Visiting a Cattery
You are well advised to shop around. All kittens are cute (repeat this in your head over and over as you cuddle kittens). All of them! It's hard to stay objective, but you are selecting a companion that should hopefully be with you for the next fifteen years or so - an expensive companion at that. It's really hard not to fall in love - and especially if a kitten falls in love with YOU! that's usually a good indication, kittens are very smart. But you should make the BEST choice, not the fastest choice. Plan to meet the breeders at their home. Visit the cattery, meet the adults, including the parents (if the breeder used an outside stud, the dad might not be there). Is it clean? Sure, if the breeder has ten cats, you may detect a bit of litterbox odor - but do the boxes look like they have been properly maintained (recently scooped)? Do the food and water dishes look clean? Cats can trash a place in mere moments, so don't be expecting perfection - but DO expect to see that care has been taken in maintaining the facilities. If the breeder has stud males, they HAVE to be confined in most cases - even if they don't spray, they will surely manage to breed their sisters or moms if not confined. And you may smell male cat odor - well, the males do that, and they are proud of it. But the smell should not make you gasp for breath. Despite being confined, you should be able to see that the studs have adequate space to stretch, sleep, and play. By and large, stud males are aggressively friendly cats, who should be anxious to make your acquaintance. They are usually retired show cats, who necessarily are by nature friendly, trusting, and affectionate animals. Sometimes they may indicate their friendliness by taking a nip out of your arm, but rest assured this is an overexcited response - a love bite. Females - well, give them a break - almost every one of them will have good days and bad. They seem to get PMS once in awhile. But if you see three females who are throwing themselves at your feet, and one glaring at you from the top of a cabinet, assume that the ONE girl is having a bad day.
It's really important that the breeder's adult cats be friendly and curious. Give them a few moments to get used to you, but you should EXPECT that most, if not all, of the adults should be anxious to meet you. These cats are the example of what the breeder is doing. If most of the cats slink by, nervous and scared, or the breeder has to drag the parents out from under the couch, beware. Retired show cats are generally very anxious for attention - after all, they were trained to revel in the adulation of large crowds of people. Mom cats, by the way, are not usually too protective of their kittens - usually, they are trying to push themselves in front of their kittens to get your attention, not to protect their kittens.
Check out the parents. There are many styles of MC's to choose from, from a "sweet" look to very "feral". You should choose the style, sex, and color you are most attracted to - although, if it really doesn't matter for any other reason, you should definitely go for the kitten who "picks" you. They sense something special, a bond, and are never wrong! Breeders may have waiting lists, which is not a bad thing, for particular colors or sexes. But don't despair. If you are a bit flexible, you will get your kitten sooner. And waiting lists have a habit of being flexible - someone will wait nine months for a silver male, walk in to choose their kitten, and get "chosen" by a brown female. Waiting lists only mean that a breeder has been evaluated before, and found desirable by others.
See how the kittens are raised. No, cages are not necessarily a bad thing if they are used by breeders in specific situations, such as keeping two litters apart from each other until they both have been vaccinated. Sometimes two females who have kittens can't be together due to territorial issues. But if kittens are being raised in a remote part of the house, mostly by the mom-cat, they might not be well-socialized. There should not be a dozen litters of kittens around - two or three litters at once is a LOT for breeders to cope with. It takes a lot of time to raise every kitten.
And see their personalities. If you are viewing very young kittens, under 6 weeks of age, they might be a bit timid. By ten weeks, you should have a hard time escaping from the room with your shoelaces tied. The earlier you view the kittens, the more you should rely on your impression of the adult cats. Most legitimate breeders can accurately identify different personality types in their kittens by the age of l0-l3 weeks. If you have an unusual home situation - an aggressive dog, a dominant female cat, a child who is too excitable - please please please listen to the breeder's recommendation. We can usually be helpful in choosing the kitten with the right temperament for each situation. If the breeder says "oh, they're all the same" - they are more interested in money than matchmaking. They may all be appropriate to any situation, but they are ALL different.
So the most important part of your shopping should be identifying a breeder you want to work with. The vast majority of kittens placed bounce right into their new homes, healthy and happy and adjustable. But if you have a problem with your kitten, you need to have established a mutually trusting relationship with the breeder. So make sure you feel comfortable with the breeder - hard to believe, but it's more important in some ways than which kitten you pick out.
The most important question to be answered on a visit to a cattery is, "Do the breeding cats and resulting kittens seem like beloved family members?" They should all be treated as pets, even if a quasi-professional cattery facility exists. The adults should be friendly, clean and healthy, and delighted to meet you. The kittens should be curious, healthy and affectionate. Most breeders have some kind of health problems from time to time - so you might see a sneezy kitten once in awhile. A good breeder will tell you what the problem is, what they are doing about it, and what they expect the prognosis will be. A bad breeder will ignore or deny that a problem exists.
Most important? Shop around - do your homework on researching the breed - and trust your instinct. Never, ever buy a kitten if you have any hesitation - there's lots to choose from. And if you shop wisely, you will end up with a terrific kitten who will be the very best choice in the whole world, and enhance your life for years to come. But be smart about it!