One of the most common complaints from newbies is they either cannot find anyone to sell them their first cat, or else they get “taken” to the cleaners. However, that is not the way it has to be. My experience in acquiring my first show cats was very positive. It would be nice if I could just chalk my experience down to being lucky, but I have to admit that there was a lot of work on my part at the very beginning. You see, it had been a year since my Himmie passed away, and I was ready to look for a companion for my black Persian neuter.
I was involved in showing dogs and contributed to my regional & national breed clubs, so I already knew some of the things to avoid when looking to purchase a pedigreed puppy. Probably the most important thing I knew was what questions I should ask a breeder before buying a kitten. Since I enjoyed showing dogs so much, I thought it might be nice to see if I would also like showing my new kitten… so the search was on to find a neutered cat to show in Premiership.
I wanted a cat to show in Premiership so that if I found I didn’t care for showing cats, I would still have the much anticipated companion pet I was really looking for, and the added bonus of nice type to go along with it. I was willing to spend the time researching breeders, looks, lines etc., and was willing to wait until I found what I was looking for. I would guess that in this regard I was not a typical “newbie”.
My research and patience finally paid off after almost 6 months of reading breed books, checking out the CFA web site, visiting a local show, surfing breeder’s web pages, and corresponding with a number of breeders (and one judge). I am sure that some of the folks who received my email inquiry were shocked at the amount of information I provided and the number of questions I asked in my introduction, but I felt that unless I was willing to let myself be known and make a connection with a breeder, that I couldn’t expect them to invest their time (and maybe a kitten) in me in return.
While I was far from educated in Persians and the cat fancy in general, I knew that I wanted to find a breeder who would not only guarantee the health of my kitten, but would also demonstrate a dedication to their breed and the welfare of the kittens they produced by conducting the appropriate breed related health tests on their animals, and stipulating that they get right of first refusal should I not be able or willing to keep the animal in the future.
A dog breeder friend of mine gives potential PET owners this advise, “You should feel comfortable enough with the potential breeder of your puppy to be able to call them in the middle of the night if necessary”. She also thinks that this should be how the breeder feels about the potential puppy owner. You don’t have to be friends with each other, but you must feel confident that they are committed to the welfare of the animal, and will provide you with the support you need if something goes wrong. With all of the other information I garnered from cat breeders, I let this advise be my guide in narrowing down the possible breeders to ultimately purchase a premiership pet from.
At this point in time, I wasn’t even thinking about getting into breeding. I was trying to be pragmatic about it and see if I liked showing first. When I contacted Linda Mercer of Wishstar Persians, I was excited to also find out that in addition to her meeting all of my “requirements” of a good breeder, (and loving the look of her cats) that she was only two hours away from me.
Long story short — fate conspired in that the neutered kitten she had promised as a pet to a family, was suddenly available again as they were going to be moving, and he was the one I had fallen in love with when visiting her (although I remained silent on this fact). I took him to my first show and he was Best AB Kitten in two rings the first day. Needless to say, I was hooked. This boy grew up to become GP Wishstar Shadow Catcher of Ilex.
A little later on, I asked her to “keep me in mind” when she had a female available that I could show & breed. This request led to the co-ownership of a kitten who would become GC Wishstar Prayer of Ilex, CFA’s Midwest Region’s Best Brown Tabby & White Persian in 2000-2001, and the mother of my first litter.
I continue to be mentored by Linda, and the addition of each new cat from her has led to a special relationship. I called her when my first litter was being born, and then an hour later worried that one of the kittens wasn’t nursing again, and after she ascertained that his tummy was round and warm, she provided the diagnosis — “he was still full”! She helped me make the decision to have a kitten put down due to neurological problems, and was sympathetic to the new experiences and responsibilities I was encountering with breeding.
What I did right when looking for my first cat:
- I researched breed specific health concerns (through CFA web site & other feline sites, & at bookstore)
- I contacted CFA regional clubs asking for a breeder referral list.
- When sending a kitten inquiry to a breeder, I not only asked about kitten availability, I asked them for advise on what I should be looking for regarding health tests, how to start showing, and any other places I should be looking for a kitten from a reputable breeder.
- I attended a local show and spoke with breeders, and asked the show manager for recommendation for any bicolor Persian breeders not in attendance. (Even folks not in your breed can help steer you in the right direction)
- I visited a breeder (at their invitation) just to meet them, their cats, & to chat, without the pressure of picking up a kitten.
- I gave preference to breeders who seemed willing to be there with advise AFTER the sale of the kitten.
- I was patient! It took about 6 months to find the right breeder & kitten.
What I DIDN’T do wrong:
- I didn’t take the offer of kittens from several breeders who didn’t require much more of me than the purchase price.
- I didn’t start out with an intact cat (male or female) that would have either required me to start breeding, or made me feel pressured to breed.
- I didn’t seriously consider a kitten from breeders who didn’t require in writing that they get the right of first refusal should I be unable or unwilling to keep the cat in the future.
- I didn’t pursue breeders who didn’t advertise that their animals had breed specific health clearances before breeding them.
- I wasn’t lured by the opportunity of a cute kitten from a seemingly perfect ad in a newspaper or online. I figured that good breeders were choosy and would probably find good owners through more involved methods.
I cannot be sure what the future holds for me in the cat fancy, but I do know that because of the proper mentorship, I had the right start. I hope the time comes that I will be able to help the next “newbie” dip their toe into the world of show cats… and find the waters warm and welcoming.