You’re on your way to becoming a cat parent. The next step is to visit the breeder and their cattery and check it out.
But how do you assess the cattery and what questions to you ask a cat breeder? It could be hard, because you’ll be distracted by all the fluffballs!
That’s why I prepared this check list. Read on for a complete list of question to ask, so you end up with a healthy, happy kitten. Most will apply to all cats and kittens, but a few are Maine Coon specific (for obvious reasons). Let’s go!
Note: Remember to keep your composure too, because a good breeder is looking at you with a discerning eye to see if you qualify to take one of their babies home.
Questions For the Cat Breeder
These are basic question about the breeder and cattery. It’s not as simple as dropping in and saying “one kitten please!”
Avoid any places like that, as they likely don’t care about the kitten’s welfare and just in it for profit, especially if they’re supposedly purebred breeders.
The breeder’s answers will tell you all you need to know about their facility and its goals and some indication on the types of kittens being bred.
How long has the cattery been around?
A establishment that had been around for years and years is encouraging as it indicates experience. If anything, you can ask for lots of references for cats they’ve sold!
How large is the operation?
How many queens and how many studs are in-house? An operation is good if they can accommodate all of the kitten’s basic needs: space, air, light, food and water, a clean litter box, grooming, and spaces for chilling out.
You don’t want a cattery overrun with cats, that kittens aren’t able to get the socialization required.
Do they only work with Maine Coons? (or other cat breeds)
This has to be a yes! A quality breeder’s goal is always to provide for their breed as much as possible and ensure they have good lives. A single-breed focus is way more in alignment with that goal, whether it be Maine Coons, Ragdolls, Siberian Cats, Norwegian Forest Cats and so on,
By the way, if you want to read more about the Maine Coon breed of cat itself, I have a complete post.
Do cats from their cattery participate in organized cat shows?
This question gets to the “why?” of the breeder. The best answer is resounding “Yes,” because it shows they love the breed and are in it for more than just money.
For example, they want to cultivate a bloodline of large Maine Coons or Ragdolls. The breeder life is serious business with strict dedication to producing and showing the finest example of the breed.
Not all kittens are show cats however, and lifestyle is expensive. “Better to offer kittens for adoption and at least not lose money on this cat show life,” is a common thought.
Below is a quote from the Cat Fancier’s Association that highlights this important breeder-cattery relationship.
Most breeders didn’t plan for a multicat operation. They just found a particular breed of cat they love, acquired one, and… Well, you know the rest. One day you wake up, trip over a litter pan, take the laundry off the stack of carriers, move the queen of the house off your favorite chair, and in exasperation say, “I gotta build a cattery”. Hopefully, this article will help put you on the right track to building a clean, healthy, and loving environment for your cats.https://cfa.org/building-a-cattery/
And remember to be on your best behavior… because they don’t have to sell you one!
Questions to Ask the Breeder About the Cat Parents
How are the parents’ health?
Maine Coons are hardy, healthy cats but there is always risk of genetic and hereditary disease.
Always check if the parents have issues that could be passed on. When adopting a Maine Coon, test the parents for hip dysplasia and hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.
Same thing applies for other purebreds: find common health issues with that breed, and check that the parents are free from it.
How about kittens of past litters?
Once again, this is checking risk of genetic and hereditary disease.
How many litters has the queen produced?
A proper cattery should only have their queen produce 1 litter a year or year and half to decrease stress on their health. Queens need time to rest in between litters.
Be warned if the total number exceeds that range.
Have the parents produced a litter together before?
It’s best if there is a history of healthy happy kittens from a pair of parents, but it’s not like the first litter is negative. This is totally personal preference, and to some won’t matter.
What about health records for parents?
Ensure the breeder has full sets of health records for both parents. Verify that they have gone to the vet regularly and have their shots, immunizations, and vaccinations.
Meet the parents!
Kittens inherit some personality traits of the parents. So get to know the parents and see check vibe. Check if they “adopt” you first before taking home their baby!
Questions to Ask About the Kittens
With the cat buying and kitten adoption process, we can get so caught up with holding a kitten, smitten, that we don’t ask these important health questions.
What about health care during pregnancy?
A cat’s pregnancy is about 60 days. Was there any health issues during this time? Any events that might have stressed her out?
How did delivery go?
Delivery should not take more than 7 hours in total. Kittens should come out every 10 mins to 1 hour. After birth, did the mother leave or stay with the kittens? She should be feeding and caring for them.
Were kittens able to nurse?
If the kittens were not able to nurse, verify that they were fed manually by humans or by another cat. You don’t want a malnourished kitten.
Kitten can’t nurse for many reasons, but it’s usually not a big deal.
Maybe they’re not able to get a spot at the mother’s belly or there is not enough milk. Or perhaps the kitten got separated from the litter and returned too late.
Do they need any special health care?
Verify that the kittens did not have any parasites, infectious diseases, and congenital diseases – like fading kitten syndrome. Or if they did, how it was remedied.
Have the kittens been treated for worms or fleas?
These are normal issues, but get clarification on the treatment that your cattery provided
Did they receive vaccinations and boosters?
Get verification and records of these procedures.
Will I get copies of all health records?
Any quality breeder will ensure you have these.
What is the health guarantee in the adoption contract?
Ensure you understand the fine print and any jargon used. For example with my breeder, the health guarantee included:
- A veterinary visit and spay or neuter
- First two vaccinations
- The parents have tested negative for hydrotrophic cardiac myopathy (HCM), a genetic heart disease.
Within 3 days I was to take her to my vet and confirmed my new Maine Coon kitten was free from Feline leukemia (FeLV) and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV).
And if there were any health issues, I was to contact her immediately.
How are kittens socialized?
Many cats grow up to have wonderful personalities. But a large part of that was based on their environment during the first few weeks of life.
Kittens are usually not available for adoption until 12-14 weeks. At that time they should be weaned and litter-box trained. Ask the breeder if the kittens were in a setting with other humans, cats and a variety of normal noises. Were they handled daily?
Like humans, kittens exposed to a wide variety of activities and stimulation are better equipped to be in the real world. Maine Coons are known for having fantastic easy-going personalities, but even for them it hinges on early cattery life.
I’m Gary Hu, a proud cat dad to a 15 lb Maine Coon. Have taken care of outdoor and indoor cats for over 10 years, and learned tons on behavior, habits, health, and products. I help new Maine Coon (or any other cat) parents with common questions and issues based on real, practical experience.