So you have decided to get a Bengal Cat…or at least you are considering it. You have asked yourself if…
You know why you want a new pet and you have time for it.
You have settled down from your travel or work and are ready to spend good quality time training and playing with your new Bengal.
You are allowed to have pets where you live and you have checked to be sure that Bengals are legal in the state where you live. (You are not planning to move to Hawaii anytime soon.)
You know a reliable pet sitter, family and friends who will look after your new pet, if you have to go out of town or you are planning to include your pet in your travels.
You are ready to be responsible to keep your kitty indoors, on a leash or in a carrier at all times.
You are committed to feeding your new Bengal a proper diet and seeking excellent veterinary care when needed.
Now you just need to find the right breeder.
A purebred, registered cat doesn’t necessarily mean that it is a well-bred, healthy cat with a good temperament, but responsible breeders strive for those things and more.
Most refer to themselves as “hobby breeders” meaning that they do it for the love of the breed rather than to make money.
They take their cats to shows where their cats are compared to other members of the breed and are judged based upon the breed standard.
A good breeder pursues Championship titles, screens for health issues, provides proper pre- and post-natal care, vaccinates and socializes kittens.
They feed a premium diet and supplement when needed. They understand genetics and strive to further the breed.
They plan their litters in advance and sell kittens under contracts that include a health guarantee and a clause that takes responsibility for the future of the kitten.
Here are some questions to ask to help you determine if you have found a good breeder:
Are you a registered breeder? Do you have a TICA cattery registration number?
This number can be confirmed on the TICA website. Most Bengal cat breeders register with TICA (it establishes legitimacy and confirms lineages and is the first US registry to include Bengal cats)
Are you a member of TIBCS?
They may also be a member of TIBCS (It hold breeders to a higher standard of care and as a group we stay informed of cutting edge logistics and health care while we work to further the breed as a whole.)
Do you have a contract?
Hopefully, the breeder has considered all of things that are in the best interest of the kitten and put it in a contract. A written contract outlines the agreement fully and can help clarify the details. Don’t be surprised if you see contracts that include clauses for such things as “no declawing” or “must live indoors”. Consider that the breeder cares about the home the kitten is going into and wants the best for them. If you ask, the breeder should have no problem providing the contract for you to review ahead of time.
Do you have a Health Guarantee? And what type of Health Screening do you do? And are you still in contact with the owners of your Bengals to follow up on any heath concerns that could develop?
I would not buy a cat without a health guarantee. Breeders should be screening their cats for HCM, as well as, FIV and FELV among others. They should be wormed and come with the first set of immunizations. They should keep up with any health issues that arise in kittens.
If cats are found to have Feline Hip Dysplasia, Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM), Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD), luxating patella (slipping knees) or other genetic conditions, they should be removed from the breeding program and spayed or neutered. Additionally, the breeder should monitor developments in the lines that they breed from.
We are proud to be the first cattery in Atlanta to do HCM screenings and through careful screening have not had any cases of it to this day. These days our cat club hosts HCM screening clinics that are affordable and leave no excuse for not screening.
Do you conduct an interview with perspective new owners to help determine if they will be able to meet the requirements of your contract and to see if they are a good fit for a new Bengal?
It is important for a breeder to determine if a new pet owner will be able to meet the requirements of the contract and to see if they are a good fit for a new Bengal? We talk to perspective owners on the phone and then in person where they can ask us tons of questions and we can do the same. We want to make sure that our kittens are going to loving homes who are ready for a Bengal.
Are you willing to spend time educating new owners and mentoring new breeders?
Understanding how to encourage the behavior that you would like from your kitten goes a long way towards a well adjusted kitten. We should all know by now that hands are not toys and that a kitten who misbehaves should never be hit, but there are so many other good practices that can help you and your kitten to bond and have a great relationship. With a good relationship with your breeder, answers to your questions should be an email or phone call away. We are always open to questions.
How many litters of kittens do you have a year? How do you socialize and train your kittens? How much time do you spend with each individual kitten? Are they raised in your home?
There are different ways to raise kittens, but we have chosen to be a small in home breeder, because we have seen and feel that it is the best way to do it. Our kittens are born in our home and handled for a large part of every single day. Each kitten has their own time with us, when we stretch them out and give them our undivided attention. They are handled by children and adults. They have their own toys and usually develop and affinity to a certain kind of toy. At 4 weeks they start litter box training and at 7-8 weeks we introduce them to our family dog. We keep them with their mom as long as possible, to boost their immune systems and so that she can teach them good hygiene and how to play gently with other kittens. Kittens are often held 10-14 weeks before going to their new homes. Responsible breeders often have waiting lists for their kittens. Don’t let haste keep you from finding your well-bred kitten.
Can I come out and see your kittens?
This is probably the most important question. You can tell a lot by visiting a person’s home/cattery. For instance, it should be clean and not have an overpowering smell of litter boxes. Cats should be healthy and well-fed. There should be enough space and time to care for and socialize kittens. Also, you need to be able to see that the kittens are happy, friendly and not afraid. Temperament is not something you can see online or in emails. Because it is their home, they will probably be cautious about giving their address out over the internet.
Do you have a provision in your contract that allows for the return of the cat or kitten should the new owner not be able to keep it?
Pets are for life and shouldn’t be thought of as returnable…but there should be some provision that keeps a new owner from dropping their cat off at a shelter.
We would be happy to discuss any of these questions or any other Bengal questions with you.