Cat Breeder Ethics


Life is like a box of cat breeders. You never know what you're gonna get.

Admittedly, that's not exactly how Forrest Gump's saying goes, but it illustrates the point beautifully. There are all kinds of cat breeders in this world, ranging from reputable to deplorable. Of course, there are plenty of catteries that fall somewhere in between as well. The problem we often run into is that some of these labels are subjective. What one person may find to be acceptable in a breeder, someone else may not. So we wanted to gather some data on the subject of breeder ethics and find a consensus on what qualifies as a "good" breeder and a "bad" breeder.

We put together a questionnaire and solicited feedback from the members of We asked people to share their experiences and opinions around cat breeder ethics through an anonymous form. Numerous quotes are included below, but we have removed any potentially identifying information. So without further ado, here are the findings.

What are the qualities of someone you deem to be a "good" breeder?
Most respondents mentioned that a good breeder isn't just in it for the money. They do it because they're passionate about Persians and are interested in the betterment of the breed. Health always comes first. Here are some qualities that people listed:

  • Keeps a clean cattery
  • Offers genetic health guarantees
  • Answers a buyer's questions both openly and honestly
  • Stays in touch with the buyer post-sale
  • Takes the time and money required to properly care for their cats
  • Displays knowledge of the breed
  • Places cats in good homes and will not sell to just anyone
  • Treats their cats like family
  • Discloses all records and veterinary opinions to potential buyers
  • Prices their cats fairly
  • Offers to take back previously-sold cats if the placement doesn't work out
  • Minimizes cages, or better yet, eliminates them all together
  • Follows the written standard of their registering organization
  • Socializes their cats

What percentage of cat breeders do you think qualifies as "good" breeders?
Well, not a single respondent said that 100% of cat breeders are good. But more than half of the respondents felt that somewhere between 61-80% of cat breeders are actually good breeders.

Respondents Perceived Number of Good Breeders
23% 0-20%
15% 21-40%
8% 41-60%
54% 61-80%
None 81-100%

What constitutes a "bad" breeder?
Here are some examples that people shared:

  • Keeps a dirty cattery
  • Focuses on financial gain and winning
  • Breeds indiscriminately and without the minimum genetic requirements
  • Becomes lazy on inoculations and paperwork
  • Avoids researching the breed and performing genetic testing on their lines
  • Has cats in poor health - and knowingly sells them
  • Overmedicates cats
  • Prices their cats unfairly
  • Keeps cats in cages or mistreats them
  • Breeds small versions of cats on purpose
  • Is unwilling to help or advise buyers or other breeders
  • Has a surplus of cats
  • Neglects to check out background of potential buyers
  • Lies about anything from condition of the cats to titles and achievements

People expressed great frustration about the breeders out there running their catteries in such a manner. One of the respondents summed it up best by saying, "If you're not going to do it right, then don't do it at all."

If you've ever had a negative experience with a breeder, please describe what happened.
There were many disappointing and scary stories. People talked of sickness, lies, hoarders, and lawsuits. A few people explained how the cats they purchased had unexpected health issues:

"She had evidence of previous ringworm, flea dirt, and roundworms."

"Bought a stud cat and found out he was PKD-positive."

"She had ear mites, fleas, ticks, ringworm, and was very, very underweight. I paid for the meds to cure her and then it turned out she had an upper respiratory infection."

Then there were the unfortunate cases where people were lied to. For example, these respondents encountered creative liars:

"Once a breeder sent me false pictures of a kitten to sell - from other breeders or from last year's litters."

"I've had negative experiences with a breeder who openly admitted to ... hanging papers and forging signatures."

How would you define a "backyard breeder"?
A backyard breeder goes beyond what we have defined as a bad breeder. The breeder does whatever he or she pleases, sometimes not even trying to appear reputable. Respondents described them as follows:

"Someone that pumps out kittens for profit."

"They buy the cheapest food on the market; they do not vaccinate their cats or test them; they house as many in a small space as possible; they do not show or educate themselves whatsoever on genetics or feline husbandry."

"A backyard breeder would be one that breeds for ... inbreeding, overbreeding, no responsibility."

"Breeding pet quality cats together and selling cheap as pets. Selling to pet stores."

"Someone who does not register their kittens or give inoculations."

Regardless of whether people were discussing bad breeders or backyard breeders, 75% of respondents talked about the money factor. They felt that so many breeders out there are in it to make a quick buck, above all else.

How do you think cat breeder ethics could be improved overall?
There were tons of ideas and suggestions for raising the bar.

"If people would simply follow the guidelines set forth by their organization, instead of being motivated by greed ... there really is no money to be made in breeding cats. It is getting harder and harder for legitimate breeders to sell their kittens due to the strain on the economy. People have less money to spend on luxuries."

"If buyers would become more informed before purchasing, then the bad [breeders] wouldn't make any money and would be forced out of business."

"[Have breeders] checked by vet inspection or animal welfare group."

"Better mentoring by the current breeders. Current breeders should not just sell to anyone who wants to breed. They should carefully interview any new perspective breeder and make sure they are prepared, mentally and financially, to take on the challenges of breeding."

"I think the cat fancy ... would benefit from a little less mean spiritedness and more caring for one another. We need to take responsibility for the cats we produce, consider their fates, and treat people the way we want to be treated."