price you'd expect to pay. Sites like pets4homes show prices so you can get a good idea of the range. If one person is asking £1000 when everyone else is sticking to the more normal £400 - £600 range you need to ask why. It tends to be the con artists who ask the most.
If they claim to be a prefix holder you can check here that the prefix is indeed registered with the GCCF
and if it is that must at least mean the breeder has not been the subject of any complaints or disciplinary action, right? Wrong, so wrong. Once paid for that prefix is for life and cannot be taken away. The GCCF can (and do) suspend members and won't then allow them to register kittens but they can't remove that prefix from the list. The next check you need to do is here
The lists aren't that long because for minor offences it works a bit like a CCJ - pay the fine without delay and your name doesn't hit the list. I know perfectly nice breeders who have been there, myself included. A mistake in filling out a show entry form cost me £50. It's in the rules I signed up for that you get it right so I accepted the slap on the wrist and paid up. You don't get off that easily if you are found guilty of knowingly selling a sick kitten or the like so it's a list worth checking. It's still worth a look if your breeder says they use one of the other registries. It isn't unheard of for a breeder to migrate if they're on a disciplinary list for one and there are no checks in place between the different registries.
Done all that and we've made an appointment to visit the breeder. You must visit the breeder and see those kittens before you commit to buy. I'll say it again - you must visit. Do not be talked paying a deposit to secure a kitten you've never seen. Before you go check if there are any required health tests for your chosen breed. The GCCF website has a page with every breed of cat they recognise.
Click on your chosen breed and scroll down to the section on health where you'll find the information. As an example we'll take the Persian because most people know what that is and among other information this is what you'll see
.................... Persians can carry a gene that leads to kidney failure (calledautosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease) through the development of cysts in the kidney. This condition was found in more than a third of all Persian and Exotic shorthaired cats in the 1990s when screening tests became available. Using DNA screening, breeders are now working to try to eradicate the problem – always ask the breeder to show the PKD certificates for the cats used to produce your kitten ............................................
How many hopeful Persian kitten buyers do you suppose insist on seeing PKD certificates? I'm pretty confident the answer is not enough! Arm yourself with the information and be prepared to walk away if you don't get the answers you want.
Ask what other paperwork you'll get.
You should expect a pedigree certificate complete with the registration numbers of every cat for at least the last three generations. This is constructed by the breeder, many of us use specialist software these days. Anyone can make one up - it's those all important registration numbers, unique to each cat, which can be checked and verified. Without them it's a worthless piece of paper.
You should also get a vaccination certificate, signed by a vet, showing your kitten has had a course of two vaccinations, three weeks apart.
Every breeder I know insures kittens for new owners. The two main players in this are Petplan and Agria. I know Petplan cover for 4 weeks, Agria may do for a little longer because they are trying to break the Petplan stronghold. There's no excuse, no possible reason for a kitten to leave a breeder without that cover.
And then that all important registration document. It's a pretty insignificant looking card but this is your real proof of pedigree. It's actually a transfer certificate with the space to fill in your details if you wish to transfer the kitten into your ownership according to the GCCF. It is nothing to do with legal ownership and unnecessary for pet owners, it's only an internal administrative move and of course will involve paying the GCCF a further fee.
The GCCF runs two registers, active and non-active. Breeders only place kittens intended for breeding on the active register and the GCCF will not register the progeny of cats on the non-active register. If a breeder is telling you the parents are registered pedigrees but is making any excuse for not registering the kittens then ask to see the parents' registration certificates(not the pedigree certificates) and check for 'active' status. If they're non-active or the breeder won't show you the documents then walk away. Those parents won't have been subject to any of the proper health tests if they aren't on the active register and shouldn't be bred from.
Don't be conned into paying a much higher price if you want the 'papers'. Registration costs £9/kitten, it's the smallest breeding expense by many a country mile, so there's not a reason on this earth for asking a buyer to pay an extra £100+ as I've seen on some adverts - except maybe to put you off asking all those awkward questions. The price without documentation may seem a bargain but would you pay it for a barn born kitten off the local farm? Unregistered kittens are no different to the local litter of non pedigrees with no proof of parentage, delightful to have but they shouldn't cost hundreds of pounds.
Remember most breeders are ordinary people with a passion for their breed, it's the con artists who can spin a good tale, have all the excuses and will try to convince you that there's someone else coming later who will take this last kitten if you don't make a decision NOW. Whatever they say, there will always be another kitten and if you know what to look for you will find the one you deserve.