how should the process of adopting a cat from a breeder work
March 16, 2013 2:35 PM   Subscribe

I want to adopt two Bengal kittens from a breeder. I have had dogs, but never had cats. I am getting cats because my daughter is crazy about cats.

Four weeks ago, I put a deposit on a litter of six. I reserved two kittens: third and fourth pick from a litter that will be available to go home April 15th or so. I was told I could visit after 8 weeks (after they have their shots) and choose my kittens at 10 weeks.

The breeder doesn't allow you to visit before 8 weeks, so I haven't seen these cats at all. The breeder allows me to switch my deposit to another litter any time (there are two others, one just born this week). It seemed like a good idea to visit at 8 weeks to decide whether to pick 2 kittens from this litter, or one from this litter and one from another litter. The advantages of doing this sooner rather than later is obvious.

There is also the role of my 6 year old daughter to consider. For my daughter this is a life changing event she will likely remember all her life. I'd like her involved in the choice of the kitten(s) from a given litter, but not the litter itself. Choosing between litters will be too complex, given the deposit, position and timing issues that she will not comprend, and emotionally overwhelming for her.

Now I am told I can't visit the kittens at 8 weeks, I have to wait until 10 weeks, which is the day you pick your kitten. I had intended to bring my young daughter pick the kitten from the litter at 10 weeks. Once she sees kittens she will not be able to process the whole changing litter thing. So now if I want to have her involved in the choice of kitten, moving one of the deposits to another litter is off the table.

And then I was told I have fourth and fifth position rather than third and fourth pick. So now the process works like this: I visit at 10 weeks and pick two of three cats from a litter I have only seen on the web.

Many of the constraints are there to protect the cats, which I respect. But I can't believe this is how families choose the cats that will become their companions for 10-15 years.

How is this supposed to work?
posted by alcahofa to Pets & Animals (30 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
For my daughter this is a life changing event she will likely remember all her life.

I doubt it and wouldn't get too hung up on this particular consideration.
posted by lalex at 2:44 PM on March 16, 2013 [13 favorites]

I have no comment on the breeder process, but at 5 years old when I picked my first kitten from a litter and then had to wait 4 weeks to take the kitten home, I completely understood the process. Your daughter can likely pick a kitten and wait. I think that part can work out.

All of that said, I actually do have a comment on both the breed and the breeder.

The breeder has over-sold the kittens or something similar. They are not honoring your deposit. The stuff about "protecting" the kittens is ALL lies. I would not trust them after this and might back out of the deal entirely.

Are you sure you are ready for two Bengals??

While I commend getting two cats together, I think starting off with this breed is maybe questionable. I think of this breed and a few others like it as graduate or Phd level feline ownership. This breeder screw-up might be a lucky "out" for you and your family. Bengals are lovely and smart, they are also sometimes a hair's breadth away from being wild animals in temperment.
posted by jbenben at 2:49 PM on March 16, 2013 [19 favorites]

Also, if you abandon the breeder idea you can check Petfinder to find (free!) Bengal cats from shelters in your area.
posted by lalex at 2:50 PM on March 16, 2013 [10 favorites]

Agreeing with everyone else that if you can get out of it and adopt a shelter kitty who really needs you, please do it.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 2:56 PM on March 16, 2013 [5 favorites]

[Folks, this needs to not become a "OMG breeders are bad!" derail. If you want to address the specific situation or describe alternatives, that's fine, but save the rants. ]
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 3:03 PM on March 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

The benefit of buying from a breeder, be it dogs, chickens, horses, cats, or whatever, is that you know what you're getting. You should be able to meet the parents, see the kittens and talk to other clients about their purchases. If it's a show or working breed you can see the competition results from that bloodline and you can get the veterinary histories. That is what your money buys you and I think there are MANY cases where buying from a breeder, even mixed breed animals (particularly mixed breed maybe!) makes everyone happy. This does not sound like the case. You are not getting anything from this breeder you couldn't get by going down the the local SPCA and picking two kittens out of any litter they have there.

You're a client, act like one. Tell the breeder what you want for your dollars and if they can't meet that then ask for the deposit back and move on.

I'm not going to make any judgements about buying vs adopting because, like I said, there are valid reasons to buy quite often. But for a companion animal like a cat that has not real "value" to you as an owner the breeder should be bending over backwards to give you value for your money in terms of matching you with a good companion.
posted by fshgrl at 3:04 PM on March 16, 2013 [16 favorites]

thank you fhsgrl for the only responsive answer to my actual question. i do not disagree on the shelter vs. breeder issue. however, that part of the adoption is not my choice and that is not my question. is there anyone out there who has bought a cat from a breeder? what is the the normal process?

and it sounds like i have a separate question about the temperament of bengal cats... i'll start with google on that.
posted by alcahofa at 3:11 PM on March 16, 2013

"You can't visit until X" is normal, though you should be allowed to visit in general. Being on an ordered list is also normal. And at your daughter's age, or even older, my parents just brought home cats for us, and we loved them as much as we loved cats we picked out, so I don't think you need to have her involved. I don't think there's anything wrong with having her involved, either. (I'd have had trouble taking two kittens and leaving one alone at that age, though.)

I do think you want two cats you get at the same time. If you switched to a different litter, would you be higher on the list?

I have one purebred and two rescue cats. I picked my purebred -- who I love so much -- from a photo of three tiny kittens (she's the meowing one on the far left). I had no idea what she was like, I chose her based on colouring, and it turns out she's perfect. I don't think that you'll have a problem with choosing the wrong cat.
posted by jeather at 3:12 PM on March 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

I have a pair Devonshire Rex, and although they are not littermates, the process for me was very much what you describe. When I contacted breeders I was put on waiting lists for litters, and when my litter(s) came up, I was offered last pick from each - meaning I did not get to pick my kitten at all. The day I went to pick them up, each time, I was offered one (1) kitten, even when there appeared to be other kittens remaining. It's possible that the others were already spoken for or being held reserve to see if they would be breedable. Which, by the way, might be the reason for the shift from 8 weeks to 10 weeks; it might be easier for the breeder to determine which have flaws that would make them unsuitable for breeding programs when they are older. Both of mine were actually 4 months old when I got them for this reason (as well as to accommodate spay/neuter & vaccination schedule).

The visiting thing is weird. I didn't visit the litter(s) I got my cats from, but my cats have a very small breeding pool, and each time I had to travel several hours to go pick them up. A visit for me just wouldn't have been feasible, but in both cases I was invited to go to shows where they were showing their other cats so that I could meet and see their cats and - I think most importantly - the breeders could meet me in person. I guess it's *possible* (going back to my prior statement) that they may not want you calling dibs on a kitten that will be removed from the selection for whatever reason, but I would think they would still want you to see their animals before making an agreement with you or taking your money.
posted by lilnublet at 3:15 PM on March 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Several red flags are popping up here:

a) If I understand you correctly, your breeder is fielding three simultaneous or overlapping litters. This is not sane breeder behavior: attending to even one pregnant queen and her kittens is time-consuming and costly work. I strongly suspect your breeder is in it for the money as opposed to producing healthy well-adjusted exemplars of the breed. Never ever buy a papered animal from a breeder who is in it for money.

b) You want to bring two Bengals into a home with a very young child. Bengals, due to their very recent heritage (four generations, typically) to an undomesticated species of wild feline, are not for the first-time cat owner, nor are they great choices for young children.

c) You are front-loading a whole lot of weight to the most trivial and short-lived part of part of cat ownership: kittenhood is over in the blink of an eye—seriously, we are talking 4 months here and :poof: you have an adult cat for the next decade and a half, if not longer.

I beg you to please reconsider this decision. Do not let this breeder or your desire to make a memorable moment for your child* railroad you into a hasty decision.

Please look into adopting a regular housecat instead. If you want a purebred housecat from a breeder, there's many kinds to chose from (Persian, Maine Coon, Rex, Manx, Scottish Fold...on and on) and research your breeder as thoroughly as you research your chosen breed. There's plenty written up on the web about how to select an ethical pet breeder.

Kittens are a lot of work and they learn an amazing amount about how to behave properly in their first year. To give one common example: play a little rough with a kitten (such as allow it to use your fingers as toys) and you will spend the next 15+ years with a cat that demonstrates his emotions with bites or scratches. It's darling behavior when they weigh 2 pounds, it's dangerous when they are full grown. Consider adopting older kittens or cats as a safety measure for a first time owner. If your daughter wants her fill of watching kittens grow up, there's many live kitten cams out there.

*I got my first cat when I was 6, after begging since I learned how to talk. I did not meet my cat before my parents chose it and it didn't matter, I still remember the first moment I held her. Don't worry, if it's important to her, your daughter will cherish the moment no matter what kind of cat or how old it is and if she doesn't, keep in mind the cat you adopt this year will still be alive when she leaves for college.
posted by jamaro at 3:41 PM on March 16, 2013 [37 favorites]

No, I don't think it's right that you have to pick two kittens at 10 weeks when you've had no prior viewing of them, other than on the internet.

Did they say why you can't visit at 8 weeks? I'd be inclined to tell them that you want to uphold the initial terms of the agreement and if they disagree, I wouldn't go further with them.

Breeders should be transparent and open with you - that's part of what you're paying for.
posted by heyjude at 3:43 PM on March 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

One thing I would be very wary of is how the breeder answers your questions about recessive genes and health issues. A quick Google search turns up this page, which may not be the most authoritative, but most purebreds are prone to certain genetic disorders and I would definitely want to hear how they screen and/or handle these issues - if a breeder isn't careful about not perpetuating these genes I wouldn't trust them on anything else. Also, of course, consider how you will deal with the health issues Bengals are most susceptible to if you should get an animal that has them.
posted by nakedmolerats at 3:54 PM on March 16, 2013

Here's how our kids (8, 11 and 13) react to our Bengal kitten (Itty Bitty) coming into the room - One will scream "Ahhhhh! It's Itty Bitty!" and they all jump up on their chairs to avoid getting their ankles clawed. She has calmed down some, but is still known by her alternate name "Manilla". So, I would argue that it will be a "life changing event she will likely remember all her life".
posted by 445supermag at 3:56 PM on March 16, 2013 [7 favorites]

If you are set on getting purebred cats from a breeder, and want these cats to be a companion to a young child, may I recommend looking at Maine Coons? Yes, they are the size of small horses, but they are of an extremely gentle and tolerant temperament, very social and playful, and can be trained to "fetch" and walk on a leash. AND they get along excellently with children. (Every other breed on earth would have given those kids a claws-out swat to the face in the first 30s of that video and then bolted for the next county.)

Also: get a boy and a girl, or two boys. Two female cats will sometimes develop dominance issues with each other in adulthood.
posted by 100kb at 4:12 PM on March 16, 2013 [8 favorites]

I don't know if it is different with kittens, but with puppies I think it's pretty common to allow visitations before picking.

Kittens are already crazy (indiscriminate clawing/biting, running-around-the-house crazies, knocking things over for the hell of it . . .), Bengals are extra-super-crazy. If I had a young kid I would not want to deal with a high-energy cat on top of her! Unlike dogs, cats aren't going to run with the kid and play fetch and have rollicking outdoor playtimes. An extra-super-crazy cat responds to a high-energy little person by trying to play claw and bite, not run around, which gets rather painful. Getting a slightly older cat and/or one from a rescue organization whose personality has been vetted by caretakers and foster families gives you a safer bet on what you're getting.

Also, when I was a kid I never picked out any of our kittens (except for the one I found on the train tracks!) and it was still a wonderful event. Getting a pet is like forming a relationship: Hollywood and Disney would have you think it's the moment you meet that's the most important. It's not. It's the years afterwards. Playtime, bedtime, training, cleaning the litter box, watching the kitty stretch in the sun, getting your head groomed, all of the little moments you have with your pet. Having pets changed my life, but it was the example my father set as a responsible, compassionate animal lover, the act of caretaking of these wonderful creatures, and watching the development of their personalities in response to good pet ownership that initiated the change. Not the moment of receiving the cat.
posted by schroedinger at 5:29 PM on March 16, 2013 [5 favorites]

Hi, I just went through this last year when we got a Birman kitten as a companion for our very awesome feral rescue cat. Here they are from just this morning in fact - awesome feral rescue furball on top of the barstool, pedigreed little prince is underneath :)

fshgrl is absolutely correct, and I concur that this is not sane or responsible breeder behavior. My husband wanted a Birman because of the known variable of temperament, etc., plus for all of the other benefits fshgrl listed, as well as the additional reassurance that we had a contract replacement / guarantee clause from the breeder against (among other things) FIP, which we lost a lovely rescue kitten to. It was ultimately his money and his decision, so because I have a background in working / show animals, I did the footwork to figure it out.

I researched for MONTHS before I settled on a breeder for our kitten, and then I waited for months more to get exactly the kitten we wanted. The breeder I chose was neither local nor convenient, but she was extremely highly respected both among the other breeders in the same breed network, plus she shows her cats, and has many TICA and CFA awards to prove that she knows what she's doing and isn't just throwing queens at some random tom for $$.

Our process was to contact the breeder to get on her waiting list. She keeps a list of clients and their preferences (gender, color, age), and sends them a list of breedings and the potential color combos of the kittens. She only keeps 2 queens at a time in production, ever, and since Birmans tend to have small litters, wait times can be long. She explained this up front to me, along with the expectation that the kittens could not come in contact with prospective buyers until after they had their shots, and that in no circumstances would she release any kittens prior to 16 weeks of age. If you would rather have a show or breeding retiree than a kitten, she is willing to work with her own and other network of breeder contacts to find you one, although wait times there can be up to or more than a year.

She was very honest and up front with us about what went into getting a kitten, and she is very involved in the adoption and post-purchase process. Her contact clearly states that you cannot simply re-home the kitten, you have to contact her and she will find an appropriate home. She raises her kittens as family, and from meeting her and seeing her breeding operation, I trust and believe her. When our original choice proved to be growing a little too slowly, and she was worried about his lack of development, she immediately contacted me by phone and asked me what I wanted to do, and suggested we not take him owing to her concerns for transporting him from South Texas to Colorado (she also will not ship cats btw, she requires you to go pick them up in person). We ultimately settled on a different kitten, which slightly delayed the process, and I'm very glad she was that engaged and concerned. We now have a lovely, healthy, affectionate and well-socialized 8 month old ball of fun and frolics who (as you can see by our photos) gets along splendidly with his "uncle".

Full disclosure: I grew up in a stock / horse / dog breeding family. I have had many cats over my lifetime, and they were always shelter cats. That said, I don't think the shelter vs. breeder argument is germane to this particular AskMe. I recognize that shelter cats are doing the world a favor and that cat and dog breeders are looked on very skeptically by the demographic of this site, but that is, with all due respect, not what the OP asked.
posted by lonefrontranger at 6:01 PM on March 16, 2013 [10 favorites]

Red flags for me, though I have dealt more with people that breed dogs is that they are breeding several litters at a time and they are not letting you pre pick your cat at the eight week mark but making you choose it on the day you pick it up.

Also a reputable breeder will ask prospective owners a lot of questions about their experience and the house the animal is going too as they want to be sure they are giving the cat a good home . As Bengals are not an easy cat for a new cat owner, for a breeder to happily sell 2 to beginners in a house with a small child that is not used to cats without asking a lot of questions concerns me and makes me wonder if the her animals are her first priority. They are not per se a super aggressive animal but they do tend to react very instinctively and do need to be socialized well due to their part feral cat nature and the breeder should have mentioned this. Another good sign is a breeder that has contracts in place like lonefrontranger mentioned, in regard to rehoming.

Honestly this woman, and this is just based on what info you have given, sounds more like a backyard/basement breeder trying to make a quick buck than a reputable one. I'd proceed with care or get my deposit back and keep on looking.
posted by wwax at 6:42 PM on March 16, 2013 [5 favorites]

I realise this is not your question, but my daughter had two beautiful Bengal cats. We didn't realise just how allergenic they were till I came to stay with her for two weeks. They are shorthairs and I had a massive reaction to them, worse than I've had for any other cat. My face swelled up, my eyes closed, I couldn't breathe. It turned out the original owners had had to rehome the cats because their child had proved allergic also.

I don't know how you would find out if your child can tolerate a shorthair cat, but if there is any possibility of doing so I think you should try to find out.
posted by glasseyes at 7:19 PM on March 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

It's not an "adoption" it's a "purchase." Which is fine, but your terminology is off which may be what is throwing other answers.

But yeah, if you're paying good money, the breeder should be a little more accommodating.
posted by radioamy at 7:55 PM on March 16, 2013 [4 favorites]

My mother is a breeder (Maine Coons). She's been doing it for years and is registered with both CFA and ACFA. The cats are in my parents private home, so there are those constraints as far as the actual hours you can come see the kittens, but her procedure is this:

You agree that you would like a kitten from the next litter (if that litter is likely to have the colors/markings you want. She has 2 males and 2 females so there are several different combinations that can show up. She can pretty reliably predict what's going to happen.). You then give her a deposit and return the contract to her via email.

When the litter is born, you're notified, but its at least a week before she knows the sex of the kittens and can sort of tell what they will look like. At this time shell let you know what's going on, but no pics yet.

At about 3 weeks she'll be able to get pictures and will put hem on her website and let you know, so you can talk with her about the one you like/get more info on. Usually people don't decide right then because personality is HUGE with Maine Coons and you can't get much of an idea of that for a couple more weeks.

At 8 weeks you can come visit the kittens, tour the house, see the "man cave" my dad has for the males, play with the other cats and make up your mind. Sometimes it's just you there, sometimes there are a few people. Everyone is excited, they're all giddy and happy because c'mon KITTENS! Your contract is finalized with the official kitten you chose.

At 12 weeks you get your kitten, after shots, echocardiograms and being fixed. During this entire time you get pictures about every other day (my dad is a photographer) and you're encouraged to call or email whenever or for whatever reason.

If you have a CFA cat show around, I would recommend going and talking with not just one breed's breeder that is there. That whole circle is tight and breeders know who they trust and who they don't. Ask the breeder who they would, and more importantly, wouldn't breed with. My mom has only 3 other breeders in our area shell work with, for various reasons. Also, one breeder may not have a litter in your time frame, but they'll know one that they trust who will.

Please memail me if I or my mom can help at all with questions or more specific things to look for.
posted by hollygoheavy at 8:13 PM on March 16, 2013 [7 favorites]

She was very honest and up front with us about what went into getting a kitten, and she is very involved in the adoption and post-purchase process. Her contact clearly states that you cannot simply re-home the kitten, you have to contact her and she will find an appropriate home.

Lonefrontranger's comments are good for highlighting how a responsible breeder behaves. The contract requirement that the breeder be involved in any rehoming of an animal is a good sign of a responsible breeder. What has the breeder your are contacting said about this?
posted by medusa at 9:06 PM on March 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

I agree that you should really research more on the temperament of Bengals particularly if you have a young child. I say this as a person who has both. In the past, I've always had shelter cats (actually feral off the street cats but whatever) because of ethical reasons. That was pre-husband, who was allergic to cats but still wanted them. We chose the Bengal because that breed had a greater chance of being kinder to his allergies, which there was a far less chance of with a random shelter cat. It actually worked and the breed never triggered his allergies.


Three years later, our baby has come along. He loooooves the Kitty. Loves her. Adores her. Wants to hug and kiss her all the time. He's now 16 months and cat is almost 4. One of the very first things we ever taught him was to be gentle with Kitty and how to pat her and how to approach her. Our son has learnt fast, he's great with her, and would never hurt her. I wish I could say the same about the cat.

We've also put a lot of energy into socialising her with him too, this is not a relationship we can afford to get wrong, because the cat has definite tolerance limits. As does all felines, but the Bengal has the wild aspect thrown in as well, so when she finally has enough, she'll scratch. Or bite. Or in most cases, runs away. She actually likes being in the presence of the toddler but where most animals recognise and are gentler with an infant, she just gets annoyed and my overwhelming fear is that she'll scratch and catch his eye, so I hover. All the time, and I never leave them alone together. We would never get rid of her, she's a family member, but the price is eternal vigilance.

We love the cat (and my son, obviously) to death but I'll never trust her, even though as she gets older herself she is getting better. I have to say if we had a do over, I would get another, more placid breed. I don't consider them suitable for children. She's great with adults, but not kids.
posted by Jubey at 9:17 PM on March 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

I bought a pair of cats from a breeder. I originally wanted Bengals but I didn't like any of the breeders I visited, so I went with a Siberian Forest Cat instead. (They're a lot like Main Coons and Norwegian Forest Cats, but slightly smaller.) The waiting list for both were at least several months, unless I wanted the last pick of the litter.

Plus, the Bengal breeders all expressed concern that I would be working fulltime and had no experience with cats. Two of the three breeders I visited had exercise wheels for their cats, and there was no way I was going to be exercising my cats like that.

That being said, I had to put down a deposit to be put on the waiting list for the breeder. Then I waited for a whole year, before it was my turn to pick out cats. I visited once to put down the deposit, once just for fun, once about 4 weeks after the litter was born, and once to pick up the kittens.

I picked the kittens based on pictures and the breeder's description. But honestly, every single adult cat in the house was so sweet and sociable that I had no doubt the kittens would be well adjusted.

So to answer your questions: Yes, I think it's strange that you can't visit the kittens until week 10. I don't think it really matters which ones you choose as long as you've visited and interacted with the adult cats and liked them. I think it's strange that you can put down a deposit right away without waiting, since Bengals (and Siberians) are fairly popular breeds, and it does sound like the breeder is not putting a lot effort/time/energy into making sure the kittens are properly socialized.

The only thing that you can really choose is the color. But Bengal patterns are notoriously changeable as they grow. One with a clear pattern as a kitten will often not as an adult and vice versa.

That said, with enough time and effort, you can still have wonderful cats. Focus on your relationship with the cats. It might take more effort, but they will be spending a lot of time with you.
posted by ethidda at 9:43 PM on March 16, 2013 [3 favorites]

to tack onto what many of the posters in this thread have pointed out - Bengals are wonderful, intelligent, beautiful, and incredibly high-energy and high-maintenance cats. I have a good friend who is a Bengal owner. and when she enthusiastically recommended a Bengal as a companion to our passive, skittish feral foundling, the first words out of my mouth were HELL TO THE NO because I didn't want my laid-back probably-mostly-Ragdoll to become a stressed-out terrorized punching bag... not to mention this was also right after having watched her twin terrors systematically dismantle their home internet and lay waste to their 35 pound dog. The lady who makes our custom cat harnesses is a Bengal breeder. Our Birman breeder has several friends who have or are involved with Bengals. Every single one of them has said that Bengals are really, truly not a cat they would ever recommend for a busy, inexperienced or first-time cat owner. They require a lot of involvement, work, socialization and playtime. When left to their own devices they can easily become bored and/or destructive. They are extremely vocal.

As someone who's dealt with pedigree animals in the past, something I am quite leery of is popular "fad" breeds (Chihuahua dogs and Arabian horses are the ones I have most experience with). I fear that the extreme popularity of the Bengal cat over the past decade has perhaps led to some fast and loose breeding practices. Doing a search on "Bengal cats in Colorado", for example, brings up several pages of Google results, with tons of different cattery listings, however the list on the TIBCS site (which has stringent standards for recognized breeders) brings up two. Running a search in Google for "Bengal rescue cats" brings up a host of Bengal rescue organizations, which also leads me to believe that there is probably an overabundance being dumped for various reasons.

So I would urge you, if you want Bengals for all the right reasons (they're big and gorgeous, they are super playful, they're interactive, they're wildly intelligent, they're extremely loyal, they'll never just lie around being a glorified couch cushion, etc.) then please really, really take the time to research, and dare I say, interrogate, your chosen breeder. Feel free to cancel the contract if you're not satisfied. Take the time to understand their background, find out if they actually show their cats (which means they are really invested in the breed standard) and then really do your homework on how you're going to handle, raise, train, and socialize your little wildcats. My friend says it the best, I think - you don't "own" a Bengal, they own you.
posted by lonefrontranger at 11:00 PM on March 16, 2013 [4 favorites]

I have no experience with cat breeding. That said, I can give you my perspective as a (careful, ethical) dog breeder and you can decide if it translates to cats.

Domestic companion animals need early, appropriate socialization, and cats need it even more than dogs do - I am really concerned that this breeder doesn't appear to be allowing anybody in to visit the kittens. When I have a litter of puppies, I have people in to visit them from as soon as the mother isn't worried about it (usually 3-4 days after birth for people the mother knows and trusts). I try to have people in EVERY DAY to visit and handle the puppies, or at least several times a week. There is risk associated with this, and I do my best to mitigate it by making people leave shoes outside, wear clean clothes, wash their hands, and not visit if they have come into contact with a sick pet. But I feel that risk is worth it to end up with puppies who are well-socialized, people-loving, confident dogs (as Ian Dunbar says: more pets die from the consequences of inadequate socialization than ever die from disease). Cats are very prone to upper respiratory infections, but even so, the first few weeks of life are critical to how a domestic animal ends up feeling about people, and a lack of appropriate socialization during this time can have lifelong negative consequences. I allow potential puppy buyers to visit, but I also allow anyone else who wants to visit to come, too.

Have you met other cats this breeder has bred? That would be my first step - if this breeder's raising method works well to produce happy, well-socialized, friendly cats, then great. But if you are buying based on breed and not this breeder's cats, then I might suggest you try to meet some adult cats from this breeder (living in other homes) before you drop a chunk of change on pets who will hopefully be with you for 15 years or more. The main benefit to buying a well-bred, purebred animal (aside from the predictability of size, appearance and temperament) is that you are buying from someone who has put serious effort into raising it to be the best-possible example of its breed. It's always a crap shoot, but a good breeder does everything possible to stack the odds in their favor, and appropriate early socialization is an enormous part of that. A big part of what you are paying for is the amount of work the breeder has put in AFTER the kittens are born. When I have a litter of puppies, I have a full time job in addition to my regular full time job, it is a TON of work raising puppies well, and I would assume that kittens are pretty similar.

I also wonder if this breeder has educated you fully about this breed - I talk people OUT of my breed on a regular basis. It's my understanding that Bengals more than most cat breeds are not suitable for everyone.
posted by biscotti at 6:20 AM on March 17, 2013 [4 favorites]

Just to add on a bit to what my husband said about our Bengal. We have had other cats. This kitten was a rescue, at 4 weeks old. If this would have been my kid's first experience with cats, they would hate cats. We didn't know she was a Bengal until she was about 4 months old and took her for shots - when we read up on her, then we understood.

This cat bites ankles. She does not sit and cuddle on laps. She would NOT tolerate being dressed up in doll clothes and pushed around in a carriage. She has teeth and claws and is NOT afraid to use them. We have two large dogs (Great Pyrenees) and she was NEVER afraid of them - just went up and started chasing their tails (she weighing in at about 2 pounds, them at about 90.) We homeschool, and the kitten needs to go outside so we can do lessons-otherwise she is attacking shoe laces, toes, ribbons on dresses, anything for attention. Outside she catches mice, and will probably soon be getting birds because she loves things that fly. (Not going to put up a bird feeder.) If you can't put your cats outside, you will need to have a place they can be occupied, away from you at times. And please, don't get their claws removed.

Contrast this kitten with my orange male tabby. We got him when my youngest was 6 months old. He slept in bed with my baby. He NEVER used his claws, and when he did bite, it was very soft, never punctured the skin, ever. He was and is pretty tolerant of the kids, will cuddle on the beds with them. He tolerates the Bengal and loves to wrestle with her. But he is mostly a large, overweight but pleasant cat. He is the type of cat that you want - something that is not going to make your daughter think that all cats are as mean as Godzilla. Forest Cats, Maine Coons are really nice cats with lots of personality, if you think you want a pure bred cat. Do a bit more research, and please, pay attention to recommendations that the pages have about the cats. (Too many people think this won't happen to them, but the breeders have those recommendations for a purpose.)

wife of 445
posted by 445supermag at 10:05 AM on March 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

thank you all. based on this discussion, i politely insisted that we visit the kittens at 8 weeks, 2 weeks before we formally select our kitten. we have an appointment next sunday. this will give us a chance to assess the adult cats and the kittens in her home and their behavior. i will make a decision based on the behavior of the cats and not the behavior of the breeder. the breeder is a silly woman, but i am not inviting the breeder into my home for 15 years. i just needed to know what was normal to be able to figure out how to get access to the cats an an appropriate time. i do now, thank you.

as for the breed, we've chosen bengals for their curiosity, intelligence and need for interaction. i grew up with an intense relationship with a series of great danes. i'd like the same for my kids. dogs are not an option for my husband. so we're looking for a cat that needs a lot of interaction with humans. i am willing to deliver on the human side of the deal.

i have a 7 year old and a 9 year old who are fully prepared to back me up. they are responsible kids who are ready to train the cats and and train themselves on cat interaction. (even if the younger one is not ready to deal with this ridiculous breeder) most of the issues people raised in this thread are related to allowing poor habits to develop when the animals are young. there are fairly straight forward ways to work with animals on this behavior.

we don't have a lot of breeders in new mexico and if i go out of the state i am in an even worse position to do the due diligence that this thread recommends. so i will try to work with this lady a little more.

i should add that, prior to getting married, i fostered raccoons that had been bought in pet stores, abandoned and could not be released into the wild and other wild animals who became partly domesticated through various interactions with humans that should not have happened. these semi feral animals would make a foundation bengal look like a lap cat. and i have the scars to prove it. i am familiar with meeting animals where they are.

everything i have read on the web suggests that bengals are highly curious, intelligent and interactive but domesticated. having worked with wild animals a lot, i question the people who characterize bengals as "feral". i'll be looking for this quality next weekend, but i will be surprised if i find it in an animals that have been crossed with domestic cats for more than 4 generations.
posted by alcahofa at 11:31 AM on March 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

So, I may be late to the party here, but I have two ten-year-old Bengals, brothers, from a responsible breeder. I also used to show my boys, and am still active on Bengals-L, a email group that is frequented by a lot of people who show and breeders.

First off, I would love to know who you're working with -- toss me a memail if you'd prefer.

Second, the whole situation does seem a little weird. When you put your deposit down your pick choice should have been locked in. Actually, pick number is a little strange to me too, as most breeders I know try and suss out what sort of personality you're looking for in a kitten and then will match you to the right kitten for your family. I wholeheartedly agree with the decision to get two Bengals, and I'd like to strongly encourage you to go with littermates instead of trying to split the difference in litters. Littermates who have grown up together make wonderful companions, and they are also a comfort to each other when they come home with you for the first time. Three litters is a lot to have at once, but it's not an immediate OMG Run Away Red Flag for me. Many breeders try to schedule two litters at around the same time in case a queen has trouble with milk or something.

Third, I encourage you to take the temperament warnings here with a grain of salt. Bengals are not vicious, not PhD level, and certainly not barely domestic. While early generation Bengals do exist, the vast majority of show Bengals are 12-15 generations away from an ALC and the distance is getting farther every couple of years. I have volunteered with Bengal Rescue, and the sad fact is that many shelters are identifying anything with a single spot anywhere on its body as a Bengal. Most 'Bengal mixes' and 'Bengal strays' I see on Petfinder are so incredibly not-Bengals that I head-desk myself into oblivion every time I look. A properly-bred Bengal is a friendly, confident, curious cat and they are generally great with kids and other pets. As long as you are prepared for the intelligence, high energy, and human interaction requirements of the breed, they are amazing cats and I wouldn't be without them.

Finally, here's my experience with finding a breeder and getting my kittens.

I went to two cat shows (one close and one about a two-hour drive away) in order to see the Bengals and start making contact with breeders. I collected a lot of business cards, got to pet some amazing show kitties, and went home. I called all the breeders in about a four hour radius and basically had phone interviews with them. Then I made appointments with the breeders that made it past my first set of criteria to visit their homes and meet their kitties. During each of these visits, the breeder and I interviewed each other more, this time mostly focusing on what sort of personality, temperament, coat pattern, sex, and coat color I was looking for in kittens. I finally selected the breeder that I felt most comfortable with and put a deposit down. Your breeder is going to be your source for questions, information, and inevitable hand-holding that you get with new kittens, and while my breeder doesn't live in my home, I have stayed in contact with her over the last ten years and she's always thrilled to get an update on how her babies are doing. The deposit wasn't for a specific litter, it was instead for two male kittens, preferably litter mates, with outgoing temperaments and constantly-in-your-business personalities. My breeder told us that she had two litters scheduled to be on the ground in a few months, and she'd be in touch. As a note, of course the breeder that we clicked best with was the one farthest away -- four hours. OOF!

At about four weeks of age, my breeder contacted me to let me know that she had a small litter of two males, one BST and one BMT, that were shaping up to be the perfect kittens for us. From her description, we made an appointment to visit the kittens at six weeks. At six weeks we visited, took off our shoes and washed our hands, and got to meet the kittens that eventually came home with us. We did meet the other kittens that day, but our breeder was totally right about the personality match and we decided to trust her assessment.

We visited again at 12 weeks, and brought our boys home at 14.5 weeks old.

Our Bengals have been a total joy. Yes, there have been moments when they drove me crazy with Bengal hijinks, but they are incredibly loving pets. They have slept in our bed with us since the first night they came home, under the covers no less, and the kitten years were a high-octane challenge but it has all been totally worth it. And they've always been fantastic with kids.
posted by Concolora at 5:26 PM on March 17, 2013

thank you. this thread did eventually evolve into the sane, intelligent discussion that brings me to you answered all my questions, including the one i asked! thank you all.

i'll definitely get two liter mates after looking at those photos from concolora.

and don't ever ever ever buy a raccoon from a pet store, please.
posted by alcahofa at 6:16 PM on March 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

I wanted to come in and say that we have a Bengal as well, and we love him, but he has been far from problem-free. He is aggressive with us when he wants to be fed, but the larger problem is that he bullies our smaller, younger cat. I know a lot of Bengals are great*, but just be aware, especially with a young girl in your home. There's never been a trip to the emergency room or anything due to him, but we have taken him to the vet to try to solve his bullying problem.

*probably the ones who are "properly bred" as Concolora said
posted by getawaysticks at 3:49 PM on March 20, 2013

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