Sunday, April 13, 2014

How to be a Good Kitten Buyer

Note: This blog has been edited and updated since the initial post date.

It is kitten season and the people searching for a Maine Coon are swarming the internet. I’ve blogged before on what kitten buyers should beware of when looking for a Maine Coon breeder. If you haven't read Pet Peeves, please do so for your own protection. Now, I’m going to give you some insight on what we breeders look for in YOU; beyond the obvious indoor only, no declawing, no-hidden-agenda-to-breed stuff.

For those who are new to the process of getting a purebred kitten, allow me to burst your first bubble; we breeders are not trying to place our kittens because we’re desperate to find them a home. On the contrary, if a breeder has a decent website and good reputation, she or he is bombarded with inquiries on a regular basis. In essence, you have to compete for our approval. 

The truth is that the Maine Coon Cat is a very popular breed, so much so that we American breeders who live near the more populated areas can and should afford to be picky about who we want to work with. The situation may be vastly different in more isolated places in the US or in Europe where there are many more Maine Coon breeders than here in the States. If you find a breeder who seems to have more kittens than buyers, something’s not right. The internet makes it easy for you to locate breeders, but it also has made it much easier for us to find qualified buyers. 

This is what I look for:
First impressions do count. If I receive an email or message that says no more than, “How much r ur kittens?” with no greeting or signature, I may conclude you’re not mature enough to be serious. Also, it's a Maine Coon, named after the state of Maine with an "e" on the end, not "Main" as in primary or "Man" as in male human. If breeders are not replying to your inquiries, take another look at your approach.
Read and listen. If you’ve been told that the breeder does not keep a waiting list, don’t ask to be contacted when the kittens are born. That would be like a waiting list. 
Don’t send out a mass email to several breeders inquiring about kittens. Too impersonal and it’s very likely that none of us will reply. 
Don’t try to negotiate the price. A Maine Coon kitten will cost you anywhere from $800 to $1500, depending upon where the breeder resides, whether or not you’ll be getting a kitten that’s already spayed, neutered or micro-chipped, and in some cases, the gender and color. If we have several inquiries a day, we don’t feel it’s necessary to lose more money than we already do breeding cats. Kitten sales offset what we spend on our cats and most breeders operate in the red. If the price is more than what you had in mind, then consider a shelter kitty or buying a Maine Coon that’s been retired from breeding. I just had a man who not only wanted me to ship a kitten to him overseas without neutering (which I won’t do), but he also asked me to cut my price by 50%. Here’s a Euro; go buy a clue.
Don’t expect to be able to drop by and visit or shop for a kitten. We are not a pet store. Most breeders keep their cats and kittens in their home. We have jobs, families, schedules to keep. While I understand the logic of visiting before committing, I no longer allow visitors unless they have a kitten reserved already. If you do find yourself in a breeder’s home and you aren’t happy with how the cats are housed or the kittens are raised, be strong enough to walk out. 

When you do get to visit your kitten, usually after first vaccinations, be on time and know when to leave. I normally line up kitten visitors during a weekend, spaced 60-90 minutes apart. It gets awkward if one is 45 minutes late and the other is 30 minutes early. The vast majority do call if delayed. Many even call to let me know they might be early and ask if that’s okay; I love these people. 

Don’t allow your children to wander throughout my house to explore. I keep male cats and new moms behind closed doors for a reason. I had one family whose 9-year-old son was afraid of our two dogs. I put the dogs outside so the  boy would feel comfortable. Five minutes later, I saw the kid in our backyard, upset because the dogs were “bothering” him.   

Speaking of dogs, please don't bring yours when you come to visit the kittens without asking first. In my case, I have a dog, Cory, who can't handle seeing another dog outside. Even if your dog remains in your car, she'll be upset as cars parked in our driveway are visible from our front windows. Cory whines, barks and paces back and forth. If Cory happens to be outside when you pull up to my house, she will likely jump on your car, possibly scratching it, in an effort to meet your dog. I will have to put my dog in her crate to keep her calm just because you have to take your dog everywhere with you. Let's focus on meeting the kittens, not on canine management.

Whether or not you close my front door behind you when you enter my house speaks volumes. 
Color outside the lines. You have every reason to demand the color and gender of kitten you want, but please realize that male brown tabbies are in high demand. Females may be smaller, but they are wonderful pets as well. Plus only the girls can have cool color combinations. Maine Coons come in many different colors; brown, blue, red, cream, silver, solid black, white, tortie, etc. A little flexibility will gain you a kitten faster. Check out the Maine Coon Breeders and Fanciers site to see some examples of the variety.

From the same litter - solid black, red-silver (cameo), black smoke and 3 brown torbies (patched)
For your kitten’s sake, please don’t insist on a lookalike replacement for your cat that died. It’s not fair to the kitten to be compared constantly to Fluffy. Kittens are a wonderful distraction when you’re grieving the loss of a pet, but at least go for a different color from the original.
If others have ever referred to you as litigious, arrogant or a flake, please go find another breeder. I intend to be available to you for the life of your Maine Coon; for advice, sharing pictures and friendship. This is a lot easier if we are both nice, rational human beings. 
Don’t tell us about how you have the perfect yard for a cat, need a good mouser, or have to replace your last cat because a coyote got it and then expect us to work with you. We will exercise the right to refuse the wrong home for our babies. These are not disposable pets.

Even though there are many Maine Coon breeders in the Northeast, there often doesn’t seem to be enough kittens to go around. What to do? 

First, contact several breeders individually to get an idea of when kittens are expected so you can contact them again at that time. 

Search the Web, Facebook and Instagram. Unfortunately, many breeders have to pay a webmaster and do not have up-to-date websites. I'm lucky because I know how to do my own website and am not beholden to someone else.  Look for a recent update date. More breeders are turning to Facebook as that’s an easier communication to keep up on our own. Some of us only return phone calls or email if we have kittens available. 

Don't give up on the first attempt at contact. If a breeder's kittens are reserved quickly, you may have to make repeated contact to keep your name in the forefront. New litter announcements usually means I get swamped with inquiries. I try to keep organized and on top of potential buyers, but it's easy to lose track of names.

If the breeder keeps a waiting list, get on it, but keep looking. 

Ask for referrals. Most of us Maine Coon breeders know each other and will gladly refer you to someone else if we don’t have kittens. 

Timing. Your competition (this would be other kitten buyers) is highest during the spring and fall, especially right before Christmas. If you can, search off-season, like during the summer. 
Cat shows are great. Do visit a cat show to meet breeders and see firsthand to see how glorious the cat is in person, but don't expect to be able to buy a kitten at the show. Very few Maine Coon breeders will sell a kitten directly from the show hall and I don't recommend you get a kitten like this. Check CFAInc.org or TICA.org for the show calendars.

Our stud male, Levi, at a cat show.

I personally prefer to be contacted initially by email.  It saves me time to just give you all the information about upcoming litters, health screening, prices, etc. in an email. Once it’s established that you’re really interested, I’m more than happy to chat and answer questions. 
If we hesitate when you mention a certain breeder’s name that you've been talking to, read between the lines. Most of us are polite enough to not malign another breeder, but we also don’t want to see the buyer take a chance on getting an unhealthy kitten from a bad breeder. If a kitten buyer tells me they’ve been talking to so-and-so breeder and I know that so-and-so doesn't do health screening and has problems with heart disease in their cats, I normally launch into my list of what to look for in any breeder. That’s a hint.

I love questions, buyers who research and plan ahead, who take time off to welcome the new addition, and keep me updated with occasional pictures and emails for the life of their precious furry family member. Most of us contractually require that we’re kept informed of serious or genetic health issues as that helps us determine whether or not to continue breeding certain cats. Not all breeders have the same approach I do nor would they all agree with me. That’s okay. We do all love what we do and are passionate about the right fit for our babies.  
6-week-old Dracoonfly Tippet Shrimp
 

11 comments:

  1. Thank you Sharon for your very informative blogs. I'm a Belgian breeder and I am definitely sharing this on my facebook page (I hope you don't mind) since all potential buyers should indeed read this.

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  2. This is a very good blog. I now have two Maine Coons (they are my second and third I have had the pleasure of sharing my home with). My latest Flipper is just a year and a half and came from a wonderful woman and her husband in Mystic. They are such special, loving dear little spirits that it is so good to know that the Breeders won't just let them go to any home and insist on knowing about their care and commitment. I cannot imagine not having Flipper and Pudd'n and they deserve every bit of love and pampering they get. Thank you for your blog Sharon. Benay

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  3. It is kitten season and the people searching for a Maine Coon are swarming the internet.

    I had not thought about kittens having seasons like peaches or watermelons. I thought they were more like humans and could occur at any time. However, when I think about it, there are times when I see more kittens in my local grocer than at others.

    On the contrary, if a breeder has a decent website and good reputation, she is bombarded with inquiries on a regular basis.

    Your use of the word “she” confirms a rumor I have often heard about Maine Coon breeders and their gender and the letters CCL.

    Don’t expect to be able to drop by and visit or shop for a kitten.

    Exactly true. The last time I went to a Maine Coon breeder’s and asked if I could see her seal point Maine Coon kittens, she turned her Golden Retriever on me. I think she might have been a little drunk because she kept on yelling, “Chardonnay, kill!”

    If others have ever referred to you as litigious, arrogant or a flake, please go find another breeder.

    I don’t think I have been called any of those names. Does “weirdo” count?

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    1. Howard, you're such a weirdo. You remind me of my brother.

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  4. As a breeder, how forthcoming are you regarding the heath history of your cats? As a potential buyer, I would like to know details of what you test for before breeding your cats and at what age you breed your cats. I know full well that no one can predict if a cat will be healthy or not, but very careful testing of breeding cats can go a long way towards improving the health of Maine Coons. I would not want to purchase a kitten from a breeder who is not completely transparent regarding the health history of their cats, including the ones sold as pets. Every responsible breeder should have a 'health' page on their website - if they don't, I pass on them. For responsible pet owners, we want our cats 'for life' - and hopefully for 15+ years.... I've owned 5 Maine Coons (since 1998), two died before the age of 2 (one from HCM and one from PKD), one at 11 years from HCM, and thankfully our 4 year old and 14 year old are so far doing just fine. Those odds aren't good. So you can understand my on-going search for breeders that put 'health' above all else in their breeding program - I know vet visits and tests are expensive, but as you know, responsible breeders aren't doing this for profit - they do this for the love of the breed.

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    1. Dear Anonymous,

      I'm sorry for your experiences with unhealthy Maine Coons. I agree that testing can help to eliminate breeding unhealthy cats and therefore producing unhealthy kittens. I give copies of the parents echoes to kitten buyers. Did you read my other post "Cat Peeves"? http://dracoonfly.blogspot.ca/2010/11/cat-peeves.html

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  5. I have heard Maine Coons are better for people allergic to cats. Do you know anything about the validity of this? I am also looking for a younger adult cat, not a kitten. Do you know where I could locate an older Maine Coon? Thank you.

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  6. thanks for the tips and information..i really appreciate it..
    kitten

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  7. Great tips and should be required reading for any person looking to adopt any type of feline.

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