Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:
I have a kitten question. We are looking to adopt a kitten to our family and we like a Bengal kitten for allergy reasons. We went to a breeder who is TICA registered, and she has five kittens that are 8 weeks old. When she brought them to us, they all ran away to different directions and hid under the couch or table. When we brought the cat toys out, they came to us and played but every time we tried to pick one up, we had to chase him, and when we picked him up, he would try to escape. Is this normal behavior for a little kitten? The breeder insists that they’re behaving this way because they are young and will adapt to the new family soon. I don’t know much about kittens and I thought they would easily let us touch and pick them up. Please let me know if I am making the right choice to adopt one of these kittens.
Thomas: First of all, we know that a lot of you have very strong feelings about buying purebred cats as opposed to adopting from a shelter. Please keep in mind that we believe there are legitimate reasons to buy a purebred cat, and allergy concerns are chief among those. Although we’ve never heard of Bengal cats being allergy-friendly (that’s more often the case with Siberians, because they have lower levels of a a certain protein, Fel D 1, in their saliva), we suppose it’s possible that the breeder could have bred her cats to be low in allergenic properties, too.
Bella: Regarding your question about whether it’s normal for kittens to not want to be picked up, well–that really depends on the kitten. Good breeders typically raise their kittens “underfoot,” by which we mean, the kittens aren’t in cages or closed-off rooms; they have the run of the house and get socialized by dealing with other animals and people.
Tara: Did you have the breeder show you around her home? Did you see where the kittens were raised? If they were raised separate from people, they may not have been as well socialized as they could have been. If, on the other hand, they were raised underfoot, they probably will adapt to a new family pretty quickly.
Thomas: Now, we think the fact that the kittens are interested in playing is a good sign. They are socialized to that degree. As to whether they’d get used to being picked up and held, some cats never do. I personally don’t like to be picked up, and I’ve been that way for 16 years now, but that doesn’t mean I’m poorly socialized. It’s just that I like what I like!
Bella: The one thing we do know about Bengals is that they’re very high-energy cats. If you bring one into your family, be ready to do lots and lots of play to keep your kitten entertained and make sure he doesn’t use up his extra energy doing things you don’t want him to do.
Tara: If you have the chance to sit quietly with the kittens and see if they approach you when you’re not reaching for them, we’d recommend you do that. Sometimes cats just don’t like being grabbed and picked up.
Thomas: While we’re talking about purebred cats, let’s talk about what to look for in a breeder. Whether you’re interested in a Bengal, Siberian, Persian, or whatever kind of cat, here are some things you should to to make sure you get a healthy and well-socialized cat.
Bella: First of all, do not buy a purebred kitten from a pet store! We’re sure you know about puppy mills and how horrible they are, but did you know that kitten mills exist, too? Mill kittens are often poorly bred, not well socialized, and can have serious health problems because of poor breeding and housing conditions and having had little to no vet care.
Tara: When you find a purebred kitten that interests you, be prepared to ask the breeder some questions. For example, you’ll want to know if the kittens were raised underfoot. We’d also recommend asking the breeder if you can see the mother and, if possible, the father. That will give you a better idea of what your kitten’s going to look like and how they’ll behave as adults.
Thomas: Ask if the breeder will provide a health guarantee and can give you veterinary records for your kitten once you have made your purchase.
Bella: If the breeder is registered in an association like the Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA), TICA, or other breeding registration body, contact that registration and ask for information about the breeder before you commit.
Tara: Ask the breeder for references. If she has the names and phone numbers of people who have adopted kittens from her, contact those people and see how their experience has been.
Thomas: A good breeder will also ask you questions. Expect to be asked for veterinarian references and, if you rent, possibly contact information for your landlord or building manager, so she can determine whether you’re allowed to have cats.
Bella: A good breeder will also ask you about other pets you have in your home and what your lifestyle is like, in order to see if you’ll be a good match for the breed of cat you want.
Tara: The breeder will also want to make sure you know about special concerns related to the breed of cat–for example, if you want a Bengal, are you ready to give him lots of intellectual stimulation and play time? If you want a Persian, are you ready to brush him every day to keep his fur from matting?
Thomas: A good breeder will also want to know how you feel about spaying and neutering (this is often a requirement if you purchase a purebred cat), declawing, and keeping your cat indoors only.
Bella: Don’t be surprised if the breeder wants to keep the kittens in her home for 12 to 16 weeks. This is crucial for the kittens’ socialization and for developing their immune systems. Reputable breeders will not let kittens go at 6 or 8 weeks.
Tara: This post from PetPlace goes into a lot of detail about all the things to expect when you’re buying a purebred kitten. We highly recommend that anyone looking to bring a purebred cat into their lives read over that article and take it to heart.
Bella: What about you other readers? Do you have Bengal cats? Can you tell Mo more about them and what they’re like as they get older? If you’re a breeder or you’ve bought a purebred cat, do you have some more tips about looking for reputable breeders? Please share your thoughts in the comments!