Petfinder.com is a great resource for finding pets in need of good homes. Local veterinarians may also know of kittens or cats in the area that require adoption, and local animal rescue organizations have plenty of animals in need of good homes.
When adopting, consider an adult cat, as they are less destructive and far easier to care for, and their adoption prospects are bleak. Also, black cats are less likely to find loving homes than cats of any other colour, so they should be given special consideration.
Don’t Adopt Kittens from Pet Stores
Much like puppies sold in pet stores, pet store kittens are often raised in kitten mills, mass warehouse-style breeding operations where animals are abused and neglected.
As in puppy mills, the cats in kitten mills live in small, crowded, and often filthy cages. Mother cats are confined without opportunities to socialize or play, having one litter after another. Kittens are also denied socialization and physical and mental stimulation, and nutrition is often poor as well. In some cases, the cats are not even given enough to eat.
Before they even reach the pet stores, kittens are often shipped long distances, which causes extreme stress, and in some cases they may be injured along the way. Most pet stores send “damaged” or “defective” kittens back to the kitten mills rather than obtaining medical care or finding homes for them. In some cases kittens are abused or neglected at the pet stores as well. Many cases are reported by pet store employees and visitors each year, but they’re rarely investigated, and if investigators are sent to assess the situation, the evidence is usually covered up before they arrive.
Purebred kittens raised for pet stores often aren’t screened for genetic defects and are also more likely to be exposed to contagious illnesses. In addition, they are frequently adopted out too young. As a result, there is a greater likelihood of long-term health and psychological problems. For more information on the problems caused by adopting kittens out too early, see the Ideal Age to Adopt a Kitten.
Although breeders also sell kittens as a business, reputable breeders do it for the love of the animals as well as the money, whereas pet stores are usually just in it for the profit, so in case where the costs of providing necessary medical care exceed the price for which an animal can be sold, medical attention may not be provided. Animals that aren’t sold may be shipped back to the kitten mill for use as breeders, killed outright, or sold to labs for medical experimentation. A few lucky ones end up placed with breed rescue organizations.
Those who adopt kittens from pet stores often do so with the noble goal of rescuing a kitten from a cage. However, as long as there is a market for pet shop kittens, disreputable breeders will continue to churn them out in substandard operations. Purchasing kittens from pet stores contributes to the abuse and neglect of both mother cats and kittens in these operations. Also, people who buy purebred kittens at pet stores usually pay more than they would to a breeder.
Many pet stores make false claims in an attempt to assure their customers that they don’t support the abuse of cats. Some such claims include:
- “We only get kittens from reputable breeders” – Reputable breeders don’t allow their kittens to be placed in a pet store setting.
- “We obtain kittens via USDA-licensed brokers” – The USDA doesn’t have the resources to monitor the living conditions of most animals, and having a USDA license doesn’t guarantee ethical and humane breeding and care practices.
- “The health of our kittens is guaranteed” – This is nothing special because in many places stores are legally required to reimburse anyone who is sold “faulty merchandise.” All this means is that these kittens are thought of as commodities rather than creatures capable of suffering. A “defective” kitten will be replaced and discarded.
Where to Find Purebred Kittens
Purebred kittens of champion show quality usually run from $1,000-$2,000 and up. “Pet-quality” pedigreed cats, which are healthy purebreds with minor imperfections that prevent them from competing in cat shows, run up to $1,000, and in some cases more if the breed is rare, though they are usually between $300 and $500. “Imperfections” mean that markings, coat colour, or some other surface quality differs slightly from the recognized breed standard; there is nothing physically or psychologically wrong with these cats.
There are many ways to find reputable breeders. These include:
- Veterinarians – Ask a veterinarian, particularly one who specializes in treating cats, to recommend local breeders.
- Cat shows – Local cat shows are a great place to meet reputable breeders.
- Breed clubs – Conduct an Internet search of the breed name along with the words “breed club” – there are clubs for every recognized cat breed, and all should be able to recommend reputable cat breeders.
- Cat magazine advertisements – Ads in magazines such as Cat Fancy and Cat World are more likely to be placed by reputable breeders than those in the newspaper.
- Non-profit organizations – See CatChannel.com’s list of breed rescue organizations to find purebred cats in need of loving homes. Rescued cats cost about 10% as much as purebred kittens, and this money (usually $100-$200) goes to cover the costs of the foster families that have supported cats awaiting adoption.
Newspaper classified ads are hit and miss. While some reputable breeders advertise in the paper, many unethical individuals do as well, and some of these people may steal deposits without providing kittens, whereas others may engage in dubious breeding practices. There are some red flags that signal breeders who are unreliable or lacking in knowledge, including:
- “Rare colour” – The breeder is careless and thus fails to meet breed standards.
- “Championship lines” – This could just mean that some distant ancestor of the cat was a purebred champion – look instead for “champion sired” or “champion parents.”
Signs of a Reputable Cat Breeder
Good breeders are not only enthusiastic and knowledgeable about the breed, they also:
- Don’t engage in high-pressure sales techniques
- Breed no more than a few litters each year
- Never breed a female more than once a year
- Don’t adopt kittens out until they’re 12 weeks old
- Specialize in only one or two breeds
- Enter their cats in shows and/or belong to a breed club
- Ask you questions about your home and lifestyle to ensure that the kittens are going to a good place
- Conduct genetic screening to eliminate breed-related medical conditions
- Offer to take kittens back in the event that they develop health problems and provide refunds rather than replacement kittens
- Avoid breeding cats with negative traits such as aggression or nervousness
- Are willing to show you the kitten’s littermates and mother, as well as the facility in which they are kept
- Provide health and vaccination records, and registration papers from the Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA), the American Cat Fanciers Association (ACFA), or The International Cat Association (TICA)
Beware of Backyard Breeders
Backyard breeders are not professionals; rather, they are people with little knowledge of cat breeding issues, such as the need to screen for genetic problems that may afflict certain breeds. In addition to increasing the risk that kittens will suffer from horrendous genetic defects and illnesses, backyard breeders often don’t know how to properly socialize kittens, and they tend to adopt them out too young, which can lead to a lifetime of physical and psychological problems. Backyard breeders can usually be recognized by their failure to register their kittens, keep them until at least 12 weeks of age, or participate in cat shows.
Visiting a number of cat breeders is recommended before choosing a purebred kitten for adoption. Ask questions to ensure that the breeder is ethical, and visit the facilities, which are often rooms in a breeder’s home where the kittens are raised. Make sure that these places are roomy and clean (free of bad odours and unsanitary conditions – safe clutter and untidiness is fine), and that the cats and kittens are happy and relaxed in the environment.
Questions to Ask Cat Breeders
To screen cat breeders, ask about:
- Volume – How many cats are involved in their breeding programs?
- Socialization – How do they socialize the kittens?
- Experience – How long have they been in the business?
- Involvement – What breed clubs and or/cat shows do they participate in?
- Openness – Can you have a tour of the cattery?
- Prevention of genetic problems – How is genetic screening conducted?
- Health guarantees – What do they cover? How long do they last?
- Training – Has the kitten been litter trained or taught to use a scratch post?
- Vaccinations – Has the kitten received all the required vaccinations?
- Feline leukemia – Have the parent cats been tested?
- Supplies – What sort of food and litter does the breeder use?
- References – Can the breeder supply names and contact information of others who have purchased kittens? (Be sure to call these references.)
- Registration – Can the breeder show you the registration papers?
- Personality – What are the unique traits and personality quirks of the kitten you’re interested in adopting?
See the Pregnant Cats and Kittens Page for information on caring for pregnant cats, kitten development week by week, kitten training, kitten care, and more. For a full list of cat articles, see the main Cats page.
- Cat Fanciers’ Association. (2007). “Finding the Purrfect Pedigreed Kitten.” CFAinc.org.
- Engrebretson, Monica, Senior Program Coordinator, Animal Protection Institute. (2004). “Animals in the Retail Industry.” Avian Welfare Resource Center, AvianWelfare.org.
- Hotchner, Tracie. (2007). The Cat Bible: Everything Your Cat Expects You to Know. London: Penguin Group.