Once you have decided on a specific breed the next step is to decide what role your new addition will have in your family. Are you looking for a family pet, do you have any desire to show or breed, do you have plans to participate in specific activities or clubs with your new pet. The ultimate goal is to find a breeder that has healthy puppies or kittens that will be able to fit into your family. There are many ways to locate breeders for both cats and dogs. National organizations such as the AKC (American Kennel Club) and the CFA (Cat Fanciers of America) have lists of breeders and local breed clubs that can connect you with individual breeders. Your veterinarian may have a breeder as a client or have clients that have obtained healthy pets from a breeder. Activity clubs for dogs such as Agility or Fly Chasing clubs can be a good source of breeder names. If these sources fail an internet search can provide you with many options.
Now you have some names of kennels and catteries, how do you decide who is the best? There are some general characteristics that can help you pick. First you want to find a breeder that specializes in the breed you want and possibly one or two other closely related breeds. If the breeder has several different breeds listed it may be an indication that they are “puppy or kitten mill”. Secondly you want to choose a breeder who has their animals tested and certified for the common health problems that are of concern to the species and breed in which you are interested. A quality cattery will have had their cats tested for Feline Leukemia and Feline Immunodeficiency viruses. Additionally they may have breed specific testing done. A conscientious kennel owner will have their breeding animals screened and certified for a number of orthopedic and other breed specific heritable diseases such as hip dysplasia and Von Willebrand’s disease.
Many breeders will offer some form of limited health guarantee(s) on the pets. I recommend reviewing those clauses with the breeder and discussing the breeder’s responsibilities in the event some problem arises with your new pet. Some breeders will have restrictions attached to the animal you purchase such as verification of spay or castration if you are purchasing a puppy or kitten as a family pet. It is important to ask the breeder if they have any restrictions on the puppy or kitten. If so discuss them thoroughly before signing on the dotted line.
Once you have narrowed your list down the next step is to determine how the actual breeder operates their kennel or cattery. How are the animals housed? Are they an integral part of the family? Are they kenneled for periods of time but have interaction with the family and other animals on a daily basis? How clean is the facility? What type(s) of food is fed? What is the vaccination policy of the breeder? Ideally all of these questions would be answered by a tour of the kennel or cattery. Certainly if the breeder is within travelling distance I would recommend asking if a visit is possible. If the facility is too far away then conversations with the breeder by phone or by email will help you determine if you are making the right choice.