An Open Letter to the “Adopt-Don’t Shop” Advocates

A Different Perspective

We want to open a dialog with those whose passion for rescue and homeless animals has included public outcries against breeders of pedigreed cats.  We have several passions in life, including the right to express opinions and ideas in a forum of civility and maturity.  In this world of instant information and social media exposés and shaming, it is very easy to get caught up in the frenzy of any issue.  It is also easy to overlook the entire picture rather than focusing all one’s energy on a narrow view without consideration for ALL aspects of the matter of contention.

For us, the most destructive campaign going is the “Adopt – Don’t Shop” crusade.  Before we offer you our point of view, let’s get a few things out in the open, to keep things transparent:

  1. We have worked with, supported AND adopted rescue cats for many years and we continue to support these organizations through our time and financial resources.
  2. We believe in protecting our companion animals and support laws that punish and prosecute humans who either wantonly inflict pain and suffering upon these creatures, or exploit and mass produce them for financial gain, without regard to methodology or proper care.  We also encourage stiff penalties for those insufferable human beings who knowingly, with malice and cruelty, encourage or participate in any action towards a companion animal that would cause harm, injury or forcibly lower a companion animal’s quality of life.
  3. We encourage prospective buyers to consider adopting vs. buying one of our kittens to ensure they are making a wise and fiscally responsible decision when contemplating adding a new furrbaby to their family. We actively educate our prospective buyers about safety, veterinary care, nutrition and stimulating activities to engage in with their newly acquired family member(s).  We actively interact with everyone of our kitten/retired cat buyer throughout their furrbaby’s lifetime to stay connected and assist in every way to ensure their new companion animals are well loved and cared for in a setting they have agreed to raise them when they took possession of those beings.
  4. We believe that there is a HUGE difference between a breeder who practices the principles of safe and SANE animal husbandry, versus one who’s sole intention is to exploit and profit from the mass production of kittens, with no regard for the welfare of the animals themselves.  These “kitten mills” or “Backyard Breeders” (BYB) have a solitary purpose: to make money.  A responsible, empathic breeder cares for the health, welfare and safety of every animal in his/her care and will take every step necessary to ensure that happens.
  5. We believe that no matter how much empirical evidence we present to those of a differing opinion, nothing we say will convince SOME of these individuals and organizations to make an occasional exception to their stance, fearing it would show some perceived weakness on their viewpoint.  We don’t believe that to be the case.  Civil conversations should lead to civil compromise.  We won’t discourage you from going after those who clearly abuse their role as caretaker of any animals, however we won’t be bullied or backed into a corner due to some zealous initiative.  We have the right to operate as legitimate, safe and sane practitioners of animal husbandry and because we have nothing to hide or be ashamed of, we remain transparent in our operation at all times.

So allow us the opportunity to present our viewpoint, and perhaps we can convince those who are so ardent about this issue to consider the idea that there is a right place in society for those of us whose passion and love for what we do is simply what TRUE feline husbandry is all about.

Education Matters

Why we are different…

Feline Husbandry” is not a term that most people often hear, and fewer still understand the concept.  There is a wide range of differences between what we are doing — what we want to accomplish with our breed of cats to improve their overall health and quality of life — as opposed to someone who sees breeding kittens as an income stream.  We can attest to the fact that those who practice true husbandry have a special passion for the animals they care for and raise. In our case, our love and devotion is to the first recognized indigenous breed of domesticated felines of North America, the American Long Hair Cat or what’s most commonly known as the Maine Coon Cat.

The Maine Coon Cat has had an amazing history and its popularity has spread throughout the world.  There are many theories and myths surrounding the origin of the breed.  Knowing exactly how they evolved or where they came from is not nearly as important to us as how they live and thrive today. Needless to say, they are a phenomenal breed of cat with incredible features and one of the most friendly dispositions found in the feline family.

As wonderful as these traits are, there are some things that can find their way into the breed that are detrimental to the Maine Coon.  It may interest the reader to know that not too long ago, the Maine Coon Cat was actually in serious danger of becoming extinct!  Without the perseverance and endless energy of responsible breeders, the Maine Coon might not be found in today’s world.

A responsible breeder doesn’t just propagate litter upon litter of kittens.  They have their breeding cats tested over and over to ensure they are developing as nature intended; DNA testing, pedigree research, constant veterinary care and consultation with a certified veterinarian, including such things as cardiac scanning for things like HCM and even annual dental care to ensure the continued health of their cats is paramount.  Proper diet and socialization is at the forefront of their breeding programs, which include daily interaction and mental stimulation.

As with all good things, there are those who have no interest in helping preserve this breed’s strengths nor do they make any efforts to remove some traits that can prove fatal to these magnificent animals.  Those who breed for profit do not have these goals in mind.  And their process is evident in the treatment (or mistreatment) of their animals — proof of their disregard for the need to improve this breed or strengthen their bloodlines.

Their practices of inbreeding, with no regard for genetic abnormalities or deformities is abhorrent and tarnish the work that we who practice true feline husbandry have tirelessly worked to maintain and improve. They are all about the bottom line, the almighty dollar…health and welfare of the cat be damned.

Our cats are raised “under foot” — that means NO CAGES!  There are very few acceptable reasons to cage a domesticated cat.  Our cattery was designed with the cat’s welfare in mind.  We have spent much time and effort to research our breed, and have worked closely with our professional veterinary team at Cottonwood Animal Hospital to ensure that every animal in our custody receives the best medical attention and care available, cost notwithstanding.  We strive to guarantee that our cattery exceeds the standards of an “Outstanding Cattery” as set forth by The International Cat Association (TICA).

We also practice safe and sane breeding practices.  Our Queens are not baby factories.  They are sentient beings to us and they are part of our family.  We have a deep respect for all of the animals in our care.  They are fed only the best, species-appropriate diet.  We interact with each cat/kitten constantly and consistently (kittens from the day they are born) because…again…they are part of our family.  Every kitten is hand-raised and socialized to be friendly and fearless.  We spend time and resources to show our cats within the breed standard of The International Cat Association (TICA, the world’s largest GENETIC registry of pedigreed cats) so that socialization becomes a natural part of their daily lives.

And perhaps most importantly, the overwhelming majority of practical, sane breeders like us do not allow pet kittens/cats to leave our homes without first being spayed or neutered prior to their journey to their new family.  This helps to ensure that unplanned or unwanted litters are avoided.  This doesn’t keep human guardians from shirking their responsibility as faithful custodians of their furry children, but it lessens the impact on our feline community.

To that end, our contract with our Maine Coon owners states very clearly that any owner who, for whatever reason (financial, family crisis, etc.), MUST return their cat/kitten to us should they be unable to provide the safe and loving home we expect our animals to live out their remaining lives in.  We strictly screen our prospective families in a thorough vetting process in order to safeguard the future of our amazing cats.

Responsible Breeding Does NOT Add to the Unwanted Pet Population…

…But Ignorant Human Beings DO!  The Curse of the Backyard Breeders

As easy as it is to point the finger of blame towards ALL breeders of cats as the perpetrators of the countless unwanted pets in the world today, the evidence simply doesn’t support the claim.  Human nature is the single biggest problem that we face.  Lack of education, lack of compassion and lack of allotted resources are what keeps the shelters full.  Those without scruples, who continually produce litter after litter by their queens — flooding the internet and social media with pictures of cute kittens for sale with no regard for the mother’s well-being or welfare — add to the misconception that a true advocate of feline husbandry is somehow responsible for the over abundance of unwanted cats and kittens in the world today.

Fighting For Our Cats

The problems that unscrupulous “backyard breeders” (BYB) generate today are real and reprehensible.  They wantonly disregard a sane approach to breed management and treat their felines as property to be taken advantage of, using the least amount of resources, while maximizing the space they have set aside to produce kittens.  That means caging.  That means caging multiple cats in the same cage.  That means feeding the cats the most inexpensive garbage cat food out there.  That means dirty living spaces and unhealthy conditions.  That means extremely limited (if any at all) veterinary care.  And these are just the “tip of the iceberg” when it comes to how these kitten mills are run.

Many of these “factories” are not monitored by local or state authorities, or are operated outside of the law.  These catteries are not registered with their state, the USDA or any professional registry of any kind.  Many of these mills who claim to be “registered” produce forged documentation for these poor creatures and offer no health guarantees when they sell their “product.”  They use deceptive practices to unsuspecting owners with no regard to the consequences these owners can and most assuredly WILL face when their new kitten doesn’t thrive.

No extra care or effort is put into the welfare of the cats/kittens in their charge.  They are typically ignorant of current veterinary advances in disease prevention and take the utmost minimal steps necessary to deliver substandard levels of health in their kittens and cats.  A majority of the cats in their custody have never even been to a veterinarian’s office.  Often times, these breeders will purchase antibiotics in bulk and administer them to sickly animals without the guidance or supervision of a licensed veterinarian.

Exposing these people can be tricky and dicey.  They go to great lengths to mask what they do within the framework of a legitimate business.  They work very hard to deceive buyer (even the most experienced reputable breeders at times) into selling them kittens or cats that they can later exploit.  And sadly there is little that we conscientious breeders can do to correct this once a kitten has left our custody.

Above all else, the absolute worst issue at hand is that of human nature.  It is something we cannot predict or control.  Those of us who spend our entire lives to fend for our animals do all we can to ensure that our fur-children are placed into highly-principled, loving homes.  But the unpredictable nature of human beings prevents us from knowing for sure.

At times, they go into situations that can’t be foretold nor vetted out: divorce, the sudden death of their caretaker, unwanted behavior on the part of the cat/kitten that causes the adopting person or family to abandon their furry charge.

That is why our cattery offers a health guarantee and we inform our adoptive persons/families that if they are somehow unable or unwilling to care for our animals any longer, they must, without judgement or question, return them back into our care.  This gives us the ability to evaluate their needs and find another person or family that will accept them into their lives.

At our cattery, the last line of defense we can give our sweet kittens and cats is to equip everyone of them with microchip identification and register all of them with our cattery as primary guardians, with their new families as secondary guardians only.  This assists us in getting the animals returned to us should they somehow end up in a shelter somewhere or turned into animal control authorities.

This added expense is a small price for us to pay to ensure that these sweet creatures stay out of shelters should their adoptive human family or owner decide they can no longer care for them.  Responsible pet stewardship, whether as a breeder, or as an owner, is everyone’s responsibility.  We cannot abandon the effort to educate, even while there continue to be those out there with no regard for an animal’s right to live in harmony and peace within their environment.  The battle continues.

We urge you, as an animal rights activist, to consider the fact that true practitioners of feline husbandry are NOT the source of the problem of overcrowding in the rescue shelters and Humane Society facilities; we are NOT responsible for the overpopulation of these unwanted animals.  It is irresponsible pet ownership and unscrupulous kitten mills that are the true source of this problem and as hard as it is to admit, we must face the fact that governmental regulation over pet ownership in this country will not solve this problem.

We stand by our work and are proud of the advancements and achievements that have proven beneficial to the betterment of the Maine Coon.  There is much work to be done to quell the tide of unwanted, tossed-aside animals of all species.  As long as we treat each other with respect and dignity as adults, we can work together to help achieve a balance in this world and remove the root cause of this unfortunate consequence.

We will continue to work with and donate our resources and energy to educating the public and assisting these rescue organizations in finding loving homes for all these outcast furrbabies.  We will continue to advocate for stiffer penalties for animal cruelty and torture.

We will NOT, however, apologize for the work we are doing to preserve one of the most magnificent breeds of the feline family…the Maine Coon Cat.

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  1. This is a fantastic post that needs to be shared! Thank you so much for speaking out and taking a stand. As in my world of dogs, no matter how many pets are adopted, it won’t affect the number of animals needing it. In other words, the solution is NOT to adopt more or to demonize those of us who choose a reputable preservation breeder. The solution lies in educating buyers to not support backyard breeders and puppy/cat mills. To do their research if they choose to rescue because not all rescues are made equal.

  2. I can tell this came from your hearts and your passion really comes through. Thank you for expressing this issue so eloquently. I really enjoyed meeting both of you at the TICA show in Las Vegas. I’m delighted to have met a breeder practically in my neighborhood.

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