Nov 22nd, 2021

Guide to finding a Maine Coon breeder

Responsible cat ownership starts with finding a breeder that puts the health and welfare of their cats and kittens first. To help you do this, this practical guide explains how to evaluate key elements of a Maine Coon breeding programme.

Owning a Maine Coon can be an extremely rewarding experience, bringing love and companionship into your life. Cats can make you laugh, comfort you when you’re sick or upset, and are there for you no matter what. According to one Australian study, cat owners claim to feel more happy, more confident, and able to sleep, focus, and face problems better in their lives more effectively.

Why is it important to check breeders?

When the source of your new kitten has such a big impact on their health, behaviour, and wellbeing, finding the right one should not be left to chance. The growth of unregulated marketplaces has resulted in an alarming number of irresponsible breeders selling Maine Coon kittens online, prioritising profit ahead of the welfare of their cats. The sale of such kittens is associated with many health issues and often results in the emotional and financial suffering of their owners.

How do I use this guide?

Responsible cat ownership starts with finding a breeder that puts the health and welfare of their cats and kittens first. To help you do this, this practical guide explains how to evaluate key elements of a Maine Coon breeding programme.

What to check

When finding a Maine Coon kitten, there are four main checks that should be performed. These checks ensure that a breeder is prioritising the health and wellbeing of their cats, and helps avoid issues with your kitten after taking ownership.

As a minimum, you should check that the kitten:

  • Is registered as a pedigree
  • Has parents that are health tested
  • Was raised in a safe and enriching environment
  • Goes home with important documentation

Registration

A cat is only considered to be a Maine Coon if it has been registered with a governing body such as as the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF) or The International Cat Association (TICA) who have reviewed it’s family tree. These bodies require a certain number of generations of purebred Maine Coon to be present.

Why is checking registration important?

It is common for irresponsible breeders to falsely claim a kitten is registered as a certain breed to attract buyers and charge a higher price. While cats of any kind are wonderful animals, when looking for a Maine Coon you should always check their registration details to ensure they are the breed advertised. Some irresponsible breeders may also incorrectly claim registration paperwork is not required for kittens who are not being entered into another breeding programme.

How do I check registration and pedigree?

A responsible breeder will always be happy to show you the registration paperwork of their adult cats, so don’t be afraid or embarrassed to ask for this upfront. Any breeder who is reluctant or slow to provide you with a copy of this paperwork should be avoided. Be careful of breeders sending you photographs of paperwork where details are cropped off.

Cats are most commonly registered with either the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF) or The International Cat Association (TICA) in the UK. Registration cards for breeding adult cats will include the following information:

  • The breeder’s name and address
  • The breeder’s prefix or cattery name
  • The cats' registered name
  • The cats' registration number
  • The cats' date of birth and date of registration
  • The cats' breeding status, listed as "Active"
  • The cats' colour
  • The cats' microchip number

Our trusted breeders

Our screening team verifies that breeders' cats are registered with a governing body that certifies their pedigree. To protect against forgeries, details provided are also cross-referenced against other documentation and microchip numbers collected during our in-person visit.

Health testing

A key element of any cat breeding programme is the prevention of hereditary diseases or conditions, meaning those that are passed down from one generation to the next. This is achieved by performing health tests on breeding cats to identify the presence of, or risk of developing, heritable diseases or conditions.

Why is health testing important?

While health testing can never guarantee that a kitten will not present with health conditions, by performing the recommended tests on their breeding cats, responsible breeders have taken steps to decrease the likelihood of this occurring. Health testing is also an expensive process so it is a strong signal that the breeder is prioritising the health and wellbeing of their cats and kittens.

What health testing should be done on Maine Coon?

For each breed, there are recommended health tests based on the diseases or conditions common in that breed. Pet Path have worked with leading feline health testing laboratory, Langford Vets, to identify the health tests recommended for Maine Coon, based on the prevalence of the condition.

The following conditions have a higher prevalence in the Maine Coon population, so should be health tested against:

  • Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (Gene Test)
  • Spinal Muscular Atrophy (Gene Test)
  • Pyruvate Kinase Deficiency (Gene Test)
  • Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (Blood Test)

Breeders may also perform the following additional tests, that are more comprehensive or protect against conditions lower in prevalence:

  • Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (Echocardiogram)
  • Hip Displasia (Physical Examination Examination)
  • Patella Luxation (Physical Examination)
Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM)

Cats affected by this condition will develop a thickening of the muscle in the walls of the heart, which impairs its ability to fill with blood and pump effectively. A cat suffering from HCM will have a significantly shortened lifespan, and sudden death is also known to occur.

Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA)

Over time SMA will impair a cat’s ability to walk and jump as the neurons in their spinal cord deteriorate. It is a non-life threatening condition, but due to weakness and unsteadiness on their feet, these cats are physically disabled and should be kept indoors for their own safety, or supervised when outdoors.

Pyruvate Kinase Deficiency (PKDef)

PKDef will mean cats are deficient in an important enzyme found inside their red blood cells, reducing their survival in the circulation. Fewer red blood cells (anaemia) reduces the amount of oxygen that is carried around the body. When anaemia is mild, or develops over time, cats may cope and fluctuate between seeming normal and periods of reduced appetite, tiredness and weakness.

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)

Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) is one of the most common and consequential infectious diseases of cats around the world. In infected cats, FIV attacks the immune system, leaving the cat vulnerable to many other infections.

How do I check health testing?

Responsible breeders will be able to show health testing documentation for their cats. For genetic testing, this documentation will be provided by the laboratory and should contain a unique identifier code. To avoid forged paperwork, you may also choose to verify the unique identifier directly with the laboratory. For physical examinations, tests should be recorded on the cat's medical history provided by a veterinary practice.

Environment

The environment that breeding cats and kittens live in is a critical factor in their physical, mental, and emotional health. Responsible breeders provide opportunities for their Maine Coon to engage in activities such as scratching and climbing, frequent interaction with humans, and comfortable hiding and sleeping areas. Housing areas are regularly cleaned and maintained in a way that ensures the health and well-being of cats and kittens.

Why is checking the environment important?

Providing an environment that facilitates normal feline behaviour improves both the physical and mental health of cats. Exposing kittens to new experiences, sights, sounds, and people, also creates less fearful and more outgoing cats as they grow to adulthood. This process, known as socialisation, occurs because a kitten’s brain has its greatest capacity for learning and memory between the ages of 4 and 14 weeks. Responsible breeders understand this and provide their Maine Coon kittens with lots of positive experiences to help them grow up to be sociable and self-assured.

How do I check the environment?

Before taking ownership of a Maine Coon kitten you should always visit the premises of the breeder to view the litter. At a minimum, breeding cats and kittens should be provided an environment that is generally clean, dry, odour-free, parasite-free and well maintained. There should be opportunities for cats to engage in natural feline behaviour, including scratching, climbing, toys should be in good condition and there needs to be appropriate areas for the cats to sleep and rest.

During the visit, the breeder should also give you the opportunity to see and handle all of the kittens in the litter, rather than just the kitten you’re thinking of buying. The kittens should appear happy, healthy and inquisitive.

All breeders in the Pet Path community have been visited by a member of our screening team, who ensures that cats are provided with a clean, comfortable, safe, stimulating, and enriching environment so their breeding cats and kittens will thrive.

Kitten documentation

Responsible breeders do their best to ensure a smooth transition to their new home by providing all the information and resources necessary for new owners to be successful, responsible guardians for their new kittens.

Registration paperwork

You should be provided with registration paperwork showing that your kitten is registered as a pedigree cat. This documentation will be from a governing body, most commonly the Governing Council of Cat Fancy (GCCF) or The International Cat Association (TICA).

Vaccination paperwork

You should be provided with a vaccination record card, stamped by a veterinary practice. Keep hold of this vaccination record card, as this will be important for your vet to see to continue the vaccination program. The brand of vaccine used, the infections your cat is now protected against, as well as their weight and microchip number will be recorded on this card.

Insurance documentation

While not necessary, breeders may provide you with free insurance for your new kitten, usually lasting around 4-5 weeks.

Kitten contract

If a breeder is not neutering their kittens before they're rehomed they may have a contract drawn up, to request your formal commitment to arrange neutering when the kitten is a little older. These contracts will include other responsibilities of both you and the breeder, and you will need to sign your agreement to the terms stated before leaving with your kitten.

Items familiar to the kitten

The best breeders will provide you with items that your kitten is familiar with to take home, such as blankets and toys. Kittens have only ever known life at the breeder and so bringing as many items as possible impregnated with the familiar scent will help them adjust to their new home.