Find a Reputable Maine Coon Cat Breeder

The right Maine Coon breeder for you is easy to find if you follow some advice.

By Wendy Bedwell-Wilson

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Maine Coon Cat Breeeders
Recognizing Reputability
While you're compiling a list of Maine Coon breeders in your area, you'll want to learn as much as you can about their breeding philosophy to determine whether they run a reputable, responsible cattery. The best way to judge a cattery's ethics and breeding practices is to ask some questions, including:

• How long have you been breeding? Don't go with an amateur breeder. Instead, choose someone experienced who has invested time in raising pedigreed cats.

• Do you show your cats? It isn't necessary for the breeder to show her cats, but breeders who do are generally concerned about maintaining and perfecting the breed standards rather than reaping financial rewards.

• How long do your cats normally live? A typical cat lives to 15 years or older. If the breeder says anything different, ask why.

• Are there any abnormal health problems in your line of cats? If so, can you guarantee that this kitten doesn't carry those problems? Reputable breeders breed healthy animals. Maine Coons, for example, are prone to hip dysplasia, so ask the breeder about any potential problems her cats may have. A breeder should be honest and forthright with you. If she's not, steer clear.

• What vaccinations have you already given to the kittens? Between the ages of 6 to 10 weeks, the kittens should have received the first round of following vaccinations: feline rhinotracheitis, feline distemper, feline calicivirus and panleukopenia. By 12 weeks old, the kittens should get their first rabies shot.

• At what age will the kittens be ready to go? Depending on the maturity level of the kitten, most reputable breeders won't let their kittens leave their mothers any earlier than 12 weeks old.

• Have the kittens been socialized? Socialization is key to raising a well-behaved cat. The kittens should be handled daily, and introduced to a variety of sights, sounds and smells.

• Can you provide references? Reputable breeders will happily provide you with names of families who have adopted their kittens.
• Are you a Cattery of Excellence? Registry associations designate catteries and breeders as being a Cattery of Excellence or Responsible Breeder when they meet specific criteria regarding space and maintenance of their facility.

• What kind of health guarantee, contract, care guidelines and pedigree papers do you provide? Most breeders provide some sort of guarantee on the health of their kittens; a 14-day guarantee is common. The contract should allow you to return the kitten for any reason within those 14 days, but after that, most breeders won't allow you to return it. Care guidelines list basic requirements, such as the type of food to feed the kitten, how to groom it and the type of litter to use. Pedigree papers are the litter's line of ancestors.

• Will you be available should I have questions later? The answer to this question should always be yes.

“Be blunt about your questions,” Johnston says. “Ask about the cats' health history, and make the breeder tell you those things. You want them to disclose any problems.”

Reputable breeders will also ask you questions about your intentions with the cat. If they don't, you should see that as a red flag. “A responsible, reputable breeder will ask many questions of the prospective new owner, and if they don't ask lots of questions, you should go somewhere else,” says Roeann Fulkerson, breeder and CFA's director of marketing and public relations. “You should consider the purchase of a new kitten as only the beginning of the learning process, and the responsible breeder should be there for your many questions that will come up over the next several years as your cat matures.”

Your answers to the breeder's questions will help her determine whether you're prepared to welcome a kitten into your household, and if her particular breed suits you and your family.

You can expect questions such as:

• Have you ever had a cat before?

• Have you ever had this particular breed?

• Will you keep the kitten indoors?

• Are you planning to have the kitten declawed?

• How many children do you have, and how old are they?

• Do you work long hours or do you travel frequently?

• Are you prepared for this 15- to 20-year investment of time, money and love?

• What other animals do you have in your home? What are their ages and breeds?

• Do you currently have a veterinarian?

“Breeders want to make a good placement because they're basically placing a family member into another home,” Johnston says. “It should be a good screening process on both sides. If it's not, you might want to stay away from it.”

Check Out the Cattery
If you feel comfortable with a particular breeder, visit the cattery and inspect the facility. “If you're able to visit a cattery, it will tell you several things,” Angell says. “If a cattery smells bad, don't walk, run away! A serious hobby breeder won't have large numbers of cats and will provide ample space for their whole males and mothers with babies.”

Look at the cats. Do they appear healthy and well-groomed? “There should be no runny eyes or noses,” Angell says. The cats should all look well-fed and groomed. It's impossible to keep everything pristine in a kitten room, but filthy litterboxes, stale water bowls and dirty rooms are warning signs to consider.”

The kittens should have sparkling eyes and a playful demeanor, and they'll always be happy to see you. “A healthy kitten has clear eyes with no noticeable eye or nasal discharge,” Fulkerson says. “They have a bright expression, and they're inquisitive, confident and outgoing.”

To protect their kittens from germs or viruses, some catteries only allow abbreviated visits, DeVilbiss says. “Breeders have the health of their cats to consider, and they usually don't want their kittens to have a lot of contact with people tramping through their cattery,” she says. “Many times, breeders will have you wash or sterilize your hands and they'll bring out available kittens for you to see and handle.”

Handle With Care
Reputable breeders socialize their kittens by handling them; coddling them; and introducing them to a variety of sounds, smells and situations. They invite friends over to hold the kittens, and they allow children to handle them. The kittens learn to love and rely on humans. Proper socialization is key to raising a well-mannered cat, according to Bob Johnston, a breeder in Leawood, Kansas.

“You want them to be handled,” Johnston says. “We ask our neighbor to come over. We tell our friends to come over and get a kitten fix. They bring their kids over, and they handle the kittens under supervision. A lot of handling is very important.”

Poorly socialized kittens could develop some bad habits, Johnston says. “If they haven't been properly socialized, they'll be loners, and they're going to bite and nip,” he says.

When you're interviewing potential breeders, ask them how they socialize their kittens, says Kay DeVilbiss, all-breed judge and president of The International Cat Association in Harlingen, Texas. “Kittens develop their basic personalities between 3 and 10 weeks old,” she says. “So it's important that they be handled and played with on a frequent basis to develop their personalities and let them know that people are friendly and will handle them lovingly.”

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