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A UK kitten buyers experience
A UK kitten buyer's experience
"Chewie & Henry"
Before I even set out to find my new baby sphynx boy, I knew it would be a troublesome ride. Having decided to buy a pedigree dog four years earlier we encountered a nightmare of ‘breeders’ who were unhelpful, hurtful, disappointing and who eventually made myself and my partner swear never to buy from a breeder again and to only rescue. However, having taken on a moggy 2 years ago we decided to get him a friend. My love of the sphynx breed made us both sure that the only cat we were going to get would be a sphynx. They are so gentle, friendly, inquisitive; everything you could possibly want from a pet (ahem, master!). Inevitably this decision meant that we would have to come back into contact with breeders!
I began conducting as much research as possible on the sphynx and the people who provide us with the beloved breed. Having seen the Nudedudes website I was instantly taken with the amount of information provided not only on the cats served by their owners Jen and Mick, but also the amount of information provided on the breed in general: the history of them, how to bathe them, hazards that as an owner you must be aware of and much more. Incidentally, I had also seen a business card in my previous local vets advertising the cattery and kennels that Jen used to run. Having discussed with my partner exactly what we were looking for (sex, timing etc), I emailed Jen. I received an email back by the end of the day and the next day spent two hours on the phone to her, speaking about the breed, her cats and answering all the questions I asked. Unfortunately, Nudedudes didn’t have kittens at the time, however I was provided with a wealth of information to help me find a breeder I was happy with after asking for her advice.
From there I set off contacting every breeder I could find. Many didn’t have kittens but put me in touch with people who did. I eventually found 7 breeders who had kittens available at that time, I narrowed this down to 4 based on the colours of the kittens available. At first I thought all 4 breeders were lovely, however, as time went on I found two breeders not only to be unbelievably unhelpful but also to be quite rude. One breeder, who after initially telling me to contact as many breeders as I could, found out that I was in contact with others and sent me a rather abrupt emailing explaining that she was angry that I was speaking to other people. Further research into one of the breeders brought up some unsavoury information on the internet, and the third breeder told me that if my kitten was to grow a full coat of fur once I took him home, she would not be held responsible. These three breeders taught me a very valuable lesson when buying a sphynx; only buy from a breeder who shows his/her cats, otherwise it appears they don’t know what they are talking about!
Having decided not to pursue kittens from these three breeders I eventually settled on one. His website appeared to be very good, his kittens appeared to have won many awards on the show bench and he appeared quite helpful; ringing me as soon as he received my email saying he was very impressed with me and explaining that his kittens were expensive but he would reduce the price should we want one as he was happy we were good owners (slaves!). This didn’t bother me at all as all my research showed me that a sphynx should be priced around £800-£1000 and his were priced £900-£1000. I stayed in contact with the breeder, eagerly awaiting the birth of the kittens. We specifically asked for a little boy from a particular litter, a litter which we were particularly taken with the mum and dad. He agreed. The first two expectant litters were born within a very short time of each other. The litter we were waiting for, however, took a couple of weeks longer. We waited patiently until I eventually read on a website that our kittens had been born and so contacted the breeder. He offered us the choice of the only two boys in the litter, to be told a little while later that we didn’t have the choice, we were to have the little ‘pinkie’ as he called it. We were ecstatic with this news as we wanted a pale kitten and he was to be our choice anyway. However, two days later I received an email with photos of one of the older litters with an email that said ‘by the way one of these boys is yours’. That was it. We were devastated. We had waited specifically for the last litter, we had chosen our kitten and we were happy. Now we were being told that wasn’t the case. We stared at the photos and felt numb.
I eventually decided not to get too down about it and to ring the breeder. He was very nice, he said that the little ‘pinkie’ had been taken by somebody else but that there were two more ‘pinkies’ in the litter he had sent me pictures of that we could choose between. As they were the colour we wanted (hopefully points) we weren’t too perturbed and started looking at the two pinks. Before we could even choose we were sent another email saying we could choose between a red and a blue & white as the pinks were no longer available. By this time I was starting to get upset, but still, stupidly hung on for the ride and received the pictures of these two boys. When my partner and I first looked at the kittens we realised they weren’t really what we were looking for. I decided to ring the breeder and share our concerns. We were told that the blue and white was actually a blue cream and white and would grow to look like one of the queens he knew we liked. I discussed this with my partner but we still weren’t sure. The breeder then said he had one more cat we could choose from and sent over a picture of a girl. As we had already said, we really didn’t want a girl so we didn’t see this as much as a choice. Panicking that my dream of serving a sphynx was fading away before my eyes I asked the breeder to keep the blue cream and white to one side. I had pictures of the little boy up on our desk and carried one around in my bag, I was so happy. He was a cute little thing.
Throughout all this I had been in regular contact with this breeder and asked many questions as I was always encouraged to do, however I very rarely got any answers. I continually asked how the other litters of kittens were doing and how the mums were doing and again never received any replies. I know as soon as this started happening that I should have got out, but my rose-tinted specs I had on at the thought of having my own sphynx kitten clouded my judgement immensely. I still asked questions about the blue cream and white boy and got no answers. I asked for photos of him, I received two. That’s it. I know most people would have realised a long time before me that things weren’t good, but I couldn’t give up this little boy.
As the kitten turned 3 weeks I received an email asking for a deposit. This worried us greatly, as deposits are non-refundable, we hadn’t yet met the breeder, the kitten or the mum and dad. I asked how much the deposit was and how much the total for the cat would be, my answer was £1000. I was told that ALL the kittens in ALL the litters were ALL show quality and that because of this they were more expensive. I emailed back asking whether there was any chance he could lower the price at all as he had agreed on the first phone call… and I never heard from him again.
I was devastated. My kitten had gone. I ran so many thoughts through my head, why does money mean that much? Why is a good home not more important? Why did he keep passing different kittens onto us only to take them away? Why didn’t he reply and just say he couldn’t lower the price? Why ignore me? Where was MY kitten going now?
I instantly rang Jen at Nudedudes. She knew everything I was about to say. To say it was embarrassing was an understatement. How could I have been so stupid?!
I took a step back after getting off the phone, read through every single email and remembered everything said on the phone. If I had been thinking clearly I would have guessed something was wrong long before. One of the litters had entirely disappeared to have no mention of again, on forums, on his website or via email/phone. Many of the kittens didn’t appear on photos, when asked where they were I never received an answer. Alarm bells should have rang. I can count the number of photos I received from him on both my hands, throughout the entire time I was in contact with him. There was no support, no answers. Things regarding money changed drastically after a Russian cat was imported for his breeding lines, after that he mentioned on the phone she would have to make her money back. That was the one and only time I actually got off the phone and said to my partner I felt uneasy. I should have realised then, but of course I didn’t.
I was taken in by the flashy website, the trophies won by the cats. Again though, had I looked closely at all the other websites I would have realised they were so similar, all made and maintained by the same person. If I had bothered to look properly at the titles the cats were winning I would have seen that they weren’t big wins at all. Best coloured sphynx etc are not big wins, please don’t be told otherwise like I was. Look for Supreme Grand Champions, Quadruple Grand Champions and Regional Winners (with an RW at the front of the name). And don’t just settle for a breeder with just one or two of these titles, look for the person with many. You don’t then have to take your own word for it that you’ve found somebody good, you can take the many judges words for it who have studied those cats in detail. Also check that the ones with the titles have been bred by that breeder and not just imported. Another failure of mine.
My other fatal mistake with my breeder was that I didn’t look at past litters, and had I done so I would have seen there were MANY! Not only that, they were the same litters being produced from the same mum and dad year after year. This is just breeding for pet purposes, not to better the breed. If you find someone who you think is breeding excessively, don’t buy from there. That poor female cat has to give birth constantly, is put through the stress every 6 months or so of giving birth, bringing up babies and having them taken away just to do it all over again, and that’s not to mention the hormones!
Thankfully my story is tame compared to many, many others out there. However, for me my experience was enough. I couldn’t have coped with any more, I am not the strongest of people and that experience alone nearly made me forget my dream.
However, the very next day after speaking to Jen I woke to 44 pictures and 4 little movies of a litter of sphynx kittens being born. I stared at the screen and realised how ridiculous I had been in thinking that how the previous breeder had behaved was acceptable. I had received a handful of pictures of all three litters, including my boy and thought that was normal. And here I was looking through 48 images/movies of just the birth of one litter. I was astonished. I was so happy, words couldn’t describe it.
I realised that I should have gotten out of contact with the first breeder before the prospect of seeing a kitten as ‘mine’ came around. I am so pleased that I was strong enough to let go. I could have brought a sick kitten home that could have made my little moggy-man ill. I would NEVER have forgiven myself for that.
Choosing a kitten is one of the most difficult things to have to do. I think people underestimate how tough and how stressful it is. If for one second something doesn’t seem right to you, or you feel uncomfortable about ANYTHING, just get out of there. DON’T hand any money over before you have met kitten, breeder and parents. I know it all sounds like common sense but once you have those rose-tinted specs on, and believe me you will, especially when you’ve found you kitten and you see him as yours, parting company with that breeder will be ten times more difficult.
I am so grateful to Jen and Mick for all their help and advice. I wouldn’t have known what to do had it not been for them. They have been so understanding, have been so helpful not only with that particular situation but have answered EACH and EVERY question I have asked. They are on the end of the phone whenever you need them and ALWAYS reply to emails.
I am so, so grateful to you both, thank you so much!
The next chapter of my journey started soon after telling Jen all about my kitten-buying experiences as I hope to soon be the immensely proud slave to a Nudedudes kitten!
I haven’t written this piece to scare anyone away from breeders. True-breeders are remarkable people who go through a hell of a lot of work and heartache to better their particular breed and one of the outcomes of that, luckily for us, is that there are sometimes pet kittens available. If this piece stops anyone from handing over a large amount of money just to be placed on a waiting list, or to reserve a kitten they haven’t even seen, or to settle for a kitten they didn’t really want, or to take home a sick kitten, then I have achieved my goal. As Jen said to me, and it sticks in my head as it was the sentence that stopped the tears that night…
‘there WILL be another kitten out there for you.’
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