What to do when you visit a Maine Coon breeder to select a kitten to buy

Tabby Maine Coon mother and her kitten
Tabby Maine Coon mother and her kitten. Image: MikeB

The basic M.O. (modus operandi) or method when you want to purchase a Maine Coon kitten is to visit the breeder from whom you are going to make the purchase. I know that a lot of people don't visit the breeder. They might purchase online and ask the breeder to ship the kitten, sometimes over a long distance. But it is always advisable to visit the breeder. This is a big purchase for the lifetime of the kitten. And if you do buy online DON'T send money upfront unless you are absolutely certain that the seller is not a scammer.

So having visited the breeder to select a kitten, the following advice is provided by the Maine Coon Cat Club in the UK:

Ask questions

Ask questions. Obviously, you will ask them politely but you should ask all the questions that you want to ask and a good breeder will be pleased to provide answers. I am just trying to think about the kind of questions you might ask. You might ask about the foundation cats. These are the cats in the breeder's cattery from which a bloodline has been developed. They are very important cats because their character is inherited by the offspring and you are going to purchase the offspring or their kittens. So, it's nice to know what kind of pedigree your selected kitten has.

Pedigree

You need to make sure that the breeder is registered with a cat association and this should be a recognised cat association like the Cat Fanciers' Association in America. And the kitten should be registered with that cat association so you know that they are purebred and I would ask to see a pedigree which is a family history. Above all you want to know that the cat you are purchasing is a genuine purebred cat of quality.

Health

Of course, as important is the health of the kitten. The kitten should look clean and healthy. The backbone, shoulder blades and hips should be well covered with a layer of fat but you can feel the bones. The kitten should not have a pot belly which is indicative of worms. The eyes should be bright and clear with no signs of discharge. There should be no third eyelid. This is a thin membrane which emerges from the corner of the eye to cover the eyeball to protect it. When a cat is ill it tends to emerge from the corner and cover part of the eye. It should be more or less entirely invisible when checked and it is checked when the eye is open.

The ears should be spotlessly clean. You do not want to see a black grit at the top of the ear canal leading to the eardrum. This might be an indication that the kitten has ear mites. This in turn would be an indication that the breeder is not doing her job properly in raising healthy kittens. If I was at a breeders and the kitten that I wanted to purchase had dirty ears, I would not purchase that kitten and I would leave the facility without any purchase.

The kitten's coat should be clean and soft. It should have a silky feel which is an indication of good health and good diet. You should take with you, if possible, a flea comb and flea comb the kitten. If any fleas jump out then you leave the cattery and go home without a purchase.

If you do not take a flea comb then you can part the fur with your hands and look for black grit (flea feces) or even fleas which can be seen if they are present. The best place to check for flea faeces is at the base of the tail or the end of the spine; where the spine joins the tail. That is where you will see flea faeces if fleas are in the fur. This is strongly indicative of a very poor cattery and you don't want to buy from a breeder if that is the case.

You should check the teeth and gums to make sure that they are healthy. The gum should be pink and not pale. Pale gums indicate anaemia. The teeth should be in very good condition because the cat is very young. There should be no discharge through the nose which will be indicative of a cold or perhaps another upper respiratory viral or bacterial infection.

You should also check for any yellow staining under the tail which would indicate that the kitten has suffered or are suffering from diarrhoea.

Character

As to character, you should see all the kittens together with their siblings and their mother. This will allow you to see them play and assess their character more easily. The Maine Coon Cat Club suggest that you should not pick the runt of the litter if there is one. You are advised to select the most confident and outgoing kitten. You want to adopt an outward-looking, friendly kitten. Personally, I think it might be a good idea to choose the runt of the litter sometimes because they need adopting firstly and secondly, they might turn out to be a wonderful companion.

Paperwork

Finally, it perhaps goes without saying that you should leave with a contract if you purchase a kitten (that you have read word for word) together with all the documentation that you need including vaccination certificates, any health certificates, any test that have been carried out showing that the kitten is negative to certain common diseases, a certificate of pedigree and the registration with the cat Association concerned.

Please add your thoughts if you think I have forgotten something.

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