You’ve done your research. You’ve learned about the 40-plus pedigreed cat breeds and have decided to welcome a Maine Coon into your home. Now your true treasure hunt begins: finding a gentle giant of your very own.
Unlike the breed’s elusive and fabled origins, a Maine Coon kitten isn’t difficult to find. But to locate your feline treasure, you’ll need to carefully map out your quest. You’ll prepare for your journey by finding reputable breeders. You’ll question them and they’ll question you. Eventually, you’ll find the X on your map: your Maine Coon match!
Befriending a Breeder
Your best bet is to purchase a Maine Coon kitten from a reputable breeder. Reputable breeders raise pedigreed kittens for the purpose of continuing and perfecting their particular breed rather than reaping a financial reward.
Find a breeder in your area so you can meet her and see her cattery in person, advises Bob Johnston, a breeder in Leawood, Kansas.
“You want to get a breeder that’s somewhere in your area so that you can visit the cattery or home,” Johnston says. “It’s not only a business transaction, but you also want to have confidence in the breeder, and screen them and their facility.”
You can find breeders from a range of sources—including magazines, cat registry association referrals, cat shows, friends and the internet. Each has its benefits and drawbacks:
Magazines: As you flip through the classifieds section of cat periodicals and cat registry association magazines, you’ll find dozens of Maine Coon breeders showcasing their kittens. These magazines include catteries from across the country, so it’s likely that you’ll find a breeder near you.
Finding a breeder through magazine advertisements is certainly convenient. The ads list contact information, and many times they have pictures of their kittens, recognitions they’ve received and awards the cattery has won. Corresponding with a breeder is only a phone call or e-mail away.
“Magazines are very good places to learn about the different breeds,” says Kelli Cajigas, a breeder in Miami, Florida. “People look through the magazines and have an idea of what breed they’re looking for.”
Keep in mind, however, that these magazines don’t screen or police their advertisers; that’s up to you. Just because a breeder purchases an advertisement doesn’t mean that they’re reputable. Magazines however, are an excellent place to start your search.
Association referral: Pedigreed cat registry associations, such as the Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA) and The International Cat Association (TICA), list member breeders on their websites, in their magazines, newsletters and in their yearbooks.
The associations list breeders by state and by breed, so finding a Maine Coon breeder near you is relatively simple. Some associations also track complaints against catteries, so you can call and ask whether one has been reported for unethical practices.
“TICA won’t put an ad on the website if there have been reported problems,” says Kay DeVilbiss, TICA president and all-breed judge in Harlingen, Texas. “In addition, you may call TICA and see if a particular breeder has been reported for unethical practices.”
Similar to magazine advertisements, though these associations don’t police the advertisers or inspect their members’ facilities. The listings are provided as a convenience to cat fanciers and aren’t endorsed by the associations, so exercise caution when doing business with them.
Some associations do, however, designate worthy catteries as Catteries of Excellence or Responsible Breeder, DeVilbiss adds. These titles are given to breeders who follow space and maintenance guidelines with their cattery.
Cat shows: An outstanding place to see the full range of pedigreed cats, cat shows pit cat against cat in a battle of beauty and breed representation. At a show, you’ll see some of the best Maine Coons in your area—and have an opportunity to talk to their breeders.
“Going to a cat show and actually talking to breeders is one of the best avenues for finding a well-bred kitten,” says Kitty Angel, CFA vice president. “You can really interview a breeder and get a feel for their breeding philosophy. I always urge a prospective pet buyer to talk to at least three breeders to get the right ‘feel’ for working with them.”
Because the breeders at cat shows are likely showing their cats, use some discretion when approaching them. First, walk through the show and pick up brochures that tell about the various catteries. Then wait for the right opportunity to introduce yourself.
“In between rings, while the breeders are at their cages, approach them, introduce yourself and tell them you’re interested in purchasing a kitten — either for pet, show or breeding,” DeVilbiss says. “Tell them what you’re looking for and pay close attention to the person and how they respond.”
If you feel comfortable with them, jot down their information and follow up with them after the show.
Friends or associates: If your friend or coworker owns a Maine Coon, ask where she got hers. Most pedigreed cat owners will happily share all they can about their breed, including their breeder. “Get referrals from people that you know have a Maine Coon kitten and have been successful and have had no problems,” DeVilbiss says.
Internet search: The internet can be a wonderful tool for learning about the different breeds, getting to know more about Maine Coons and looking for potential breeders.
“A good thing to do is an internet search, not so much to find a breeder, but to learn about the different breeds,” Johnston says. “But the CFA and TICA have websites that have all sorts of educational information, plus there’s an area for breeder referral.”
All That Paperwork
You’ve found a breeder with whom you’re comfortable, you’ve met the kittens,and you’ve inspected the facility. Now comes the tedious part: pouring through all the paperwork.
Proud of their kittens, a reputable breeder will happily provide a health guarantee, medical records, pedigree papers and basic-care guidelines to ensure that her feline baby will continue to thrive. A reputable breeder will also insist on a sales contract that protects all parties involved—including the kitten. Though different catteries have different guarantees and contracts, here’s generally what you can expect:
• Sales contract. The sales contract covers more than the price of the kitten and when the payment is due. It also details the health guarantee; when you can expect to receive your papers that allow you to register your kitten with the CFA and/or TICA; whether the kitten can be shown, bred or kept as a pet; whether there’s a spay or neuter requirement; under what conditions the kitten can be returned; and what would happen if the contract isn’t upheld by the seller and/or the buyer. Many contracts also require that you take the kitten to your veterinarian within five to 10 days for a health checkup.
• Health guarantee. Part of the sales contract, a health guarantee assures that the kitten is healthy and free from congenital defects and diseases, such as feline leukemia virus (FeLV) and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV). The health guarantee is typically for a set period of time; a 14-day guarantee is common.
• Health records. Reputable breeders also provide the kitten’s vaccination and health records, which list what vaccinations the kitten has been given and when, visits to the veterinarian, and any other pertinent health information.
• Basic-care guidelines. These guidelines make the transition from the breeder to you as easy as possible. The breeder will include what food the kitten eats and what litter it uses. She’ll note how to groom the kitten, including how to trim its nails, brush its coat, and check its ears and eyes. She’ll also offer tips for keeping the kitten happy, playful and healthy.
• Pedigree papers. These papers trace the kitten’s ancestry back at least four generations. The pedigree provides insight into your cat’s longevity, health and temperament: three crucial issues regarding your new kitten. By reading it, you’ll be able to track health concerns and behavior problems.
Reaping Your Reward
After searching for breeders, interviewing them and being interviewed, visiting the catteries and completing all the paperwork, an adorable Maine Coon kitten is your reward. By choosing a pedigreed kitten from a reputable breeder, you can be assured that your kitten will enjoy a long and happy life with you.
Most breeders encourage potential buyers to take their time when deciding which kitten to take home. “You don’t have to make a decision the first time unless you really want to,” Johnston says. “Come visit once, go home, and come back again. Of course, you always run the risk that the kitten won’t be available. But if I think someone’s really interested, I’ll let them know if someone else is interested, and they’ll have first choice to make a commitment or not.”
Though they’re young, kittens develop the beginnings of distinct personalities by the age of 9 or 10 weeks, Cajigas says. By discussing your desires with the breeder, she can match you with the perfect kitten.
“We try to make sure that the home the kitten is going to is suited to the kitten in the best possible way,” Cajigas says. “For example, if it’s a home where it’s just a couple and they’re very quiet, then I’ll try to direct them to the quieter kitten, the one that would fit better with that kind of personality.”
Many times, of course, the kitten will choose you. “We had some folks who came in thinking that they wanted a male kitten,” Johnston says. “They sat down, and this little female came up, hopped up on her lap, curled up in her arms and went to sleep. That was it,” Johnston says.
“But you really know it’s a match when you can watch and observe how the adopting family or person interacts with the animals,” Johnston continues. “That’s why it’s always nice to visit and be able to look at and handle the kittens.”
Wendy Bedwell-Wilson’s menagerie in Hawaii includes a Pointer named Pete and two rescued domestic shorthairs named Bubba and Benny. A freelance writer and author who specializes in pet-related topics, she recently completed her second book, Boston Terriers for Dummies (For Dummies, 2007).