Before you get too excited about the prospect of choosing a kitten or puppy from the litter, there are a few things to consider to make sure you buy from a reputable breeder, rather than help fund an unethical breeding operation. These criteria also increase your chances of selecting a healthy animal with a sound temperament.
The American Kennel Club (AKC) is a great starting point. It lists the Parent Clubs of various AKC recognized breeds, known as the Breeder Referral Search. These clubs guide you toward a local breeder who works to preserve the characteristics of the breed while trying to improve the breed lines. These days, most breeders have their own website where you can find out more about them.
You can also find breeders by scanning the AKC Marketplace, checking out dog and cat magazines, joining local breed groups on the Internet, asking your veterinarian, or inquiring at shows or competitions. However, remember that unscrupulous breeders will advertise too, so it is up to you to screen them, and always report anyone who seems suspicious.
Important questions to ask the breeder
We put together a list of some of the most important questions to ask when seeking a new furry member of the family, all of which help to determine whether you are dealing with an experienced breeder who follows the correct procedures and breeding guidelines, or someone untrustworthy who is simply trying to make some quick cash without any regard to the animal’s welfare.
1. How many were in the litter?
Good breeders tend to have a waiting list for their litters, so there is always a chance that you might only get to see the remaining few. Typically young or older dogs have smaller litters, but litter size also depends on the particular breed.
Note: a responsible breeder will only allow their puppies to be taken home when they are at least 7 weeks old, at which point they are normally weaned. Kittens tend to be between 10-12 weeks old before they can go to their new homes. Any earlier than this should be a red flag.
2. Can I see the mother?
Unless the individual is not the actual breeder (and this is another important question to ask), the breeder should always encourage you to see the mother. You can check her temperament and any other characteristics she may have passed on to her young. If you intend to show, find out whether the mother or sire won any titles and whether the breeder actively competes with their dogs or cats.
3. Have the parents suffered from any health problems and have they been screened for inherited conditions?
Talk to someone who knows the breed and the conditions they may face. An experienced breeder will try to minimize any defects with a careful breeding plan. They will also discuss with you if the breed is suitable for your particular household. It’s important that both parents are screened for any genetic disorders and the breeder should give you an honest account of the condition and history of their parents.
4. Will it be vaccinated and dewormed?
Find out whether the puppy or kitten is up-to-date with vaccinations and whether a deworming schedule has started. Puppies should normally be dewormed at 2 weeks of age, so find out when they are next due. You should also confirm whether or not they are spayed/neutered.
5. Will the breeder supply a contract and health guarantee?
A reputable breeder will always provide a contract of sale that may include any restrictions, such as whether the animal can be exported or used for breeding purposes. They will also provide some form of health guarantee, should any problems arise. When you can, ask for references from previous buyers. This should help put your mind at ease that you are dealing with a trustworthy breeder.
6. Has the puppy or kitten been socialized?
Find out what type of environment your prospective puppy or kitten lives in and how regularly they're handled. A good breeder usually starts socialization as early as possible. They also conduct temperament tests to help predict personality traits; a great help when it comes to matching the animal with a suitable owner.
A good breeder is always be on hand to offer support and keen to ensure that all of their litter is going to the best homes possible. Once you bring your new addition home to your family, don’t forget about insurance. It pays to be prepared as your puppy or kitten finds their feet with your family. The next step is to look into puppy insurance and kitten insurance.