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Ten Signs That You are Dealing with a Bad Breeder

For some general guidelines to use when evaluating cat breeders, we at PREOSSIA recommend consulting the following excellent articles that are located on other cat fancy Web sites. They include:
How Old Should a Kitten Be When It Goes Home?, by Barb French

The Ten Commandments of the Reputable Breeder, by Brigitte McMinn

FBRL FAQ: Thirteen Questions to Ask a Breeder, by Barb French


When reading the articles above, bear in mind that every breed of cat is different from the next. In some cases, practices that would be abhorrent in one breed might be acceptable in another breed. For example, most cat breeders are expected to exhibit their cats regularly at cat shows. There are some very good reasons for this. Yet one cannot expect breeders to exhibit their cats at cat shows if their breed is one, such as the Old-Style Siamese, that is not yet recognized by a major cat association.

The following is designed to help those who are specifically looking for an Old-Style Siamese kitten (or applehead Siamese kitten by any other name) evaluate the breeders of that type of kitten. These are ten signs that you are dealing with a breeder who is not as knowledgable or possibly not as ethical as she should be. If your breeder is guilty of one of the ten bad signs below, possibly she's still learning and there's hope for her. But if the breeder is doing more than one of the following, do yourself and the breed a favor and find another breeder:
 

Ten Signs of a Bad Old-Style Siamese Breeder

1. The breeder advertises that her kittens are guaranteed free of feline infectious peritonitis (FIP).1

2. The breeder advertises that her Old-Style Siamese kittens come from champion or grand champion lines.2

3. The breeder describes the colors and other traits of her cats in terms not accepted by most of the world's Siamese breeders. For example, a bad breeder may describe the color of her kittens using a made-up name such as "snow-mist" when in fact there is no such thing as a "snow-mist" color in Siamese cats.3

4. The breeder sells kittens without registration papers. Alternatively (and just as bad), the breeder sells kittens that are registered only by a cat association that you never heard of.4

5. The breeder has multiple kittens with traits that are widely considered serious cosmetic faults when possessed by Siamese cats, such as fluffy coats with plumed tails or white markings. Instead of telling the buyer that those are faults, the breeder seems to be unaware that these are anything except standard Old-Style Siamese. Alternatively, the breeder tells the buyer that those are unusually desirable kittens that are allegedly rare and precious examples of the original Old-Style Siamese (as opposed to allegedly more corrupt latterday versions of the breed). Or the breeder may claim the kittens are rare examples of the Snowshoe Siamese, Balinese, or similar.5

6. The handwritten pedigree given to you by the breeder shows that one of the parents or other recent ancestors of the kittens was from some breed other than the Siamese breed. Alternatively, you visit the breeder and see that one of her "Old-Style Siamese" breeding cats appears to be a Himalayan or other breed, not any kind of Siamese.6

7. The breeder advertises kittens from several different breeds and offers a Baskin-Robbins pallette of colors.7

8. The breeder is eager to sell kittens to you and doesn't ask you many (or not any) questions about the kind of home you will provide to your new kitten.8

9. The breeder wants you to take your Old-Style Siamese kitten home before the kitten is ten weeks old or before the kitten has had at least the first set of vaccinations.9

10. The breeder wants to take your money and send you home with the kitten before a written sales contract with a health guarantee has been signed by both buyer and seller.10




FOOTNOTES

1There are three common deadly diseases to which kittens are prone. They are (1) feline leukemia (FeLV), (2) feline immunodeficiency virus  (FIV), and (3) feline infectious peritonitis (FIP). It is possible for a breeder to guarantee that her kittens are free of FeLV and FIV because there are reliable tests for those diseases. However, there is no reliable test available at this time for FIP. The so-called "FIP titer" or "coronavirus titer" is not a reliable test for FIP. It is a test that occasionally is useful for diagnosing FIP in conjunction with other tests and applied to very sick cats, which is why some vets still use the test, but it is not a valid screening test. That is, it is not a test that can be used to estimate FIP risk in otherwise healthy cats in a cattery situation. Often breeders who guarantee that their kittens are "FIP-free" are inexperienced breeders who have not yet learned much about feline infectious diseases. True, every breeder has to start somewhere. However, you should ask yourself why the inexperienced breeder has not sought the advice of a more experienced breeder about these things. Making legally binding promises to kitten buyers is a serious matter, after all. New breeders who fail to seek out experienced mentors are not demonstrating good judgment. Sometimes breeders who advertise "FIP-free" catteries are experienced breeders who have failed to learn much about feline disease over the years due to lack of mentoring, failure to interact with the veterinary and breeding community, or just plain lack of interest in the science of feline husbandry. For more information about FIP, please see Dr. Susan Little's article, "Feline Infectious Peritonitis - Update for Breeders"

2Old-Style Siamese (whether they are called by that name or another name for the old, moderate-looking type of Siamese) are not currently recognized as a breed by any major cat association. Therefore, Old-Style Siamese cannot be exhibited by cat shows as Old-Style Siamese per se. They can be exhibited as Siamese, but then they will be evaluated against the modern Siamese breed standard (ultra thin, long-headed, and fine-boned). Some breeders of "appleheads" claim their cats are from champion lines only because their cats won an award in a photo contest (definitely not equivalent to an award earned at a live cat show) or are descended from cats that won awards more than twenty years ago. To claim that a cat is a champion or grand champion when that cat did not win the award at a live cat show is dishonest. To claim that a cat is "from champion lines" based on ancestors from more than twenty years ago is meaningless. All Siamese cats have champion and grand champion ancestors if you go back far enough in time, but only cats whose parents have been shown (i.e., recently) and whose parents have won show titles can rightfully claim to be from champion lines. Any Old-Style Siamese that has recent ancestors that have won awards at a live cat show sponsored by a major cat association is a cat that has modern Siamese ancestors, not Old-Style Siamese ancestors. There are only a couple of exceptions to this rule. In Germany, breeders of Thai Cats (the German name for the Old-Style Siamese) can show their cats in the World Cat Federation shows held in Europe. Awards won in Thai Cat classes in a WCF show in Europe are legitimate. WCF is still only a minor cat association, but it is growing in influence (has been considered for recognition by other major cat associations in the world) and does regularly hold cat shows. The other possibility is that a breeder may have shown her cats in live shows sponsored by a minor North American cat association called the United Feline Organization (UFO). However, UFO only sponsors roughly one cat show per year. Thus, no North American breeder of Old-Style Siamese can claim that she shows her cats regularly (frequently) and that her cats are from champion and grand champion Old-Style lines (meaning awards won recently in Old-Style Siamese classes).

3For a list of the widely recognized, accepted Siamese colors, see the CFA (www.cfainc.org) and TICA (www.tica.org) web sites under "Siamese" or consult the PREOSSIA Old-Style Siamese breed standard.

4The following cat associations are legitimate major cat associations in North America: CFA, TICA, ACFA, CFF, CCA, and ACA. If a North American breeder is selling kittens that have no papers or have papers not issued from one of the major North American cat associations, either the kittens are not purebred, the breeder is not knowledgable, the breeder is not honest, or some combination of the above. Good breeders always register their kittens, all of their kittens, because registration papers (and the pedigrees constructed from registration data) are the main tool that breeders have with which they can trace and eliminate serious genetic defects. Also, registration papers are a good breeder's way of documenting that she bred each kitten. They show that the breeder is willing to stand behind the quality of the cats she breeds.

5Remember that if the breeder's claims were true, the registration papers of the parents (issued by a major cat association) should indicate that one or both of them is a Snowshoe, Balinese, or something other than the usual Siamese registration. If the registration papers say both parents are Siamese and the breeder is honest and competent, the kittens should only rarely have long fur, white markings, or other serious cosmetic faults. If a breeder does have a kitten with a serious fault, it will be just one or two kittens in one litter, not multiple kittens with faults in multiple litters. The Old-Style Siamese, like all Siamese, should be a shorthaired cat. Cats with fluffy coats and plumed tails are longhaired cats. Yes, even if the fur does not look as long as that of a Persian, if the tail is plumed it indicates the cat is genetically a longhaired cat. Let's say that again. Longhaired cats can vary quite a bit in the fluffiness of the coat, but the plumed tail is generally a reliable indicator of longhaired trait even if the coat on the rest of the cat does not seem particularly long. Siamese ideally are not supposed to have plumed tails or other indicators of longhaired trait. While it is possible that a good Siamese breeder might occasionally (hopefully very rarely) have a kitten born with fluffy fur and a plumed tail (evidence of the longhaired trait), white markings, or another serious cosmetic fault, a good breeder will usually neuter the parents of such kittens or take other steps to reduce the incidence of such kittens. An ethical breeder does not explain away unusual traits in her kittens by claiming that her cats are one breed when they are registered as another breed. Instead, she admits to buyers that the kittens are not what they should be for their breed and she takes steps to breed the undesirable trait out of her lineage. An ethical breeder will always honestly point out to kitten buyers what are the good and bad traits of the kittens. She may sell them as pet kittens for full price, or she may choose to offer them at reduced price. But she will never make unverifiable claims about a non-standard-looking kitten's alleged rarity and desirability. An ethical breeder sells kittens with serious cosmetic faults only to buyers who are fully informed before they buy. Even one occurrence of a serious fault should be rare in a good breeding program. If a breeder's Web site or other advertising indicates that the breeder consistently produces Old-Style Siamese kittens with fluffy coats and/or white markings, find yourself another breeder. Unfortunately, there are a few "black sheep" breeders in the Old-Style Siamese world who have falsified registration papers (usually by "paperhanging"). Multiple faults occurring in litter after litter may indicate that registration papers have been "hung" or that inappropriate cats have been used for breeding by that breeder and that the parents of the kittens are not genuine Old-Style Siamese.

6Sometimes it is only in the handwritten pedigree that a breeder reveals details about a kitten's ancestors that won't be apparent when viewing the official registration papers or the certified pedigree. This is particularly true when the kitten has recent ancestors that were registered on the ancestry list of the American Cat Association (ACA), or formerly on the ancestry list of the Cat Fanciers' Federation (CFF), or that were registered only by a minor cat association. Believe it or not, some breeders see nothing wrong with violating ethical Siamese breeding practices and will openly declare what they have done on a handwritten pedigree even if they won't declare it to the cat association registrars. Also, sometimes it is only when visiting a cattery in person that a discrepancy between a cat's physical appearance and the official registration papers can be detected. Generally speaking, Siamese and Old-Style Siamese in North America should never have anything except Siamese ancestors for at least the past four to eight generations (depending on the cat association involved). There are occasional situations where Siamese cats have been imported from overseas. In the WCF in Germany, Thai Cats are allowed to have ancestors that aren't Siamese. In FIFe in Europe, Siamese are allowed to have Oriental Shorthairs in their pedigrees. However, if the breeder's cats were imported from Europe, she should be able to prove that. Also, the North American associations still will require that pedigrees contain nothing but Siamese ancestors for at least the past four to eight generations before they will accept transfer of registration from an overseas association. If the breeder claims that having a non-Siamese cat in the pedigree is okay, check the registration papers carefully to make sure that they are valid papers issued by a major North American cat association (see footnote number 4). If need be, telephone or email the cat association involved and verify the registration numbers of the parents of the kittens.

7Well, first of all, you would be surprised how much there is to know about each breed and color variety within breeds. A breeder who breeds several different breeds and colors is probably not as knowledgable as she should be about the cats she is breeding. But more important are the sheer numbers of cats involved when multiple breeds and colors are handled by one breeder. We know that in rare circumstances a breeder can house a large number of cats and do a good job, for example if the breeder is wealthy and can afford to hire lots of extra hands to help out. But usually not. When a breeder has more cats than most other breeders, our advice is, "Run like mad." A breeder who is breeding several breeds and many different colors is nearly always breeding quantity over quality. Cat association registration statistics suggest that most cat breeders maintain fewer than fifteen cats per cattery (often eight or fewer) and rear between two and six litters per year. It's perfectly possible to do top quality breeding but keep the numbers of cats down, down, down. In fact, keeping the numbers down is the only way for most people to keep on top of things and do quality breeding year after year. More than likely a breeder advertising multiple breeds and colors either is trying vainly to make a profit or she is a breeder who never learned to say no to one more gorgeous cat. But the cats are like candy. A few are great. More cats than can easily be cared for are not. Don't buy it when a breeder says she does "multi-tasking" to take care of so many cats. You couldn't "multi-task" and do a quality job taking of care of forty human children. Children want individual attention, your full attention, and so do cats. Siamese are notorious for wanting daily loving attention from their people, more than many other breeds of cat. One breeder and perhaps one spouse cannot do a good job taking care of forty intelligent little fur-persons, not when many of them are breeding cats. It's much more demanding to care for breeding cats than neutered pet cats. There aren't enough hours in the day to monitor all the pregnant queens and their kittens closely, play with all of the cats, exercise them all, check and clean all those teeth, check all those ears, observe all those eating habits closely, thoroughly disinfect all those litter boxes, hold each cat in a human lap for a while (including extra time spent with stud cats living alone in stud quarters), notice when one cat is acting a bit depressed suddenly, listen to and respond to all the Siamese conversations...Need we go on? Also, veterinary researchers tell us that as the cattery numbers go up, so does the incidence of feline behavioral problems and of various diseases. Kittens reared in large catteries are more prone than other kittens to FIP, ringworm, upper respiratory infections, parasitic infestations, and much more.

8A good breeder loves each and every kitten as an individual and wants to make sure each kitten will go to a good home. Breeders who sell without asking questions are either breeding only for profit, have poor judgment, or are in over their heads. Pedigreed kittens are in demand. Breeders who have done their homework prior to beginning breeding have no trouble placing all of their kittens in very good homes year after year. Good breeders are not desperate to place kittens in the first home that comes along. In some cases, over-eager breeders are inexperienced or have poor judgment. They place kittens indiscrimately because they don't yet see the harm in that. They haven't yet learned what most experienced cat breeders and rescuers know, that some people unfortunately can't take care of themselves much less a kitten. That some people change pets as often as they buy new furniture, sometimes even to match the pets to the furniture. That some people buy kittens just to be toys for the toddlers. That some mentally ill individuals acquire kittens with the intention of abusing them. That many, many people love cats but need help matching the right breed of cat to their lifestyle. Without that help, they may make the wrong choice, with the result being that yet another cat ends up abandoned down the road. Sometimes being a good breeder means saying no, sometimes flatly no and sometimes referring the client to a different breeder with a different breed or to a shelter.

9Ethical Old-Style Siamese breeders generally will not allow Siamese kittens to leave before they are twelve weeks old and have been fully vaccinated (at age eight or nine weeks and again at age twelve weeks) against rhinotracheitis, panleukopenia, and Calici virus. Siamese kittens, including Old-Style Siamese kittens, develop unusually close emotional ties with their mothers and tend to develop neurotic habits if separated from their mothers at too early an age. In some cases, a breeder may allow a Siamese kitten to leave home as early as age ten weeks, but any earlier than that risks the kitten developing lifelong neurotic habits such as wool-chewing. In a few cases, good breeders will keep Old-Style Siamese kittens until age sixteen weeks or even longer if the kitten shows signs of being slow to adjust to life without mom.

10In any transaction between a buyer and seller, it's a good idea to put in writing what the expectations are on both sides. This ensures that the buyer in particular is fully informed in advance about what the buyer is purchasing. In the case of a kitten, the breed and other descriptive details should be in the contract, so there will be no misunderstanding about what the kitten was supposed to be. The contract should include information about what the sales price was, what was included in that price (vaccinations, registration papers, pedigree, health record, neutering if any), and the terms of the health guarantee. It's usual for Old-Style Siamese breeders to offer to replace the kitten or refund the kitten price if the kitten develops a preventable disease or abnormality within two weeks after the kitten goes to the new home. Some breeders will guarantee against genetic diseases for the life of the kitten. Knowledgable breeders will not guarantee against FIP, nor will they guarantee that their kittens are coronavirus-free. See Dr. Susan's excellent article about FIP if you want to know why. The most important thing about having a written contract between buyer and seller is that it helps to ensure that there will be no misunderstandings. It's essential to avoid misunderstandings because the cost of human error in this case will be borne by an intelligent little cat. It will be the cat's life that is ruined if the cat goes to a home where the cat does not fit in or cannot be adequately cared for. It will be the cat that is not given proper veterinary care if there is miscommunication between buyer and seller, or if they are engaged in a dispute during a time when the cat urgently needs love and good care. A good breeder understands that a written sales contract will get buyer and seller to think carefully and communicate clearly in advance of the purchase. The sales contract will go a long ways toward preventing tragedy for the cat, as well as frustration for the buyer and the seller.


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