More than 30 years ago, I said to my husband, “Someday I’d like a gray kitty – a Russian Blue.” Armed with an issue of Cat Fancy, he found a breeder in New Jersey and we traveled two-plus hours to pick up Ashley, my first Russian Blue. Thus began a love affair that continues to this day and recently culminated with Sofiya, who hails from the Netherlands.
The question arises: Given all the cats in shelters, what attracts people to a pedigree cat? All cats are wonderful, but there can be good reasons to purchase a cat of a specific breed.
Points to Consider
A pedigree cat has a predictable look and personality. Variables in the environment and parents’ personalities come into play, but you can be guaranteed that your purebred Siamese will have blue eyes, your Ocicat will have a spotted coat, and your Bobtail will have a bobbed tail.
The words purebred and pedigree are often used interchangeably, but they have slightly different meanings. Experts in breeding programs explain that pedigree means there is a record for ancestry backed by an official registering body. Purebred means that a cat’s parents are of the same breed and is often used as a selling term.
While shelters often attribute breed names to feline residents to make them more appealing (longhaired cats are often called Maine Coons and gray cats Russian Blues, for instance), it’s the pedigree with three or four generations of cats registered within a specific association that proves your cat is true blue. That doesn’t make a pedigree cat better than a random-bred cat; it just means she has a family tree.
Finding a Pedigree Cat
Thanks to the internet, communities of breeders have sprung up to share their experiences (and photos of adorable kittens). Responsible breeders go out of their way to raise healthy, well-socialized, outgoing kitties, matching them with households where they will thrive. An extensive network of pet transporters can deliver kittens all over the world.
But that does not mean you choose a kitten and have her delivered the next week. And there is plenty of opportunity for scams; a recent online discussion focused on a so-called breeder who was purchasing kittens across Europe and reselling them in the U. S.
Typically, prospective owners should visit the cattery before purchasing a purebred kitten. That’s assuming the breeder is nearby. Breeders may have waiting lists for kittens, so be patient.
When you find a group devoted to the breed you’re interested in, get to know people and their cats before making inquiries. They will share their experiences with new litters, awards won in cat shows, and adventures of kittens in new homes.
Cat breed associations often have rescue groups associated with them for purebred cats who need to be rehomed. Breeders may have retired show cats, studs, and queens available for adoption.
A responsible breeder does not let kittens go to a new home until they’re about 16 weeks old. By then the kitten has been vaccinated, microchipped, and often spayed or neutered. The breeder can document the health of the parents and may have done testing for genetic anomalies.
A kitten that age has learned feline social skills from littermates and mom and has been exposed to household sounds and situations, such as vacuum cleaners or people visiting the home. A responsible breeder will pay particular attention to raising a friendly, well–adjusted kitten.
When you think you’ve seen the next love of your life, strike up a conversation with the breeder. She will ask you about your household situation, other pets, and what kind of a personality you’re seeking.
I had known Sofiya’s breeder, Maartje Schoenmaker, for many years through various Russian Blue groups. I knew her cats through the many photos she posted and stories she shared. One of her females, Bella, was a favorite of mine.
When Bella had a litter of six kittens in October, I felt that tug at my heartstrings as Maartje posted weekly photos, which included a little girl, Sofiya. One of my past Russian Blues was named Sophie. We started talking in early November, and Maartje kept me apprised of Sofiya’s physical development and personality.
Maartje doesn’t just sell kittens; she loves and nurtures them. She believes the key to a well-socialized kitten is lots of handling and exposure to household activities. “Exposure during the critical imprinting periods is key!” she says.
“[Sofiya] is the most introverted of her litter right now,” Maartje wrote in late November. “Will have to look at whether she’d be up for the long & exciting journey, but their characters develop a lot still.” I knew it would be a while before we could start talking about details, so I sat tight.
Bringing Kitten Home
By late January, we started to discuss details of transport from the Netherlands to the U. S. Sofiya’s personality was starting to evolve. Maartje wrote: “… she’s very gentle, not fearful, right on top of the vacuum, has a huge purr and does seek out our laps when she’s finally tired. Not dominant presently among her siblings, which is usually a good sign for their attitude entering an existing group.” She said she would be ready to go in about five weeks after her rabies vaccination and spay surgery.
By mid-February, we began talking about specific dates and contacting transport people. Her personality continued to blossom: “She’s independent but when she decides it’s snuggle time she goes in full force,” wrote Maartje. “Modest, not fearful.”
Finally, March 16 was settled on for Sofiya’s homecoming. Transporting a kitten halfway across the world involves coordination between the breeder, the new owner, and the transporter, who travels with the kitten in the plane’s cabin. Maartje delivered Sofiya to Pawel, the transporter, in Amsterdam. He then flew to JFK airport where we met him – after a long drive and a longer wait.
We transferred her to our carrier, stopping briefly for photos and kitty kisses. In the weeks after her arrival, we’ve been delighted: her sweet and fearless personality is just what Maartje had nurtured.
This article was reviewed/edited by board-certified veterinary behaviorist Dr. Kenneth Martin and/or veterinary technician specialist in behavior Debbie Martin, LVT.