Breeders have all been on the adoption end, just like you. After all, it's important for a breeder to continuously bring in new unrelated cats to "diversify" their lines and maintain their breeding stock. However, finding the right breeder is a daunting task, specifically due to the influx of online scams. I have compiled the list below with helpful tips so that you can make an informed decision when looking for the right breeder.
1. ARE THEY REGISTERED?
First, look for a breeder who is registered with a cat association. Being registered is not just about paperwork. It means they are being held to a higher standard and held accountable to a nonprofit registry. The two common associations in the United States are The International Cat Association ("TICA") and the Cat Fanciers Association ("CFA").
Second, actually call the association to verify that the breeder and his/her cattery is actively registered and in good standing. Anyone can add a TICA and CFA badge to their website. I used to say ask for a copy of the cattery certificate, but even those are being photoshopped nowadays.
"Registration means voluntary accountability to an organization." ~RK
2. "GOOGLE" THE BREEDER & CATTERY
This is probably the most easiest task that you can do. Google not only the cattery name, but also the breeder's name. I have seen instances where breeders had such horrible reviews, that they shutdown their cattery and re-registered it under a new name to start "fresh."
A lot of complaints and bad reviews of transactions with breeders are posted on Complaints Board and Ripoff Report. The website Bad Cat Breeders also has a database that you can search through where they've compiled their own list of breeders with complaints.
Just keep in mind the context of the complaint. Sometimes the issue was not truly the breeder's fault or was beyond the breeder's control.
"Reviews reflect opinions. You decide if they reflect facts." ~RK
3. ARE THEY BREEDING TO STANDARD?
First things first, learn the breed standard of the breed you're looking at. German Shepherds should not be blue just like Pineapples should not be purple. The breed standards are listed on the TICA and CFA website.
Ragdolls come in the colors seal, blue, chocolate, lilac, red and cream in the colorpoint, mitted or bicolor pattern with optional overlays of lynx or tortie. Minks, sepias and solids are not within TICA or CFA standards and are not allowed in the cat show halls. Minks, sepias and solids can be registered with TICA, but not with CFA. Ragdolls have blue eyes, not green, copper, or gold.
I've also seen some "all black Ragdolls." I have nothing against this, but I would encourage you to adopt a black kitty from your local shelter instead for ~$50-200 rather than pay $1500 for a mixed breed "black Ragdoll." Sorry, that's not a thing.
"Please don't support designer kitties bred based on consumer demand and not on established breed standards." ~RK
4. ASSESS THEIR BREEDING STOCK aka "MOM & DAD"
Take a look at these two pictures. Both of these cats are Seal Bicolors.
When I see cats on the left, especially on breeder websites, I have to ask, uhh when's the last time you gave that cat a bath?!
It's not really a huge problem for a pet owner with 1 or 2 cats. But it is a problem when it's a breeder with 6-10+ cats. Then I'd start questioning hygiene issues and cattery / home cleanliness and level of care.
Look at the overall appearance of the Kings and Queens and kittens. Ragdolls are known for their size and coat. They should not be "scraggly" and thin looking.
Seriously, I've seen dirty lookin' cats like that (on the left) housed in cages their whole breeder lives used primarily for the purpose of breeding and pumping out kittens. I've also known of breeders who will breed a cat 2 months after just giving birth, or even breed a 6 month old kitten. Anything to produce kittens. It's disheartening and sad.
"Clean & healthy cat means a safe & clean home = caring breeder." ~RK
5. WHAT TESTING HAVE THEY DONE?
The goal of any breeder should be to maintain and better the breed. How can they do that if they're not screening out potential illnesses, diseases and disorders? Backyard breeders do not do any testing. Hence the name... Backyard Breeder.
And you're paying over a thousand dollars, you should definitely be getting your moneys worth in health guarantees. Nobody should be paying $1,200+ for a sick kitten only to have to pay another couple hundred to treat the sick kitten at the vet's a few days later, or worse, deal with a dead kitten now. Do keep in mind however, some times sicknesses can inadvertently be caused by things in our home that are toxic to cats.
Ask for proof of testing. At minimum, they should test for FeLV, FIV and HCM. But don't demand test results right after you ask, "Do you have any kittens available?" As breeders, we're not going to be handing out personal documents to the world. But if you're seriously interested in adopting or if you've already paid a deposit, it's not unreasonable to request to see test results.
Also, be sure to read up on their health guarantees. If they're not posted on their website, don't be afraid to ask the Breeder what health guarantees they offer, or even to see a copy of their contract that you would be required to sign. If they boast about their genetic testing on their website, but their contract says, "SELLER DOES NOT GUARANTEE..." Well, then maybe you should take your money elsewhere to avoid a hot mess dispute like you've read on Complaints Board, Ripoff Report, & Bad Cat Breeders. The most common bad reviews have to do with sick or dying kittens, so make sure you are protected against receiving a sick or flea infested kitten.
"Integrity in breeding is making sure breeders are not reproducing diseases & disorders." ~RK
6. IS THE PRICE RIGHT?
There are so many factors that go into determining the price of Ragdoll kittens. The price varies tremendously depending on the breeder, but you can expect your average median price to start at $1200 for pet quality kittens. Some things to keep in mind about pricing:
1. If the price is very low (such as $300-500), you're probably looking at a scam ad. These have been popping up everywhere because people remit payments for kittens online. They steal photos from actual breeder websites and social media pages and advertise them as they're own. You remit the payment, and they disappear with your money. See # 9 below on how to protect yourself from scams such as these.
2. If the price is very high (such as $1500+) for pet quality, you're probably dealing with a for-profit breeder. There's nothing wrong with a for-profit breeder, especially if they've put in the work at the cat show halls to enhance their cattery reputation so that they can increase profits and they breed ethically, but if you do not see a history of titles and championships (which should be on their website) and clean looking cats, and they're charging exorbitant prices, then you're probably dealing with a for-profit greedy breeder. Case in point, take a look at FloppyCats.com's article.
3. Expect to pay a reasonable fee between $800-1400 +/- inclusive of age appropriate vaccinations, deworming, exam, spay/neuter procedure and at least a 1 year health guarantee.
"If you go the discount route, be prepared for the veterinary bill amount." ~RK
7. READ THEIR POLICIES
Disputes happen because the buyer thought one thing and the seller thought another thing. In other words, there was no meeting of the minds. Most people don't read the fine print until they actually have a problem and want to see if anything in the fine print applies to them. When it comes to bringing a new family pet member into your home, BREAK THIS HABIT! Read the "fine print" aka the policies posted on the breeder's website, or if not posted, ask them what their policies are.
Not all breeders have the same policies. My personal preference (and commonly standard) is to make sure the breeder has policies that prohibits declawing, that the cat / pet will be an indoor pet only, that the adopter will be providing a "forever home," that the spay / neuter / vaccines / deworming are built into the fee, and that they offer a health guarantee against external parasites (fleas, ticks, mites, etc.) and against genetic diseases and disorders.
Don't place a deposit if they have "nonrefundable deposit" plastered all over their website, and you're still "shopping" around. If you happen to find another kitten who is available to go home soon, you've now put yourself in a dilemma of either losing that deposit or picking a fight to get it back.
"Choose your battles wisely, and you can do that by reading their policies." ~RK
8. CONTINUOUSLY ASSESS COMMUNICATIONS WITH THE BREEDER
I see this happen all the time. Disputes arise because the breeder stopped responding or takes a week to respond to communications, after you have already paid them a deposit. Or they just take forever to respond to basic questions.
From the breeder's perspective, some of us are truly busy such as with our own professional lives (if breeding is our hobby and not our primary source of income/business).
There's really no across the board answer as to why a breeder will take days or weeks to respond. Just keep one question in mind:
Will you be comfortable with this level and frequency of communication once you remit payment for a deposit or after you've paid the balance in full?
"Communication may be a demonstration of presupposition." ~RK
9. PROTECT YOURSELF AGAINST ONLINE SCAMS
Online scammers are out there and are rampant in devising new ways to scam people out of their hard earned money every day. Here are some tips to protect yourself against online scams:
1. The price is too good to be true. It probably is! Low prices lure desperate people in.
2. Ask for multiple photos. Scammers are stealing pictures from breeder websites and social media pages and using them as their own advertising kittens for sale luring you in to pay $$$.
3. Check the email you're emailing against the email on the website. I've known of scammers holding websites out as their own by developing the website name as a gmail address, but the email on the website was actually a domain email.
4. Pay by a traceable method such as PayPal purchase protection or use a credit card with dispute the transaction options. Keep in mind, I've known of some buyers who actually dispute payments after they received the kitten. As breeders, we should be mindful of reassuring adopters who send hundreds or thousands of dollars over the internet to us, so it's important we make sure we have a solid contract, and that the adopter on the contract is actually the payor who remits payment.
"Our best decisions are often what we choose not to get involved in." ~ Doug Cooper
10. WE (BREEDERS) ARE NOT ALL BAD
Not all breeders are bad. As with every group, breeders come with their fair share of bad apples. So it's important to weed out the rotten ones. Due diligence is needed on your part to make sure you are not dealing with an unethical, money-hungry, possibly scam artist breeder. Due diligence is needed on our part to make sure you are not a pet broker or someone who will get rid of this kitten when he/she becomes inconvenient for you. It's important that both sides of this transaction recognize the other party's interests and goals to ensure a fair and smooth transaction for the benefit of the kitten.
"If you want trust, be trustworthy." ~RK