If you’ve done a thorough job of choosing your breeder, you’ll have found someone who has a caring, loving heart toward the kitten you’re about to bring home. The purpose of a Contract is first and foremost to protect the kitten, but its secondary purpose is to legally bind both parties to a fair agreement.
Standard Terms to Expect in a Contract
Declawing is a surgical mutilation of a cat’s paws, and can result in a lifetime of emotional and physical pain. To fully understand the severity of this surgery, please read “The Truth About Declawing.” Responsible breeders want to protect their kittens from being subjected to this cruelty at all costs.
Spay or neuter by a certain age
Some breeders spay/neuter kittens before sending them home, in which case, you won’t have to worry about this. But if they don’t, it’s important that you get this done at your vet by the date the breeder gives, and send them proof of spay/neuter. Yes, this requirement is in place to help prevent backyard breeding, but spaying or neutering is also vital to your kitten’s health.
Not allowed to roam freely outdoors
Based on your location, your breeder may require that your kitten be indoors only, or have an enclosed outdoor space. In many areas, outdoor life for a cat is a short life with a violent end. If you don’t agree with this term, don’t buy from that specific breeder. But again, understand that the breeder has the kitten’s best interests at heart, and you should too.
Surrendering your kitten
Many contracts include terms for what would happen if you decide you no longer want or cannot keep your kitten. Many breeders will require that you return the kitten so they can take upon themselves the responsibility of finding him/her a new home. Pay attention to these terms, because you could be breaking the contract if you try to rehome your kitten on your own.
Again, the breeder’s intent is to protect the kitten from being passed around or sent to a home that’s not a good fit. Often, rehoming is due to a behavior issue that the owner can’t seem to resolve. The breeder wants to make sure they resolve any behavior issues before rehoming again, to give the kitten the best chance possible at a great life.
No monetary refunds
A rare situation may warrant a replacement kitten, but most breeders are clear that there are no monetary refunds after you leave with your kitten. He becomes your kitten and your responsibility. In particular, the breeder may state that they won’t cover vet fees at your vet. If the kitten dies due to genetic or congenital disease, you’ll likely be compensated with a replacement kitten, but no monetary refund.
It’s important to develop a good relationship with your breeder so that you can work together if a disastrous situation occurs. Just remember that the breeder never has any obligation to give you money after you leave with your kitten, no matter the circumstance. They might offer to help out if they feel it would be the right thing to do, but breeders need a contract in place to protect themselves from people looking for refunds and monetary compensation.
What to Expect for a Health Guarantee
Many people hear the phrase “2-year health guarantee” and believe that means the breeder is guaranteeing your kitten will have no health issues for at least 2 years, but that’s not the case.
Nobody can guarantee that. You’re buying a living, breathing animal, and a young kitten without a fully developed immune system at that! Animals get sick, it’s part of nature. If you don’t feel equipped to handle what may (or may not!) happen, owning a Bengal may not be for you.
That said, you are paying a lot of money for a Bengal, and the breeder needs to show that they’re committed to giving you a kitten that’s believed to be fully healthy at the time of going home, and will hopefully not have any genetic conditions arise.
A Health Guarantee is usually two-fold:
A breeder can’t control what happens to the kitten after it leaves their home. For this reason, there’s usually just a short period (a few days) in which the kitten is guaranteed to be free from any environmentally transmitted diseases or ailments, but after that, you’re responsible.
When you pick up your kitten, you can expect it be up-to-date on vaccinations and to look healthy with a clear coat, bright eyes, and good energy. Most breeders have their vet examine the kitten before he goes home for a general wellness check. The breeder may require you to bring the kitten to your own vet within a certain time period to confirm his health. This is a good practice for any new animal you bring into your home.
A reputable breeder will offer a 2- or 3-year (sometimes even longer) genetic health guarantee. This means that if your kitten is diagnosed by a certified veterinarian to have a disease that’s hereditary or congenital, you’d be eligible to receive a replacement kitten within the given time period.
Again, no breeder can promise you that nothing is going to happen. But your best chance at avoiding such devastating situations is to choose your breeder with care.
One condition where the lines are blurred is FIP. This is a fatal disease for which there is currently no cure or prevention. It’s caused when a very common strain of virus called feline coronavirus—which almost all cats are exposed to at some point or another—mutates within an animal into FIP. It’s unknown why it mutates in some animals and not in others. There may be a genetic predisposition in some cats, and stress may be a factor as well. You can see how this is a gray area—is it environmental or genetic? It could be both.
To make matters more complicated, FIP can be complicated to diagnose and some vets jump to conclude FIP too quickly. If your cat is ever diagnosed with FIP, it’s very important to be in touch with your breeder. They’ll likely not want to pair the parents of that kitten together again. And in the unfortunate situation that your cat dies from FIP at a young age, your breeder may be willing to replace your kitten out of compassion. Take note of any specific clauses in the contract pertaining to FIP. You can read more on FIP here.
Always stay in communication with your breeder
Breeders really care about their kittens, and if you’re having any kind of problem, always get in touch with them! They’ll have a wealth of knowledge from firsthand experience and will be a great support system. It’s also important that they’re kept informed, in case the issue at hand has any correlation to their cattery. And remember, you and your breeder will always share a common love—the kitten.