Choosing a Maine Coon is a little more complicated than simply selecting the cutest kitten from a bunch of photos. If you want to avoid any nasty little surprises down the line, it always pays to do your research before committing to a contract. Not only will this minimize the risk of your cat developing some of the most common genetic conditions known to afflict Maine Coons, but it’ll also ensure you’re not supporting any undesirable breeding practices. So, ask questions. Ask about the kitten’s personality, their pedigree, their parents’ health, their vaccination status, and what kind of breeding practices the cattery uses. If you’re at all confused about what to ask, use these 10 questions you should always ask a Maine Coon cat breeder as your template.
1. When can I take the kitten home?
Just as it’s important to choose a cat that’ll be the right fit for your family, it’s also vital to ensure you won’t be inadvertently supporting bad breeding standards in the process. If you want to very quickly get an idea of what the breeder is about, ask them how soon you can take the kitten home. Kittens should always be kept with their mothers for at least the first 12 weeks of their life, but the most reputable breeders will insist on them staying together until the kitten is between 13 and 14 weeks old. This will give them ample time to be weaned onto solids, and will also ensure the kitten is well socialized by the time they leave the nest. As ezinearticles.com says, if the breeder tries to sell you a kitten who’s less than 12 weeks old, they’re more concerned with the money than the cat’s well-being.
2. Have both parents been screened for hypertrophic cardiomyopathy?
As Paws for Advise says, it’s vital to ask the breeder about whether the kitten’s parents have been screened for the most common genetic conditions known to afflict Maine Coons. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is one of the most common forms of heart disease in cats, and is particularly prevalent in Maine Coons. Blood tests can help identify the gene, but as some Maine Coons who test negative later go on to develop the condition, you should also ask the breeder if the mother regularly receives echocardiograms to test for the condition. Ideally, the scans should be done between each litter, but at the very least every other year.
3. Has the kitten received both sets of vaccines?
Kittens should get their first set of vaccinations against cat flu viruses, feline leukemia virus and feline infectious enteritis when they’re 9 weeks old. They should then receive their booster shots at 12 weeks old. Until they’ve had both sets of vaccinations, they shouldn’t be let outside or come into contact with potentially unvaccinated or diseased cats. Ask for confirmation of which vaccinations they’ve had and request a record that you can then show your vet.
4. Have both parents been tested for spinal muscular atrophy?
According to vetinfo.com, Maine Coons are the only cat breed in which spinal muscular atrophy has been discovered. The condition is progressive, leading to reduced muscular movement and disability. Although it isn’t life-threatening, it can still impact function, and will require an additional level of support and care to properly manage it. As the condition can be inherited, it’s therefore wise to ask the breeder if both of the kitten’s parents have been tested for the condition.
5. Have both parents been screened for hip dysplasia?
Due to their large frames, Maine Coons are more at risk of developing hip dysplasia than their smaller boned counterparts. All Maine Coons that are bred should first be screened for the condition, which over time can lead to the loss of hip joint functions. Hip health is assessed using a grading system in which ‘normal’ denotes healthy hips and ‘borderline’ indicates a hip socket that’s not quite normal but that’s not dysplastic. Cats who fall into the ‘normal’ and ‘borderline’ categories are both fit for breeding. Cats with moderate dysplasia and severe dysplasia are not, and should be removed from the breeding program. Cats with mild dysplasia can be bred in certain countries, but only on the condition the cat they are bred with has been graded as normal.
6. Have there been any recent illnesses in the cattery?
Ideally, you should always see the kitten in person so you can check the cattery is clean, comfortable, and the cats are well cared for. It’s also worth asking if there have been any recent illnesses like cat flu at the cattery, even if your own kitten seems in good health.
7. Do you provide a written health guarantee?
All legitimate breeders should provide a written contract along with a guarantee of health. Requirements vary by state, but most contracts will include details about the time period in which the breeder can be held liable for any issues. As most contracts will also come with certain requirements on your side, such as having them neutered by a certain age, keeping them indoors, etc, be sure to read the fine print closely.
8. How does the kitten behave around people and other pets?
By the time your cat leaves their mother, they should be well socialized. But all cats are different, so it’s important to ask the breeder how your kitten behaves around other people and animals, particularly if you live in a big, busy family with lots of kids and pets.
9. How often do you breed the mother?
No matter how cute a kitten looks, don’t support irresponsible breeding practices. Always ask the breeder how many litters the mother has per year. Ideally, they shouldn’t be having more than 3 over the course of two years. Anything more than that suggests a breeder who is more interested in the dollar signs flashing in front of their eyes than the welfare of their cats.
10. Has the kitten been neutered?
Maine Coons can be neutered/ spayed as early as 12 weeks old, but as they tend to come into maturity slower than other breeds, it’s relatively normal for most people to wait until they reach around 6 months old before getting them fixed. Be sure to ask whether the kitten will be fixed before they come to you so you can arrange any appointments needed in advance.