If you want to start a discussion that will get emotions running high, ask a group of animal supporters whether it’s okay to breed dogs and cats. You’ll get answers that run the gamut from, "No pet should be purposely bred," to, "Breeding should be encouraged because we need to save our breeds."

Firstly, let me say that I totally understand why some folks say that no pet should be purposely bred. The number of homeless pets, dogs and cats alike, that are unable to find forever homes is heartbreaking.

That being said, I’m in the camp that believes that it would be a pity to lose some of the breeds we have by not being allowed to continue breeding them. Personally, I like certain breeds of cats: Persians, Ragdolls and Maine Coons, just to name a few.  I would hate to see these breeds disappear.

However, breeding is like anything else. There’s a right way and a wrong way to do it, and I very firmly believe that if you’re not going to do it the right way, you have no business breeding your cat. I have little patience for people who breed their cat so that their children can see "the miracle of life," or just so they can make a few dollars through selling the kittens.

What is the right way? Firstly, realize that breeding should involve much more than finding a male and a female cat and throwing them together to let "nature take its course." Even if the cats are both of the same breed, that doesn’t mean they are a good choice for one another in terms of breeding. A proper breeding is carefully planned. Both the male and the female are chosen because they have positive traits that can and should be passed on to their kittens.

What should a prospective buyer look for in a breeder? How can we tell if a breeder is "doing it right" or not?

  • Start by becoming knowledgeable about the breed. Educate yourself about the genetic problems that are problematic in your chosen breed and then ask the breeder about them. Is the breeder aware of the genetic diseases? Have her cats been screened for them? Is she breeding cats that are carriers of any of these diseases? Have any of the kittens she has bred suffered from any genetic diseases? If so, what has she done about it?
  • Visit the facility where the kittens are bred. You should be able to see the kittens and the mother cat. If the father is on premises, you should be able to see him too. Reputable, responsible breeders are not afraid to have prospective buyers see their breeding and rearing facilities. In many cases, those facilities are the breeder’s home. Naturally, the area should be clean and free of objectionable odors.
  • Are the kittens being socialized? The window of opportunity for socializing kittens is short and happens in the first couple of months of life. If a kitten is not socialized properly, it will affect the kitten’s mental health for the rest of its life.
  • Ask questions of the breeder and expect the breeder to ask questions of you as well. A good breeder will want to make sure that her kittens are placed in a good home — a home where the kitten will be well cared for. The breeder will want to make sure that the kitten fits your lifestyle and that you are prepared both physically and financially to care of the kitten for its entire lifetime. Really good breeders will agree to take the kitten back if you, as the new owner, find yourself unable to keep the kitten, even if the kitten has grown to adulthood by then.

These are just a few of the things to consider in choosing a breeder from which to purchase a new kitten. Do your homework and be prepared for your new kitten before you bring him home. Never, under any circumstances, should bringing home a new kitten be an impulse decision. And always beware of pet shops and online sites that may be providing kittens from a feline version of a puppy mill.

Dr. Lorie Huston

Image: S.P. / via Shutterstock