How to find and identify a good cat breeder

Finding a good cat breeder isn’t easy. Among the list of many places to get a healthy kitten, cat breeders rank at both the very top and the very bottom.

That’s because they vary in their attitude towards animals and their business motive. You may find a breeder who invests a lot in their animals in terms of money and time. On the other hand, you’re just as likely to find those that treat breeding like any other kind of business: these breeders maximize profits and minimize costs at the expense of an animal’s wellbeing and “product” quality.

two kittens at a cat breeder's house
Photo by Christian Holmér

You want to avoid getting a kitten from these types of breeders, but they are hard to expose. Or are they? In this article, we’re going to reveal how you can identify a good and honest cat breeder.

Ways to find a good cat breeder

  • Visit the breeder at home. Don’t be shy about asking to visit kittens at the breeder’s home. You aren’t breaching anyone’s privacy because this is now an “industry standard”. A good cat breeder is fully aware that a future owner MUST see kittens in the environment where they were raised and are happy to comply. If a breeder insists on meeting elsewhere, he probably isn’t good even though his excuse may seem totally plausible. In fact, bad breeders are sure to give a credible explanation, guaranteed.  For example, they might say their litter recently received shots, there’s no need to bother the queen or the kittens, and so on. Don’t be duped: a good breeder always welcomes future cat owners to see the kittens. He has nothing to hide, and it gives him an opportunity to show the quality of care the kittens receive. He’ll be open to sharing how the kittens have been socialized, how they are kept in a clean environment, and how he maintains the health of other pets in the household.
  • Check the overall health of the kitten. Check the kitten’s head, eyes, ears, nose, coat, and tummy for any abnormalities. You can find more information on how to do this here. Check other kittens in the litter as well. First, this will tell you if your kitten is healthy. Second, even if the litter shows symptoms of treatable illnesses, such as flea or ear mite infestations, these signs can reveal how responsible the breeder is.
  • Gauge the breeder’s passion. Encourage the breeder to talk about his cats. You’ll learn a lot, both about the breed and the breeder. For example, you could start by saying you have little to no experience with a particular breed (even if it’s not true), and you want to learn more about its personality and care. Trust us: good breeders—those who are in the business for passion—will talk a lot. They love animals, and they know everything about the breed. Of course, there are always shy people who are breeders, which doesn’t disqualify them, but we hope you get the point.
  • Avoid the breeder if he’s insisting too much. Here’s a story. Once, we visited a litter at a breeder’s home and decided the kittens weren’t the right choice for us. The breeder became insistent, even lowering the asking price. When we got too tired of haggling, we told him that we’ll think about it. (Notice that it’s hard to say a straight “no” to a good salesperson.) He then turned on us, saying we should think fast because others were interested in his litter. We replied, “So, there’s nothing for you to worry about.” In reality, if he wasn’t concerned about selling his kittens, why would he pressure us? Good breeders don’t worry whether someone will take their kitten or not. In fact, they hold the upper hand because they’re often in a position to choose their kitten’s future owners. It’s not unusual for a cat breeder to ask a lot  of questions about your experiences with pets, home condition, and reasons for getting a kitten. Don’t feel insulted by these questions, and rest assured that you’re getting a kitten raised by caring hands.
  • Visit several breeders. When your heart wants a kitten, it’s tempting to say yes immediately. Instead, take a deep breath and do your homework. Try visiting three or four breeders in your area to compare litters. You may come to the conclusion that ALL kittens are cute, but when you place two litters side by side, you can easily spot the differences. Second, scoping different breeders takes pressure off of you as a future pet owner. You can visit litters with an open mind; you don’t need to rush into a commitment. Visit a couple of breeders, come home, clear your head, and make a decision.

Also, it’s always good to trust your common sense—even your inner voice. The suggestions offered here are plenty, but we can’t list every item you need to check off when choosing the right breeder. If something is suspicious, take a step back. Maybe a breeder is refusing to provide a vaccination record, a contract of purchase, or a pedigree record. Stand firm, especially if he’s giving unreasonable excuses for going back on his promises.

Please read our next article in the series where we discuss the earliest age when the kitten can leave its mother. Remember, if a breeder suggests you take home a kitten that’s too young, you should avoid him.

This article is part of a series about getting your first cat.