Working with a high-quality breeder assures that you buy a healthy Sphynx kitten. Beware of ads in the back of the newspaper, or worse yet, signs on street corners. These are the purview of backyard “breeders” who are, for the most part, running kitten mills.
Animals produced in overcrowded, caged conditions are bred for profit only with little regard to genetic integrity.
They are generally poorly socialized, and frequently suffer from a host of communicable and hereditary diseases.
This is not to say that there are not breeders who work from their homes. Their reasons are very different. They recognize that the work they do requires a 24-hour a day, seven-day a week commitment to the cats they are raising.
Many go so far as to add on rooms or whole buildings to accommodate the needs of their Sphynx cats. You will not find catteries of this kind cranking out kittens as if they were running an assembly line. They don’t offer their cats in pet stores, and if they advertise, it’s only in cat specific magazines aimed at the cat fancy culture.
These are people who are absolutely passionate about their cats. They are the breeders with whom you want to be working.
Also consider attending cat shows in your region and collecting business cards from exhibitors. Do not, however, try to talk to breeders about a purchase in the show environment. Cat shows are very chaotic, and exhibitors have little time to get from one event to the next.
The advantage of attending a cat show lies in being able to see examples of the breeder‘s cats and to collect contact information. Don’t expect to walk out with a kitten.
Be prepared for the fact that you will have to meet certain qualifications to be considered as a viable candidate to adopt a Sphynx. Adoptions are not “slam dunk” business deals. Breeders can and do refuse clients all the time.
Some of the things to which you will be asked to agree (most in writing) include, but are not limited to:
- Neutering and spaying the cat before it has reached 6 months of age.
- Paying for a veterinary evaluation within 72 hours of adoption.
- Agreeing to the terms of a written sale agreement.
- Answering questions about your home and lifestyle.
Don’t expect the breeder‘s involvement to end the day you take the cat home. Most will call periodically to check up on the animal. This is not, however, a heavy-handed business.
Be sensitive to the fact that good breeders love their cats.
A breeder doesn’t just want to know that you’re treating the kitten well. Think of him or her as a benevolent grandparent who wants to see the baby pictures and hear all the cute stories.
Since your breeder is an invaluable source of helpful information, this is a friendly, productive relationship you will want to cultivate.
As you’re working with a breeder and learning about their cats, information needs to flow in both directions. Good breeders want to know about you and your home. They are concerned about the kind of life the kitten / cat will have with you.
You want a breeder who both asks and answers questions, not one who offers a lot of “canned” sales talk.
Think of what you are doing in terms of an adoption, because that’s what it is. You are assuming responsibility for a living creature. The care of that creature is passing out of the hands of the breeder and into yours.
You want a breeder who is actively interested and concerned with the process, and you need to prepare yourself to be open to that.
It’s a very good sign if the sales agreement requires that you provide proof that spaying and neutering have been performed on schedule, or that vaccinations and boosters are being administered.
You want someone who is just going to call up to find out how the kitten is doing, or who would like to see pictures. These are indications that you are working with a superior cattery.
By the same token, you will want to get straightforward, honest, and informative answers to a number of key questions.
- Are the kitten’s parents healthy? Can the breeder provide certification of that fact, and better yet, can you meet the parents?
- What are the specific forms of guarantee that are part of the adoption? What is included and excluded?
- Always ask for references for previous successful adoptions. If possible, it’s a good idea to talk with people who have adopted kittens from the same cattery to get an idea of how the animals have worked out as family pets, and if there were any business-related issues with the breeder.
Socialization is a very important aspect of preparing kittens born in catteries for their ultimate adoptions. Reputable catteries will not allow a kitten to be adopted before three months of age. At that time, the cat should be fully weaned from its mother’s milk, totally litter box trained, comfortable using a scratching post, and well socialized.
Some indicators of thorough and successful socialization include, but are not limited to:
- Daily handling to accustom the kitten to human contact.
- The freedom to walk around and explore the nursery area.
- Interaction with grown cats after age 5-6 weeks.
- Interaction with kittens from other litters.
- Free access to a wide variety of toys.
- The free use of climbing and scratching posts.
Kittens that are raised in isolation of such factors will have problems integrating into new homes and will be subject to fear and anxiety. Sphynx cats are not, by nature, a timid or reclusive breed, but kittens will still need to be properly socialized.
You always want to handle the kitten you are thinking of adopting, which is actually pretty hard not to do since Sphynx babies are so adorable.
Beyond the irresistible cute factor, however, this will let you judge the kitten’s muscle tone, and feel the texture of the coat, which should be clean and complete, without thinning or balding areas.
Very gently blow on the fur to make it part. This will let you look for any flaky or dry skin. Examine the areas behind the ears, under the “arms,” and at the base of the tail for any flea “dirt.” This is actually the excrement of the parasites. It looks like tiny flecks of black gravel.
A kitten having fleas is certainly not the end of the world. Catteries fight a constant war on fleas, especially in the warmer months.
The pests are persistent, and are easily carried inside on clothing and shoes. You do not, however, want to bring a kitten into your home with fleas. It can take up to three months to completely get rid of the little beggars!
Hold the kitten up and look into its eyes. They should be interested, curious, bright, and alert. Look for discharge in the corners of the eyes, and make sure there is none around the nose either. The baby should not be sneezing or “snuffling” as this can be a sign of an upper respiratory infection.
All kittens are a little timid at first, but they should be playing happily and completely relaxed in just a few minutes.
Take a kitten safe toy with you, or ask to borrow one from the breeder, and use it to see how the little one reacts. You should get a definite play response. Kittens are very adventuresome, and fancy themselves to be little tigers. They’d much rather pounce and play than cuddle.
(Don’t bother with a toy that includes cat nip. Kittens don’t display any reaction to the famous feline herb before 6-9 months of age, and some cats never develop a taste for “nip” at all.)
When you adopt through a cattery, you’re going to have a lot of paperwork. This is also the sign of an excellent breeder, and not something to complain about.
The purchase agreement should stipulate the following details:
- Breed of the cat being adopted
- Color and pattern if applicable
- Agreed upon price
- Names of the parents
- Full contact information for both the buyer and seller
Specific terms of sale may include, but are not limited to, some of the following provisions:
- Requirements for regular veterinary care including annual visits and vaccinations.
- Stipulations about grooming relative to the animal’s coat type or other special needs.
- If the cat is returned to the breeder for any reason, there will be no refund (or partial refund depending on the reason), and certain medical tests will be required prior to acceptance.
(Usually the required tests are ringworm, FELV/FIV, and fecal parasite evaluations to be performed within the week of the return.)
Generally, breeders require that their kittens not be given away or resold for any reason without their written consent. This is not only out of interest for the animal’s welfare, but also to protect the integrity of the breeding program.
This prohibition is especially stringent in regard to shelters, humane societies, pet stores, and similar facilities. Breeders would far rather take a kitten back than to see it placed in any circumstance that would endanger its life or wellbeing.
Unless you are specifically buying an animal for show, most kittens made available by breeders are “pet quality.”
They have some perceived “flaw” that disqualifies them from show or from breeding programs.
As part of the adoption agreement, they must be spayed or neutered.
Commonly the procedures must be performed before the animal has reached six months of age, and proof (usually a receipt from the vet) must be provided to verify that the alteration has been performed.
Expect your adoption papers to expressly forbid that the animal be declawed. This surgery has actually been outlawed in Europe, and in many parts of the United States.
Declawing is now widely regarded as an inhumane act of mutilation. The surgery constitutes the amputation of the end of each of the cat’s digits, and affects the cat’s ability not just to defend itself, but also to walk and jump.
There are many effective ways to prevent a cat from destroying furnishings with its claws, beginning with early training to use scratching posts and extending through an appropriate program of claw clipping and maintenance.
This training should have been started in the cattery where the kitten was born, and it will be your responsibility to continue and to support these routines at home.
The breeder should offer a guarantee that at the time of sale, the kitten is in good health. Most contracts require the buyer to have the animal checked by a veterinarian within 72 hours of adoption to verify this fact, and to supply a receipt from the visit as proof of the verification.
Continuity is one of the most important principles to remember in transitioning a kitten from a cattery to your home. Cats, even very young ones, do not like change and will easily go “off” both their food and their litter box.
Find out exactly what the kitten has been eating, and what kind of bowls it’s used to. Do the same thing for its litter box and litter preferences. Make everything the same to minimize disruption.
Cats have definite preferences when it comes to texture. This is true for both food and litter. Some cats like “chunky” others prefer “pate.” Some want fine, soft sand, others think gravel is the way to go.
Especially until a cat is well established in its surroundings, it’s best to honor those preferences.
Any future changes should be made gradually, with the full understanding that in the end the cat will probably win!
Make sure that all the toys you have on hand are kitten safe.
Pay particular attention to potential choking hazards. Remember that some toys, usually those involving string, feathers, bells, and similar augmentations are for “with supervision only” play.
Have everything you need to keep up with the kitten’s routine, including grooming implements.
Getting a cat accustomed to being brushed and combed regularly from an early age greatly minimizes grooming needs over the cat’s entire life.
Remember too that routine grooming helps to prevent or minimize hairballs.
Sphynx kittens may be small, but they have big ideas – and little judgment. You have to take the correct steps to protect the little darlings from themselves.
Curiosity truly can kill the cat. Be especially aware of anything the cat can swallow or become tangled in and perhaps pull something heavy off a shelf or table.
Invest in cord “minders” or tape electrical cords to the baseboards. Cap open outlets. Products to accomplish these precautions are easily obtainable as they are also an aspect of “baby proofing.”
Consider using baby latches on cabinet doors. Sphynx cats are extremely good at figuring out how to open things. Be especially careful about areas where toxic household agents are routinely kept.
Never underestimate a Sphynx’s ability to get into something. They are amazingly inventive!
Ask your breeder about the best steps to take in acclimating your kitten to its new surroundings. This is especially important if there are other cats in the household, or really animals of any kind.
Even with a fairly adaptable breed like the Sphynx cat, it’s a good idea to get the kitten established in an area that can be segregated for a few days. This will allow all parties concerned a little “breathing” room to get used to each other.
Often introductions with other pets are best handled through closed doors anyway. Cats rely heavily on their sense of smell, and can tell a great deal about one another by under-the-door sniffing and paw contact.
The first introductions face to face should be handled with supervision. It’s important under those circumstances that you not overreact.
The animals involved will pick up on your tension. Just watch what’s happening and let them sort it out for themselves unless a “rescue” is required.
Most Sphynx kittens will be happily established in their new home within 7-10 days, including having worked out territorial and “pecking order” issues with other animals present.
Even with a cat as lovable as a Sphynx, there are instances when an adult animal must be given up. These cats are in desperate need of a new “forever” home, and people who will take older cats are in high demand.
Since Sphynx cats easily live to age 15 or more, you will still have an opportunity to have a long relationship with your new pet. This is an adaptable breed, and although it is never their preference to acquire a “new” human, a Sphynx cat will handle transitions more effectively than many breeds.
If you do adopt a rescue cat, be aware of the following factors:
- Cats are highly territorial creatures. When they are introduced to a new home, they will be timid and anxious. Gently “confine” the cat to a small space first, perhaps a bedroom with an adjacent bathroom with everything they need — food, water, and litter box.
- Try not to overwhelm your Sphynx cat. Let them get used to the sounds of the house, both inside and out. Interact quietly and lovingly with the Sphynx during this period of time. Don’t leave them alone, but make sure they have a small, manageable “safe zone” that he is in no way required to leave.
- When your Sphynx does begin to venture out into the larger territory, let it look around, even snoop, without getting upset. You can establish boundaries later. Right now, the Sphynx needs to understand where he is and get a sense for how he will inhabit his space. If there are other family members present, be sure they understand not to “fuss” at the cat.
- During this acclimation period, be especially sensitive about open doors or windows. When cats are scared, they will often bolt first and think later. Don’t give your rescue cat a chance to escape.
- If other pets are present, difficult as it may be, let the animals work out the pecking order. Sphynx cats are gentle giants, but they’re still giants. They’re quite capable of defending themselves if they have to.
- Sphynx cats are not aggressive cats, and generally when two strange felines meet the yowling and hissing is more “trash” talk than a serious altercation. The cats will likely be aloof at first, but they will come to an understanding.
- If you have a dog, allow the Sphynx to assert his “authority” with a few hisses and swats. He won’t hurt Fido. In fact, Sphynx cats have a reputation for getting along well with dogs.
Most rescue cats adjust to their new surroundings in two weeks to a month. Just be patient and understand that for an older animal, this is a huge transition and not without a degree of trauma no matter how loving and gentle you are.