Adoption Vs. Buying From Breeder

posted: 05/15/12
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Cat Adoption Vs. Buying From Cat Breeders
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Few can honestly say their heart strings aren't tugged after seeing commercials encouraging adoptions from animal shelters. The sight of dejected cats and dogs behind cages, possibly waiting to be put to sleep, is a powerful image. According to the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) there are about 93.6 million pet cats in the country, and approximately 33 percent of households have at least one cat. Obviously, the playful feline is a widely beloved companion. But if you're thinking about becoming a cat owner, you may be deliberating whether to adopt one from a shelter or buy one from a breeder.

It's important to remember that 93.6 million is just the number of cats in the country that are owned and accounted for. While no one can accurately guess with any certainty how many stray cats are out there, the estimates about the number of cats euthanized in shelters each year reach the millions. In fact, only about 2 to 5 percent of cats entering shelters are later reclaimed by owners (as compared to about 30 percent of dogs who are reclaimed), according to HSUS.

That there are millions of cats euthanized each year is evidence to many that there is a feline overpopulation problem. Because of this, many cat enthusiasts and societies like to encourage prospective cat owners to consider adoption from an animal shelter in order to save a cat's life. They also point to instances of animal mistreatment in "puppy mills" or "kitten mills" -- breeding facilities that are accused of putting profit over ethics. Some say buying cats instead of adopting them merely encourages abuse and contributes to the overpopulation problem.

Despite good intentions, some remain wary of adopting a cat from a shelter. They worry that cats with mysterious backgrounds could have health or behavioral issues. In addition, many prefer pedigreed cats, which would be hard to find in a shelter.

We spoke with the Humane Society of the United States as well as the Cat Fanciers' Association for their perspectives. On the next page, we'll discuss what they said.

Considering the millions of cats and dogs that are euthanized every year, adoption is the "easiest and best way to save a life," says Inga Fricke, Director of Sheltering Initiatives of the HSUS. When asked about behavior and health concerns for shelter cats, Fricke responded that "getting an animal from a breeder is no guarantee either." She recalls buying a dog from a reputable, Westminster-level breeder, only to find out later that the dog had significant medical problems. "It's not like buying a washing machine with a guarantee," says Fricke.

If you're wary of behavior issues from shelter cats, Fricke advises that you ask the personnel how a cat has behaved since it entered the shelter. Usually, shelter personnel will want to help you find a cat with the personality that fits your home, if only because they don't want to see the cat back in the shelter. HSUS does not advocate banning breeding, says Fricke. But she advises those looking for a specific breed to check local, breed-specific rescues.

If you want the satisfaction of saving a cat's life and will be flexible about its temperament, adopting will be the best choice. When you go to a local shelter, there may even have background information on a particular animal. It isn't uncommon to find animals in shelters that are already vaccinated and even microchipped, saving you those expenses. This is because many people will spend top dollar on a pet, only to change their minds within a few weeks and give it to a shelter.

In the shelter, spend time with the pet to make sure it responds to you well. Don't pick it up right away, but rather let it warm up to you. Ask whether the cat is already spayed or neutered, or whether you'll be required to pay for that procedure yourself. Check about any return policy, too. You'll want to schedule a veterinary appointment as soon as possible, and you might need to return the cat to the shelter. You also don't want to introduce a new cat to cats you already have at home before a veterinarian checkup. To help identify a healthy cat, look for a good weight and shiny coat.

If you think you can be happy with a adopted cat, Fricke assures us that "there's nothing better than looking at your pet every day and knowing that you saved its life."

A Big Decision

Joan Miller warns that adopting or buying a cat should not be a spur-of-the-moment decision. She points out that cats are living longer now: Although house cats used to live for an average of seven to 10 years, now the average is about 15 years.

We also spoke with Joan Miller, Vice President of The Cat Fanciers' Association (CFA), to get the organization's perspective on the choice between adopting and buying a cat. CFA is well-known for its cat shows, which, much like dog shows, honor the animals that match the ideal standards of their breeds. She informed us that the CFA is a strong advocate of adoption and wants to increase respect for all cats

Yet, Miller acknowledges that some people prefer pedigreed cats for good reason. Particularly, you can reliably predict the behavior and temperament of pedigreed cats better than random-bred. Also, Miller says pedigreed cats are less likely to maintain the predatory instinct, which is important for people who want an indoor cat that won't go out and bring back small, dead animals.

If your household requires a cat with a specific temperament, you should consider buying a cat from a reputable breeder. If you decide to get a pedigreed cat so its personality and breeding will match your home, The CFA website provides resources on breeders. The organization advises that you proceed cautiously and make sure a breeder is conscientious and reputable before using it. Miller says to look for a breeder that's concerned with the health of the breed, kitten socialization and providing a happy environment. You can also get breeder referrals from a vet. Before you take home a kitten, ask a breeder about whether the cat has had its vaccinations and certification from a vet that the animal is disease free.

Other sources include checking classifieds or online for homes with accidental litters. Fricke also recommends Either way, you should still proceed just as cautiously just as you would at a shelter.

Overpopulated or Endangered?

Joan Miller, citing the American Pet Products Association, points out that pedigreed cats only make up about five or six percent of all owned cats in the United States. So, while you could say that random-bred cats are suffering from an overpopulation problem, the CFA considers preserving pedigreed cats as valuable as preserving small wildcat populations.


Fricke, Inga. Director of Sheltering Initiatives. Humane Society of the United States. Personal Correspondence. March 4, 2011.

HSUS. "HSUS Pet Overpopulation Estimates." The Humane Society of the United States. Nov. 29, 2009. (March 7, 2011)

HSUS. "U.S. Pet Ownership Statistics." The Humane Society of the United States. Dec. 30, 2009. (March 7, 2011)

Miller, Joan. Vice President. Cat Fanciers' Association. Personal Correspondence. March 4, 2011.

Powell, Gary. "How to Choose a Cat." Video. Cat Fanciers' Association. (March 7, 2011)

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