Finding the Purrfect Pedigreed Kitten
-- Text by Patricia Jacobberger
Over the last 4,000 years, cats have shared our hearths and homes, our food and beds and have been the objects of glorification as well as the recipients of ill-will. Kept about farms and hamlets and respected for their practical contributions to rodent control, cats were rarely regarded as companions or pets. Most certainly, no one kept records of their breeding habits or the colors, patterns and unique oddities that resulted from those breedings. No one that is, until the "fancy cat" admirers of the latter 1800's.
By the Victorian Era, we humans were learning about our own evolution. We had entered the industrial revolution and were becoming more affluent as the "great middle class" began to arise. In the late 1800's, competitive cat shows came into vogue. As a result, people became interested in the various colors and peculiar characteristics of the cats that they saw and began to oversee, record and regulate the breeding of cats.
The idea of the pedigree, used to trace and confirm the lineage of an animal, became popular as people began to take pride in their unusual or particularly unique cats. Many years before the unusual variations in cats were studied by the scientific community, pedigrees were found to be valuable in providing insights into the predictability of matings. It was not long before the term "pedigreed" became the equivalent of the phrase "pure bred."
Here we are today, with a wealth of "pure breeds" of cats. Many breeds are the result of the cross breeding of known breeds to create another - usually a breed that combines the best characteristics of the parent breeds into one. Some breeds are the result of interest around a unique attribute such as tailessness (the Manx) or folded ears (the Scottish Fold).
Assuming that you have first answered a number of questions related to whether and if you should acquire a kitten or cat, the next step comes in deciding if you want a pedigreed cat. Pure bred kittens have been bred from known pedigreed parentage in order to conform to a written standard that describes what the ideal example of that breed should look like. Appearance and temperament are typically predictable. Pure bred kittens grow up to be representative of their breed both in looks and in personality. This makes pure bred cats attractive because when someone wants a particular breed, it is often for a particular reason.
Do you want a kitten or an adult cat? Kittens are a permanently cute, playful and fun, fun, fun. But, they require care and monitoring as they grow, they are full of energy and mischievousness and they make mistakes - like getting up on the dining room table during your dinner party; like climbing up the draperies; like climbing up your pants leg to get your attention. And, a kitten will require a fair amount of attention and training.
On the other hand, an adult cat has been through all of that - at someone ELSE'S house! Adult cats generally adjust to a new home without difficulty and they bond just as easily with humans as kittens do. On the other hand, an adult may come with habits that you may not appreciate. But, adult cats can also learn to change their behavior when you take the time to work with them.
Do you want a male or a female? Altered males and females make equally good pets in the long run. Most pet owners find that there is very little difference in personality and that neither gender is more affectionate or more playful than the other. However, if you are more strongly drawn to one gender over the other, then by all means, that is what you should have.
Do you want a longhaired cat or a shorthaired cat? Longhaired cats are lovely but require daily combing or brushing. This is not a difficult task particularly if you begin grooming your pet as a kitten. If you decide that a longhaired cat is what you must have, promise yourself and her/him to daily grooming. All cats shed, but longhaired cats shed a longer hair that accumulates more apparently than a shorthaired cat's.
What characteristics are you most interested in? There are numerous physical characteristics that people find interesting and appealing. The pure bred breeds have a wealth of such characteristics that you may have a special desire for. Are you attracted to the idea of a curly coated cat? Then, the Cornish or Devon Rex may be what you wish. Do you think that a cat with curled back ears fits your tastes? Then take a look at the American Curl. Whatever you may be interested in, there is most likely a breed of pedigreed cat that will catch your fancy. Even a hairless cat - the Sphynx! (Refer to the Breed Characteristics and Personalities table for further information.)
What kind of personality do you want or are you willing to put up with? There is a vast range of personality traits associated with the various pedigreed breeds of cats. The shy and retiring Russian Blue; the bouncy, busy Abyssinian and Somali; the large, gentle Maine Coon Cat; etc. Each breed is unique in personality and this bears some serious thought and consideration. A trip to the library and some studying of the various pedigreed cats will serve you well as you try to match your personality to that of your future companion. (Refer to the Breed Characteristics and Personalities table for further information.)
How much are you willing to spend? Pure bred kittens and cats are often expensive. They are uncommon and comprise approximately 3-5% of the cat population on this continent. The cost of a pedigreed kitten relies on a number of things such as availability, uniqueness and the quality of the kitten in terms of pet, breeder or show.
- A pet quality kitten is an individual who fails to meet the written standard for the breed in some significant manner. There may be a disqualifiable fault such as a white locket or a tail kink. A pet quality example is never intended for breeding purposes and may cost between $300 and $1500, or more.
- A breeder quality kitten is a kitten which could be used in a breeding program. Such a kitten meets the written standard in several significant ways and has no disqualifiable faults. A breeder quality kitten may be of good enough quality to be shown but generally speaking, these cats rarely achieve honors past the Champion level. Kittens in this category are generally between $500 and $2000.
- A show quality kitten is one which can and should be exhibited to the level of Grand Champion. Kittens of show quality are those which meet the written standard nearly perfectly. But there are gradations in this group. A top show quality kitten is one which is near perfection when measured by the standard for the breed. These kittens are generally very expensive and can command prices as high as $15,000 in some breeds. Generally speaking, a show quality kitten will be over $1000.
WHERE TO GET YOUR PURE BRED KITTEN
There are a variety of places to go to acquire your pedigreed kitten or cat. The "Want Ads" of your local newspaper is one place to look. If you are purchasing a kitten via the want ads, make certain that you are acquiring a clean, healthy, well socialized kitten. The kitten should look well fed, be active and free from tearing of the eyes. Steer away from kittens that are younger than 8 weeks of age - they need a little more time to properly socialize. Your kitten should have had a least the first set of inoculations before you take him/her home.
Pet Stores are another place where you can acquire a pure bred kitten. Be aware, if you are considering purchasing from a pet store, that reputable breeders of pure bred breed cats do not sell their kittens through this channel. Sometimes, kittens for pet store sale are obtained from "kitten mills" where breeding practices may be less than optimum. Frequently, pure bred kittens sell for considerably more at a pet store than from a pure bred breeder. The same rules apply if you cannot resist, however. Make certain that there are no runny noses or eyes, that the kitten is at least 8 weeks old and is active and curious. Insist on reviewing the management's policy for any health guarantee explained, preferably in writing.
Pedigreed or Pure Bred Breeders are the ideal people from whom to obtain your pure bred kitten or cat. A good place to meet breeders is at a cat show. You can also find listing of breeders in magazines such as Cat Fancy. The best place to meet a pure bred breeder is at a cat show in your area. Going to a cat show allows the opportunity to see a large number of breeds at one time and to get a lot of questions answered. Seek out more than one breeder and ask questions related to how their cats are bred and raised (refer to the side bar "Ten Questions to Ask the Breeder"). Be prepared for the breeder to ask you questions about things like your home environment, your attitude about declawing and keeping kitty indoors and about other cats you may have had in your life.
In CFA, kittens available for placement at the show will be at least 4 months old. If you want a younger kitten, you will need to visit the breeder's home. There, you can evaluate the breeder's environment and see one or both parents. Nearly every pure bred breeder will require you to sign a purchase agreement that addresses neutering and spaying. Most breeders will provide you with detailed information about care for your new kitten or cat.
Recently, a number of "pure breed rescue groups" have developed as pedigreed breeders work to keep unwanted pure bred cats out of shelters. Many of these cats are older neuters and spays that have been abandoned or relinquished because of a change in someone's life. These groups generally work out of people's homes and utilize a number of grass roots methods for placement of pure bred cats. If you have a computer and access to the Internet, it is relatively easy to contact pure breed rescue workers.
TEN QUESTIONS TO ASK THE BREEDER BEFORE PURCHASING A PUREBRED KITTEN
Be assertive when selecting your kitten or cat no matter where you are acquiring him or her. You should be able to obtain answers to the following questions:
- How was the kitten raised - in a cage or under foot?
- Health guarantee - how long is the guarantee it and what is covered?
- What if things don't work out - what is the "return" policy?
- What is the personality of this specific kitten?
- Vaccinations - what has been given, when was it given and when is the next shot due?
- Health history - has the litter been healthy, are all the individual kittens healthy, is the mother healthy?
- Feline leukemia testing - have both parents been tested and are they negative?
- Was a stool sample tested and what were the results?
- What is the feeding schedule, what food is the kitten or cat used to and what kind of litter is the kitten or cat used to?
- Has the kitten been trained to a scratching post?