How stupid am I to order kittens from Russia?
February 6, 2016 9:31 PM   Subscribe

I live in New York, and I'm considering ordering two Siberian kittens direct from the source. How stupid is this?

Our beloved Siberian recently passed away. We are very lonely without cats, and so we want kittens sooner rather than later. Most of the US breeders have long waiting lists, and one of them recommended this particular Russian breeder. And the Russian kittens are definitely cuter than the American Siberians we've seen so far. This is very important! Our last beast was a supermodel, so we're reluctant to settle for anything less.

In addition to the reference from the US breeder, we have a reference from another customer (who is making another order which would ship with ours).

Yes, it's probably more ethical to get shelter cats, but we want perfect cats and those rarely end up in shelters (our last one was from a friend who had to give her up). We looked at shelters and didn't see anyone exciting. So answers suggesting that won't be useful.

The real question is: is there something in general about Russian cat breeders we should know? Or about long-distance flights for kittens?

(We still might end up getting local kitties, but these really do look great!)
posted by novalis_dt to Pets & Animals (37 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Russian kitten mill? Could get you less than hardy little ones. Are there any sire papers?
posted by Freedomboy at 9:46 PM on February 6, 2016 [9 favorites]

Or about long-distance flights for kittens?

I think it would be incredibly terrifying and possibly dangerous for any cat, but especially a kitten, to get locked in a cargo hold for an 8 or 9 hour flight from Russia to New York. They get stressed with changes in their environment, the loud noises of flight, the changes in air pressure and temperature, the poor care by airline handlers. Do you really want to be the kind of people that do that to an animal?
posted by bluecore at 10:14 PM on February 6, 2016 [38 favorites]

You're putting human wants ahead of animal needs.
posted by vers at 10:20 PM on February 6, 2016 [108 favorites]

Response by poster: Oh, they won't be in the cargo hold -- they'll be in the cabin, with a special kitty courier!
posted by novalis_dt at 10:25 PM on February 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

Animals do die on flights, and that's one reason the US airlines restrict animals traveling in cargo to months when the cold won't kill them.
If you were picking up the cat in person and could take it in the main cabin, that would be a pretty good scenario. But the cargo hold is not nearly as safe. As well, would it be a direct flight or have connections? It's a long time to be in cargo.
What are the pet policies of the airline? How many pets die on their airline each year?

Oops - posted before I saw your comment.
posted by littlewater at 10:27 PM on February 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

You can't replace your old cat with a new cat that is the same breed. Buying a cat and flying it over from Russia is not going to ensure that the cat is "perfect."

Did you use a large radius when you looked on petfinder or similar? You may have to extend your search. If you are willing to pay to fly two cats from Russia to New York, you should be able to rent a car to drive up to ten hours away from where you are to get a cat. This means that you can cast a very wide net in your search.

My cat is a Siberian mix, I got her in a shelter, she is a perfect supermodel of a cat, and she absolutely hates driving in the car for even five minutes. I can't imagine the fear and stress of a car trip to a long plane ride to another car ride to finally make her way to her new home. Yikes. That is a really long trip. I would strongly advise that you not do that to a cat or cats, as "perfect" as you might think they will be. Every cat is perfect.
posted by sockermom at 10:30 PM on February 6, 2016 [51 favorites]

Was coming in to say what novalis_dt already clarified. My cat has lived in UK, Germany and Greece before landing with us in the Pacific Northwest of the US. And she's never been quarantined or had to ride in cargo. Her past carers used white glove "pet relocation" services to bring her on those treks. OP has asked not to evaluate the ethics of the choice, guys. Frankly, the automatic assumption that a cat from Russia is going to be from a "kitten mill" and "poorly handled" sounds a bit xenophobic.

novalis_dt, my cat has all that experience and is remarkably chill about inevitable bits of travel for it. We take her in a stroller for neighborhood errands. She likes going for rides in the car. It's a surprising benefit after all my previous cats were so vocal and gifted at avoiding the vet / leaving the house.
posted by sweltering at 10:35 PM on February 6, 2016 [5 favorites]

I've had three Siberians by two different N. American breeders. One of whom just interrupted my typing for some paper ball time. I agree that you should try a wider local search radius and that Russia->New York is a pretty long run for two 12 week old kittens.

Were I in your situation I'd try a wider local search radius, and if that didn't work some other local ethical breeders of Abyssinians or Savannah mixes or something.
posted by sebastienbailard at 10:48 PM on February 6, 2016 [3 favorites]

Yeah..... I dunno. Do you want cats that are perfectly healthy and/or perfect pets, or cats that just "look perfect"? You can definitely get perfectly healthy perfect-for-you pets from a shelter or similar. Many shelters have foster programs so the kittens are known and well socialized. Talk to a few and let them match-make you. Maybe follow a few blogs (like this one out of Tacoma* - but maybe there are links to more local ones?) and wait until someone strikes you and the personality is a good match. (This is a great benefit - I've raised litters and there's always the sweet one/feisty one/momma's boy, etc.)

Lastly, the new cat is never going to be as perfect as your late cat.
I say, start fresh.

All that aside, my cats are Australian and moved to California and back. They are super chill cats, and they were totally fine. They flew pressurized cargo between temperate climates, and were only in quarantine when we moved out of the US to a country that does not have rabies. I have definitely met and owned cats I would not have tried this with. It's a tough call to make maybe, without knowing temperament ahead of time.

I'll also throw out that my aunt and grandparents both adopted beautiful pairs of purebred siamese kittens from the shelter when I was a kid. Someone was breeding show cats, and they all had some minor cosmetic imperfection and wound up there. They were beautiful cats, had great personalities, and lived into their late teens. It can be done!

(*I have definitely heard some out-of-state adoption stories)
posted by jrobin276 at 10:54 PM on February 6, 2016 [5 favorites]

I'm a cat person. Who has had PERFECT cats. Two, in fact, among many. My breed is Silver Tabby. Here's my advice...

I would not get a kitten without meeting it first. Cats are a 10 to 18 year commitment. Right now I have one who is "perfect" in the ways that I enjoy, and they other is so awfully unhappy and ill suited to our household in so many ways, poor thing developed a habit of revenge peeing for a while after a neighbor's male tom got into our house. This went on for over a year and destroyed a couch and our family's lifestyle. This cat is so unbelievably fragile, she can't go to the vet without weeks of trauma, grooming her is unthinkable because she refuses to be touched by implements, we can't do her teeth, and, she over-eats despite multiple diet changes and every other trick I know as an expert cat owner.

I vote NO on this adoption because you don't know what you're getting, temperament-wise. After years of being cavalier about pet adoption, I will never ever ever sign up for an experience like this ever again. The first year there were few signs it would go this way. The only way out is to pay $3k to put her in a cat sanctuary - she may or may not be happier there. Her "happy" is relative.

She's so skittish, I could not reliably or at all dose her with feline anti-depressants. There are no great options for her :((

In short, because adult temperament is not assured, AND ESPECIALLY BECAUSE MY SAD CAT'S ISSUES STEM FROM EARLY TRAUMA PRIOR TO BEING IN OUR HOME, AND A TRANS CONTINENTAL FLIGHT AS A KITTEN WOULD BE TRAUMATIC, I say please don't do this. (Sorry for the run on sentence!)

Never would I think such a thing could go so wrong. Until it did.

I can't imagine how this will turn out OK. It's too much of a hardship for the kitten to travel this way for quite so long. Along with all of the other variables, given my experience, I would never ever do this.

I also apologize for shouting! I just always thought a loving home conquered all. Turned out that was not true. Wish that it were.
posted by jbenben at 11:44 PM on February 6, 2016 [34 favorites]

If you're willing to ship a cat from Russia, have you really scoured EVERY shelter in the USA? Because a flight from California to New York is still better than a flight from Russia. If you absolutely must get a cat from Russia, go pick them up! I still think it's way too rough on the poor kitty, but if this is an outfit that's selling cats internationally in the first place, they're probably going to get shipped a long distance whether it's to you or to someone else, unfortunately. If you go in person you can meet them and they can get used to your scent on the ride home, making the transition that little bit easier.
posted by gloriouslyincandescent at 1:05 AM on February 7, 2016

I would automatically question the ethics of a breeder who would be willing to put a kitten on a ten hour flight to a home they really couldn't do much vetting of. Are there not enough people locally who want to buy this person's kittens? Why not?

How about one of these beauties?
posted by kitty teeth at 1:22 AM on February 7, 2016 [28 favorites]

I'd have thought that part of what you're paying for when you buy a pedigree kitten is getting to see exactly where it grew up - what the parents (or at least the queen) are like, what its environment and littermates are like - which you're not going to get if you're shipping kittens in from far away. And what are you going to do if there's a problem e.g. the kitten turns out to have an illness the breeder should have picked up, that cat has an atrocious temperatment, or you can't keep the kitten for some reason? Does the breeder have a clause that states you should return the cat? That would mean another long flight.

Why do you want a Siberian in particular? If it's because they're hypoallergenic, then you can probably find a closer Siberian breeder - close enough to visit before you put down the money for a kitten. If it's because you just like large, semi-longhaired cats, then you can probably find a Maine Coon breeder if you want a pedigree cat with supermodel markings - you're not so far from the source - or find a nice moggy in a shelter.
posted by Rissa at 2:34 AM on February 7, 2016 [3 favorites]

Are you dead set on a Siberian? Because a Norwegian Forest Cat is very similar to a Siberian Forest Cat. From what I can tell, there's lots of Norwegian Forest Cats around. I did a quick search for New York and some breeders and other sites came up. I had a Norwegian Forest Cat (as far as we could tell) and she was amazing and beautiful with green eyes, a gray coat, and a white belly and a great temperment.

I'd definitely explore similar breeds or keep an eye out for your breed but nearby if you absolutely must have that breed - but my quick searches showed there's not a ton of differences between the two breeds. I would not want to get a kitten without meeting it first, seeing the breeder, and flying it myself. I also personally have conflicted feelings about pets on planes barring extreme emergencies or support animals- both in the cargo hold - and in the flight - because of the trauma on the pet and the trauma on bystanders (my husband's allergies would go nuts if there was a cat next to him on a 10 hour flight.)
posted by Crystalinne at 2:43 AM on February 7, 2016 [3 favorites]

Hi-- my two Maine Coons came with me to Hong Kong from Amsterdam (because my $%#@# ex backed out on his promise to keep them) and even with tickets which cost more than mine and a specialist cat courier company (Hong Kong law does not allow them to enter in the main cabin) they were nervous traumatised wrecks for nearly 45 days. I would not do this to a kitten whose temper I did not know.

Also consider all the things that can go along with a breeder you have never seen. You have no idea if they are as ethical or as healthy as they appear to be-- I would not buy a kitten ever again without thoroughly checking out the breeder-- and remember, Russia has got a very bad reputation for kitten and dog mills (right up there with China, and I've seen the dogs rescued from the Chinese mills-- trust me, you do *not* want to participate in that). Even if you get lucky and the kitten is fine and you are fine, what's the risk you're funding cruelty?
posted by frumiousb at 3:17 AM on February 7, 2016 [9 favorites]

If you want kittens very soon, but aren't seeing the perfect kitty that you want to keep forever, maybe you could consider fostering some kittens? Then you'd have them with you, which will get you over the loneliness hump, but you can keep your eyes open for your permanent cats while getting your fosters ready for their permanent homes.

Yes, you might fall in love with one of the foster kittens, but where's the harm in that?
posted by amtho at 3:35 AM on February 7, 2016 [11 favorites]

I've had a purebred pedigreed rare-breed cat with grand champion parents and a garbage-eating dork cat of unknown lineage who I literally grabbed off the street. I'm sympathetic to your desire for a kitty who meets your specs exactly. But wherever they come from, once you get them home they're equally perfect. And equally fucked up: Garbage Cat has kitty herpes and has to eat prescription food so he doesn't get another urinary blockage, but when Fancy Cat was the same age his colon stopped working and we had to get part of it surgically removed.

I don't think I'd be comfortable with buying a kitten from an international breeder, for reasons already mentioned: it would be hard to vet the breeder, and though I don't think a long ride in the cabin is necessarily a life-ruining incident for a kitten (your kitten may think otherwise), I'd give the automatic side-eye to any breeder who freely does this with their kittens, especially selling to buyers who aren't picking the cats up themselves. You want a breeder who will give you the third degree and allow you to do the same.

One compromise you might consider is if asking if any closer Siberian breeders have retired show cats available for adoption. It's sometimes harder to place older cats because people are often dead set on kittens, but they're gorgeous enough for cat shows and you have a better idea of the sort of personality you're getting than with a kitten.
posted by Metroid Baby at 3:40 AM on February 7, 2016 [7 favorites]

The thing of it is, you won't know until you know. People are telling you that type of travel can be fine and it can also be traumatic.

Based on that you're not getting 100% consensus on this, you need to put the needs of the animal first and not risk flying the kittens.

(And I get you want that supermodel breed of a cat, but you've got to realize that all cats are equal supermodels and weird assholes. They're CATZ. But if you're really wanting this ONE breed, then get your name on a waiting list and wait.)
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 4:26 AM on February 7, 2016 [2 favorites]

Also...look at Siberian rescue groups. I found three adoptable Siberians within 2 minutes.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 4:29 AM on February 7, 2016 [9 favorites]

I've only adopted from shelters and spent years volunteering at them, but I am familiar with the purebreed breeders' world. Here are the things I would consider when buying a pet from a breeder located in another country:

What's the breeder's ethics? What was the hope for this exact litter? What's the screening process for you? Are all of the health checks done, at least ones that apply for that country? What are adults from past litters like? Are there other current owners you can talk to? If this is the kind where you pay money without a lot of questions asked on either side, I would absolutely not go forward. Is there a language barrier? What is the breeder like that recommended this breeder to you? Active in the show community? Obsessed with furthering the breed? Why do they recommend this breeder? How about the other customer? How often is the breeder shipping kittens? Are there other responsible breeders in this country that have experience with your potential breeder? If not this one exactly, other advice they have?

I know of several (dog) breeders that will import new stock from their breed's country of origin (not puppies though), so this doesn't sound completely crazy, provided you are really rigorous and do all of the homework. Buying a pet from a responsible breeder, especially for rarer breeds, is a long and complicated process. It should be even more so for an international breeder. If at any time the process seems easy, that should be a major red flag.

I do think there are a million reasons not to do this, and the risks are very high. But, if you are determined, be careful and deliberate and be 100% okay with backing out of this transaction if at any time things don't feel right.
posted by umwhat at 4:34 AM on February 7, 2016 [4 favorites]

How about retired breeders? I'm not sure what perfect means to you, but these guys look adorable. It would save you a ton of money and you don't need to deal with any kitten related hassles, but still get a very young, well-behaved cat

For what it is worth - we have purebred ragdolls, and always adopt them from rescue situations. We've been delighted with the results, we get all of the positive breed traits, at a negligible cost. Obviously you need to evaluate each cat's temperment, etc., but with adult cats you can see what their personality is a lot more easily than with kittens.
posted by arnicae at 4:42 AM on February 7, 2016 [3 favorites]

I know this feeling of having a specific type you prefer and wanting to stick to the type. I actually said to my friend one time, "it's very important to me that my animals be beautiful," and I always chose a majestic long-haired sort. Until my husband met a boring-looking little striped grey tabby kitten in the shelter and talked me into him, and that stripey grey tabby was the best goddamn cat I've ever had in my life. He died in June, and now, predictably, my heart is obsessed with getting another grey striped tabby. But my head knows he isn't replaceable, and that finding a cat that looks like him isn't going to be HIM.

So yeah, I don't think you should fly kittens from Siberia because of how they look on the Internet. Go to shelters and play with cats. Your heart may surprise you.
posted by something something at 5:08 AM on February 7, 2016 [14 favorites]

Mod note: A couple of comments deleted. Cut out the non-answers; if you aren't here to be helpful, please pass this by.
posted by taz (staff) at 5:28 AM on February 7, 2016 [3 favorites]

I'm sorry so many answers aren't addressing your actual questions. I mean, I have plenty of opinions about cat breeding, cat adoption, etc., but since you didn't ask for those I'm keeping them to myself.

The real question is: is there something in general about Russian cat breeders we should know?

I'm not familiar with Russian cat breeders, so I can't give a super-specific answer here. However, here are some things I would think about in your shoes:

There is huge variation among countries regarding the ideal treatment of companion animals, including ideal breeding conditions. (Hell, there's even huge variation among regions here in the U.S.!) So while I definitely agree with sweltering that it's unfair to assume that Russian breeders are all kitten mills, I would consider to what extent they may do things differently over there and whether or not you would be okay with that. I might also wonder to what extent communication about the kitten's parents or about the kitten's temperament/health might get lost in translation. (But, maybe the breeder speaks English well and/or you speak Russian well, in which case, this is a nonissue.)

Or about long-distance flights for kittens?

I think the flight issue has been pretty well covered - it's a long flight, and even with a cat courier it could be traumatizing.

Some other long-distance purchase things to think about:

First, you don't get the opportunity to meet the kitten's parents to get a good in-person picture of their temperaments and physical condition. Second, you don't get to see the kittens interacting with one another and with their mother and therefore get an incomplete picture of their temperaments. And finally, since you're not there in person you don't have the opportunity to size up the breeder and decide if you're comfortable with him/her. I know cuteness is super important to you, but I'm also guessing you'd prefer to not get a beautiful but extraordinarily difficult cat, so I think these are all big things to consider.

Good luck! (And sorry for the loss of your cat.)
posted by schroedingersgirl at 6:01 AM on February 7, 2016 [3 favorites]

I would not do it if for nothing else for this reason: you're not able to see the conditions in which the breeders keep their animals. We have purebred dogs that are all rescues, and there are a lot of breeders out there that do extremely horrifying things to their breeding stock. (Not all; this isn't a blanket indictment.) While I obviously come from the "rescue a shelter pet" crowd, I tell anyone who is thinking of buying a purebred that they need to be able to see at least one of the parents and see the conditions they're living in. If the breeder can't or won't do that, no sale.
posted by azpenguin at 6:02 AM on February 7, 2016 [7 favorites]

I would merely point out that you are sourcing from a breeder who is willing to dispatch two un-neutered kittens -- potentially a breeding pair -- to an un-vetted home in another country. Regardless of the country they are coming from, this is not an indicator of a responsible breeder. I would have very real concerns about the ethics of the breeder, the welfare of the animals in his or her breeding program, and the soundness of the resulting kittens.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:25 AM on February 7, 2016 [13 favorites]

Given some of the responses, I want to acknowledge that there's nothing wrong with wanting a specific breed, making your choice of a particular cat based on cuteness, and deciding to go through a reputable breeder rather than going the rescue/shelter route. You've received two excellent references and, if an animal has to travel, this is the best way possible. That said, I think even with the information you have, you can't really gauge if this is a reputable breeder and agree that meeting your new kitten and being able to size up the breeding conditions before you bring him or her home is incredibly important. The latter is simply not possible unless you feel like taking a trip to Russia. So, taken as a whole, I'd say this is not a good idea. I wish I had some specific information about Russian cat breeders, but I do not. It looks like you may need to rethink either your timeline or your preferences, which sucks, but seems the wisest approach. Good luck!
posted by katemcd at 6:52 AM on February 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

Reasons why this is a bad idea:

We can't predict the next plague. What if your cat is one of the first with a new disease that could have been contained in Russia but wasn't. Animals and plants shouldn't cross borders for frivolous reasons.

It's not a nice thing to do to the kittens.

It is not a responsible thing to do as an animal lover. Why bring in more when we have too many?

If you do this, you will tell your story to people about how you got the perfect cat. Most people, I think, would be horrified at the money spent for something like this. It's hard to not be judgy when faced with someone who is throwing a lot of money around to get a living thing, that could be gotten for a lot less. It seems very pretentious.
posted by myselfasme at 6:54 AM on February 7, 2016 [7 favorites]

All the caveats for local breeders apply to non-local breeders as well.

My main concern applies to all house pet adoptions - have you met the cat in person and are you certain it's a good fit for your household? A relative of mine was really, really, really into a certain breed of cat (whose name escapes me) for both looks and personality. The breed is known for having a loving, affectionate personality. He had a show quality little ball of love and she was his perfect cat for many years. She died. He decided to get a replacement, but he lived across the country from the breeder. So he didn't get to select his kitten based on personal interaction. Replacement cat is a beautiful supermodel cat, but lacks the breed's personality. My relative loves the cat but is disappointed in its personality.

Can you go to Russia to meet the cat? People take trips to pick up their Volvos from Sweden ...
posted by stowaway at 8:18 AM on February 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

- you want to meet the kittens
- you want a breeder who wants you to meet the kittens
- you do not want to put kittens who've just been separated from their mom onto a cross-the-world plane flight :(

but we want perfect cats and those rarely end up in shelters

I beg to differ. Namely, my Maine Coon who has made veterinarians familiar with top-class Maine Coons go into breathless swoons, who was abandoned in a building entry at two and a half months old (we looked for his lost family; no one claimed him).

As for kittens and travel, this was my sweet little soot sprite after half an hour in a car. That photo was taken in the midst of twelve hours of wailing. She cried – and I do mean cried, heart-breakingly – for twelve hours on her first day away from her mom and siblings. And she was more than three months old, and never really wanted to play with her siblings; she was the wild one who did her own thing. As for perfection, well!

Have you tried looking at shelters? There are pearls in shelters. All of my friends have shelter cats, and all of them are gorgeous and sweethearted furballs. And all are healthy. Your Siberian does look a lovely cat, but as another poster said – don't put human desires over feline needs. It breaks my heart to think of a kitten alone (it won't be able to be in the same crate as its sibling) in a big, noisy plane with a human (the courier) they don't know, and to meet more humans (you!) they don't yet know. Miss ninja kitty opened up to fluffy-fluff much more quickly than she did to me. It all worked out, now she won't leave my side or fur-monster's. But those first days... yeah, don't put a kitten through that.
posted by fraula at 8:58 AM on February 7, 2016 [5 favorites]

"Perfect cats" end up in shelters all the time. I've owned a lot of cats, and my sweetest, most beautiful, most well-behaved and loving cat was a shelter kitty. You want to meet the cat before adopting, that's really all it takes.

Also, any cat may start out "perfect"and then develop behavioral or health problems later in life. You just can't predict that stuff, and that's part of the cost you must accept when you agree to adopt a cat. It is a 10-20 year commitment no matter what.
posted by a strong female character at 9:56 AM on February 7, 2016 [4 favorites]

I'm familiar with animal shipment and also with the world of purebred animals (which 95% of your responses are not). I own three shelter cats. I understand how important rescue is to everyone. That being said:
- International breeders will often ship animals around the world. How does everyone think all those German German Shepherds get here? Krypto the Wonder Dog? It isn't a mark of a bad breeder.
- I understand wanting a specific breed, and I understand wanting a kitten. You're not in the wrong for that, and you're not in the wrong for not wanting a rescue, since many rescues label cats as [BREED] by guessing because that's what the cats look like - as opposed to actually having papers and so on.
- Revenge peeing is not a thing.
- You will indeed not be able to inspect the breeder. I would ask for video of the kittens, if possible, to see their behaviour, condition and movement - this may also help you decide if these are the right animals for you.
- Why can dog owners go to great lengths for purebred animals but cat owners just get told to go to a shelter?
- Travelling in a plane in the cabin is not that traumatic. I hand carried a domestic rabbit that way - she was fine, even after Homeland Security patted her down and had me carry her through the body scanner. True story. Kittens are resilient and will get over the experience rather quickly.
- Try to find other referrals to this breeder. Ask for clients who don't mind being contacted and get their experiences with this cattery and their animals. This is one of the best ways to find out about the adult results - and try not to exclusively talk to other catteries, who may put up a "breeder's wall" of silence.

If you decide to do this, good luck! I've had animals shipped to me from 3,000 km away (and that was in cargo, with heating supplements in the container) - they were fine. People tend to assume that animals react exactly like people would, rather than giving them the credit of being animals.
posted by Nyx at 10:12 AM on February 7, 2016 [8 favorites]

Hi! I flew our two cats long distance, about 3000 miles, when we moved. One of them was pretty chill. The other shed fur during the flight and freaked us out terribly. However, once we got them home, the fur-shedder recovered pretty swiftly. The key is really: what will the cat courier be doing? I put my hand in to pet the kitty that had an easier time. I think my husband, who was flying with fur-shedder, was afraid to. Ask the questions. Will the courier be taking the kitties out and petting and reassuring them on any legs if it's not a direct flight? Will the courier be introduced to the kittens beforehand? Will they mail you or bring you any toys or bedding that is familiar to the kittens? Will they be giving the kitties kitty benzos to make their trip easier? (important and common)

What I would do: ask for video of the kittens and parents in their natural environment. Like, a lot of video. I assume you're spending enough money on this to make several hours of video a flash in the pan and something that absolutely is reasonable to request. Ask that they video the house, that the breeder say something to the video. If they can skype, ask that they bring the laptop around the house. You want to see this beforehand.

You also want to check the lines of both sire and dam. Are they being shown? Are there other kittens whose parents would be willing to be contacted? A little research goes a long way.

You are not a bad person for wanting kitties to travel to you. Yes, kitties can sometimes be scared by travel, but it can be mitigated and they'll be scared by a new place anyways.
posted by corb at 10:39 AM on February 7, 2016

What Nyx said. I have no cat experience (although we do have a lovely Siberian where I work who is from a US breeder, so perhaps you might want to widen your breeder search a little), but I have flown puppies (with a person, in cabin, and I know many people who have flown puppies as cargo), and it really is not very stressful for them at all assuming the breeder has put some effort into teaching them to like being in a carrier and socializing them. The well-bred and well-raised puppies and kittens that I have met did just fine even when being shipped as cargo. Good breeders put a ton of work into preparing their puppies and kittens for their lives, despite what the current trend that vilifies all breeders likes to say.

Just remember that you have very little recourse if the breeder in Russia is scamming you. I would look for the national breed club for Siberians and ask some questions there.
posted by biscotti at 5:38 AM on February 8, 2016

I'll just chime in to add that we discovered a product called "Feliway" -- a synthetic cat cheek pheromone spray (and also available as a diffuser that requires an AC outlet) -- a couple of months ago when trying to socialize a very shy and skittish semi-feral we just adopted. It's expensive and apparently its effectiveness varies by individual animal, but for us it was a miraculous product that immediately reduced our cat's anxiety level in a notable and sustained way and over about 5 weeks has helped us bring about a rapid transformation in her behavior and affect. Lots of vets use it, apparently, for calming purposes. (It's also used to treat areas to prevent territorial spraying and scratching.) Don't know if it's available in Russia or not (it's made in France, though) but if I were about to fly a cat or kitten for a whole day I'd be preparing the carrier with this stuff.

Some reviews will tell you it is bullshit. Some will tell you it's a miracle. I wouldn't have believed it had I not see it happen. It effected an enormous suppression of anxiety and aversiveness in our cat, almost immediately, and once she got used to it, we can still tell when she's been hanging out near the diffuser we keep plugged in to the wall. A small spray bottle (used to treat fabric surfaces like furniture or bedding, but make sure to let it dry *completely* before letting the cat near it) is about $20. Maybe you could send some to the breeder prior to transport if it isn't available in Russia.

I personally think you're taking too many risks for a speculative good if you can't meet the cats you want in advance -- you certainly won't want to be *returning* them to Russia if you have problems. I know the feeling of wanting to replace a beloved pet with a doppleganger, but in my experience usually the similarity in appearance or widespread breed characteristics don't guarantee anything will be similar about the new pet.

That said, I grew up around Russians (albeit in the US). Russians are culturally disposed to being cat lovers, in my experience. I suspect a *good* Russian breeding operation is likely to be as good as anywhere else in the developed world, just based on my experience of Russians and their cats. It's a cat culture.
posted by spitbull at 7:59 AM on February 8, 2016

Response by poster: Thanks for all the comments.

We ended up finding local Maine Coon kittens at a breeder nearer to us, so we didn't have to go quite so far afield.
posted by novalis_dt at 11:55 AM on February 8, 2016 [10 favorites]

Oh, you're gonna love those kitties. Great personality on Maine Coons.
posted by azpenguin at 4:07 PM on February 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

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