How do I find the right breeder for me?
That's a question I see asked many times on forums and social media. It's also something that I asked myself when I first started looking into purchasing my first ever Bengal kitten, over five years ago.
Now, I'm going to say something almost unbelievable. Believe it or not, we may not be the right breeder for you!
Sounds crazy, right? Why would someone who owns a business breeding Bengals not paint themselves as the perfect breeder?! Well, don't get me wrong. I'm a GREAT breeder. BUT every breeder has their own way of working; their own policies, clauses in their contracts that they absolutely won't be moved on...it's not as simple as 'does this person look after their cats and kittens well' - because that should be a given (and notice I say 'should be'. Not 'definitely is!' there are many unscrupulous people breeding Bengals - 'backyard breeders' as they are known). I, for example, write it into all my pet contracts that any Bengal purchased from me must not, under any circumstances, be allowed to 'free-roam'.
I realise that many years ago, it was the norm to 'put the cat out' at night and I do appreciate that cats love to be outdoors. Bengals especially; they are a high energy breed so they really benefit from having outdoor access. BUT, and I cannot state this strongly enough; they cannot be allowed to free roam, in my opinion.
Now, I do know of a lot of people that DO allow their Bengals unsupervised outdoor access, and they will state that their Bengal hasn't had an accident 'yet' but sooner or later, they most likely will. If they don't break a bone from carrying out some crazy acrobatics in pursuit of a fly, or a leaf, or anything that moves (breaks are VERY common amongst Bengals, and they cost a pretty penny in vet fees, too!), and they are lucky enough not to get run over whilst they're chasing a bird - but they're not looking forwards while they're running at full speed, they're fixated on that bird in the sky because if a Bengal sees something it wants, it will go after it at all costs.... then at the very least your free roaming Bengal is susceptible to bites and scratches from territorial neighbourhood cats, ticks and fleas, ringworm (I see so many cats in my neighbourhood with signs of ringworm; once you know the symptoms you can spot them a mile off. And these are in well looked after cats, too. Not just strays).
Bengals are known to travel a long distance when they're hunting, so they quite often become lost, they could be poisoned...the list is endless and this is why I write 'no free roaming' into my contracts.
I do ask my kitten owners to provide outdoor access via a purpose built 'catio' enclosure, walks on a harness and lead (Bengals are highly intelligent and take very well to this!) or a cat proofed, fully enclosed garden. Protectapet and Katzsecure offer reasonably priced and effective cat proofing solutions, or you can D.I.Y for £200 or so.
Now, you may read this and say to yourself "No way! If I'm paying £900+ for a pedigree cat, then I should at least be able to let it outside to free roam if I want to" (I've had those exact words said to me more than once). In which case, I would suggest that you and I aren't well-suited to each other and I would respectively suggest that you find a breeder who doesn't mind their Bengals being allowed to free-roam; most don't allow it, but some do.
This is the first and very important step in anyone's Bengal journey; you must find a breeder who is exactly on your wavelength. Someone who shares your values so that you can work together without misunderstanding or either one of you having to compromise on what's important to you; after all, your Bengal's breeder will be (or, should be) there for you for the rest of your Bengal's life so you want to make sure that you get on well with them :)
Once you have found a breeder that you trust, the next step is to ask the all-important health questions.
Do they HCM test their breeding cats?
What is the PK-Def and PRA-b status of the kittens' parents?
What about faecal and lung screening?
Where do they stand on vaccinations? Do their breeding cats receive their boosters annually?
Then there is the matter of registration. In the U.K, ALL cat breeders should be a member of either GCCF or TICA and all their breeding cats and kittens should be registered - and you should be able to view the breeder's cattery registration slip AND the cats/kittens registration papers too.
The cats' registration slips should have the cat's pedigree name (which is sometimes different from their 'pet name', the breeder's name, owner's name and the cat's individual registration number on them.
I am regularly asked to provide proof of these to my potential kitten owners when they visit and have no problem with that at all. If a breeder seems hesitant to show you or comes up with an excuse such as they've 'misplaced' them, then it's likely that one or more of their cats aren't registered at all and you should find a different breeder.
You should also make sure that you visit your chosen breeder, preferably more than once, to have a proper look at their cats and kittens.
We welcome visits from potential customers and are happy to show you around our cattery, let you meet and pet all of our cats (with strict hygiene rules in place, of course).
When you visit your chosen breeder, make sure that they are happy to show you around, and don't 'cherry pick' which cats and kittens you are allowed access to. This could be a sign that there is something the breeder doesn't want you to see - are the 'hidden' cats suffering from diarrhoea or signs of cat flu (watery eyes or nose, sneezing), are they antisocial or aggressive?
Try and get a look at the litter trays; it may seem awkward or embarrassing to ask, but remember; breeders regularly discuss the contents of their cats' litter trays and much more besides with their vets, breeder friends, so there is no embarrassment here! :) Look at whether the tray is fairly clean (that there aren't huge amount of faeces in the box; obviously there may be some!), if there is some poop in there then that's great - check that it looks well-formed; not too hard looking but not runny, and that there is no mucus or blood in there.
Take note of how clean the house is, too. Not necessarily tidy, but CLEAN.
Anyone can tidy up before visitors arrive but are the outsides of the litter boxes clean (we clean ours daily), are there bowls of dried-out food on the floor (bowls should be removed and washed as soon as the cats finish eating), are the cats and kittens well-kept or do some of the kittens have dried food or faecal matter stuck to their tails or feet? I've seen this a lot in kittens from less ethical breeders (that backyard breeder word again!) and there is no excuse for this as if a kitten steps in some poop whilst toileting (which is normal), I clean it up straight away, so it never gets the chance to become dried on. Talking of the bottom area, make sure the kittens (and older cats!) have nice, clean looking bottoms that aren't protruding, sore looking or dirty as this is a sign of tummy troubles.
And finally, trust your instincts. All too often, I hear of people having a gut feeling that a breeder wasn't 'quite right' but ignoring their instincts - and then paying the price later down the line.
If your gut instinct tells you that something isn't right, walk away.
I hope this goes a little way towards helping you choose a breeder, however if you have any questions we are always happy to offer advice so feel free to contact us.