From an honest breeder to another...
It is important to consider if a trade is really a smart or beneficial move for your programme given that you cannot see ahead into the future and guarantee any results. First of all, trade-‐offs often cause friction between the breeders involved if both parties do not get the outcome from such a deal as they had expected or hoped for.
In the first instance it works out well because the Seller has placed the kitten into a preferred home with someone they like or someone who has a nice programme to their taste. The buyer will often have traits or lines that the Seller doesn’t have and therefore it can seem like a great idea at the time. The buyer also feels more than happy to agree to the trade off because they get the kitten they wanted without much or any payment in exchange and they get to work with the cat/ lines of their choice. At this point everything is going great and may stay that way should the outcome work out well.
More often now you will be offered an exchange on the next litter or a ‘kitten back’ deal either from the sold kitten or one of the buyers other cats. In this case, there are many things you need to consider before agreeing to such deals. I want to go over a few points here and will outline below:
A year or three passes and the kitten is now breeding age
1. What if the cat doesn’t have the desired sex of kitten outlined in the trade off?
You see now what happens is the original deal is often changed because now the buyer is at an advantage and the seller has now lost out on the kitten back they were hoping for. Often the conversation will contain phrases such as “oh but I thought that” “Oh I just assumed that” “Well can we do this instead”. IT would be natural for the seller to feel ‘short changed’ in this case and they start to resent the buyer, even though it was likely the sellers idea in the first place, I see this all the time. A situation may arise where the seller suddenly feels entitled to a higher generation kitten because they have waited so long for a kitten back if it has been years of waiting or they need to wait until the next litter. When they have placed a kitten with the buyer worth £3,000 or £6,000 and they are still waiting 3 years for a kitten back, the frustration arises that they should’ve waited and sold it in the first place, because the buyer is now benefitting from the breeding and the seller isn’t. This is natural human feelings but it’s preventing it from happening in the first place which is important. This is why if you did decide to sell on this route then it is important to have every entuality in your contract which means it’s written in black and white. Beware though that
even though you agree to a contract won’t stop the resentment feeling which is only natural, should things go wrong. What’s more important in your relationship?
2. What if the cat only had one and it’s the one you want?
Did you stipulate that the kitten should be given to you from the first litter or was it just ‘a kitten back’? You leave yourself wide open to being taken advantage of should this issue arise. If you agree to a kitten back make sure you stipulate the terms very clearly. Should it be from the first litter and if there is only one kitten should it be that one kitten that comes to you? If not, then perhaps by the third litter or it can be completely at your request when you decide, so the buyer must offer the kittens to you by first before anyone else?
3. What if the kittens aren’t breeding quality?
So you sold them a lovely cat without actually exchanging funds but is there a get out clause if they aren’t breeder quality? I mean, did it say ‘a breeder quality kitten back’ or just a kitten back? Be absolutely clear on what you require in exchange for all the hard work you and your beautiful cats have done to produce this kitten. If the cats aren’t compatible or they just aren’t up to standard for what your eye usually demands then can you say you would prefer to be paid instead?
4. Do you get to assist in the mating choice for your kitten back?
You might not want a mel carrier or you might need one! If they only have one which will give you the genes you want back then make sure that you agree what you are looking for beforehand and that way there is no confusion.Agree on certain studs or queens as part of the deal to ensure that you really do get the benefit out of the wait otherwise there would be no point in doing the exchange in the first place, which brings me to my next point:
5. Do you agree to ‘pick of the litter’?
IF you agree to ‘pick of the litter’ you are agreeing to the best out of a bunch. Just because there are 8 kittens it doesn’t mean that any of them are breeder quality but you have agreed to take the best of the bunch because it then concludes the deal. This then means that just to conclude the deal, there are substandard cats being injected back into the blood of your programme instead of really waiting for the ones that really work with your aims and objectives. There would be no point in doing a pick of the litter agreement unless you were absolutely confident on the pairing, but in this game there are no guarantees, it’s Russian roulette, it’s just your luck and some of us are lucky….some of us not so. Don’t just settle because it means that you finally conclude after 3 years waiting.
6. What if you discover a genetic fault in the line and they have already had kittens from the cat?
It doesn’t happen very often thankfully but occasionally things do crop up.. IF the buyer has bred your cat and sold the offspring you have your ‘kitten-‐back’ and things are going great then there is a problem in the line you need to work together to achieve an eradication of this fault. Some things are normal and ‘just happen’ some things are part of growth and differ in the kittens, some things are genetic and need to be removed from the line. In this instance do they get another cat as a replacement despite the fact that no money has changed hands and you already have your kitten back? Protect yourself. These things happen but when there has been no money changing hands, you don’t want to be sued for a replacement cat that was worth £6,000 when you weren’t even paid for it in the first place. People can change and sometimes things going wrong can change people’s attitudes and expectations.
7. What if the cat gets ill and dies before you get your kitten back?
Occasionally a cat will get pyometra through no fault of the buyer or seller before the kitten is a year old. It would be up to the parties to agree what should be done to prevent this and what expectations each party has. Some breeders may completely disagree on these terms and then the blame gets placed on the other party. The parties need to agree if a cat has X heat cycles then it will be bred but only by X months old or by X cat in the cattery. This means that if anything should happen to the cat through lack of breeding before one year old then the onus is on the seller to decide if they want to give the buyer another kitten or close the deal off. This would mean that there would be no kitten due back to the Seller for the original deal. If the cat gets ill from something else or isn’t fertile then there needs to be an agreement on what outcome or procedure would be followed to prevent argument or disagreement. Make it clear.
8. What if now is not the right time for your kitten back?
Is there a time limit? The buyer may not want to feel like they ‘owe you’ something indefinitely and might ask respectfully that you choose from the litter they have available. I would always make it clear that there is no specific timeline on this and it is up to you when you decide for your kitten back or what choice you make for your programme. You are the one who has bred this kitten by your own standards to get it to this point and so therefore it is up to you to choose which one you would like back. Likewise though, I would always ensure you place a number on this to respect the buyers cattery such as ‘by the X litter but only if there has been a choice of at least X males/females in the total amount of kittens which have been offered back’. Don’t limit yourself to 3rd litter – what if it’s all boys and you wanted a girl? By their rights they wouldn’t need to give you one back.
Think you’ve covered everything? Think again. Think of every eventuality – these points are just some of the things to consider in a kitten back contract.
This is exactly the reason why we don’t do them. It’s not worth the hassle.
The most exciting part after you have chosen your baby wildcat or hybrid kitten is the part where you bring them home.
We recommend using IATA approved carrier boxes because they are very robust and most importantly secure. You can use a soft carrier if you are travelling on a plane however we recommend you use one with the least mesh to ensure that you can keep an eye on the meshed window during the flight to prevent escape. The beauty of soft carriers is that they can be squeezed or moved slightly to allow for different seats in the aircraft. Many airlines will not allow you to put the animal anywhere apart from securely under the seat during the duration of the flight. Some may allow you to sit the box on your knee during the flight to comfort your kitten. More on this in the flying section below.
We recommend Vet Bedding as it is highly absorbent and is easy to wash. IT also dries very quickly. Keep an eye on the water supply during travel because if it spills on the vet bed then it will absorb it and it won’t be available for your cat to lap up through the journey, which other beds may allow for.
If you can, get a big enough box that you can put in a litter tray and a bed, along with two bowls on the door. You can buy special bowls that have clips on the rear for carriers. This way you can provide wet or dry and some water. I would always recommend wet food for the flight because dry food will dehydrate the cat if they don’t feel like drinking. Do not put the bowls too close together because if the water spills slightly then it will go onto the food next to it. Space them as far apart as possible.
You can use natural medication such as Zylkene to calm your kitten for the flight, rail, air or boat journey. ALWAYS start one week before the trip to allow it to work. Always leave the cat carrier around from at least 2 weeks before if possible so that it smells like them and they feel comfortable with going inside it. You can then use the blanket for the travel for comfort.
Plan well in advance with any agencies involved in the travel of your kitten.
For UK travel, there are no travel requirements from us. Your kitten will be vaccinated twice, wormed three times and treated with advocate for fleas and any other potential parasites such as ear mites or fleas. Bringing in to the UK can be a lot more complicated due to our strict requirements. Any Wild Cat or F1 generation hybrid will require 3 months quarantine in Scotland and 4 months in England at a Dangerous Wild Animal licensed facility. Any F2 – F5 will require CITES which is a system of import and export permits to control the movement of the species.
For travelling abroad, your kitten will be delivered by us personally so you can trust we are experienced with the multiple agencies involved such as APHA, DEFRA, USDA, CFIA and other CITES departments.
For those overseas, we apply for a CITES permit [export] and after we receive this within 30 days, you need to apply for an import permit with the Fish and Wildlife Department in your country. Please beware of that the USA can take up to 4 months to process an Import and Export. The whole CITES process can take up to 6 months for UK to USA – occasionally 9 months. You have to be dedicated to the kitten of your choice and also be prepared to put in extra time to bond with it when it finally arrives. We request if you have a CITES kitten from us that you take at least 2 weeks off work to ensure they have your full attention when they arrive. We want our kittens to live happy, safe and fulfilled lifes so we have to look ahead to their arrival in their new homes before they have arrived. This is important even more so for wild cats. It’s a good point here to remind you that a wild cat may never bond with a human they have just met after being 6 months old.
The other qualifiers are usually a rabies vaccination at 12 weeks old, then at least 21 days wait before travel, a passport issued by a qualified vet, recorded parasite treatment, a rabies blood test may be required for some countries, a skin test to check for ringworm may be required and occasionally countries may place additional requirements on proof of lineage.
If you are buying from us then we know all about which requirements are in force for your country and can work quickly and efficiently to get these documents in place. Be very careful about importing or exporting a kitten without the correct documents, this can result in confiscation of the animal, death of the animal, a monetary fine and worst of all it puts the animal at risk.
So, after all that work, your animal is home...
You are required to take your kitten to your own Veterinary Surgeon within 48 hours of leaving our premises. The purpose of this visit is to ensure you and your vet are satisfied that the kitten is in perfect health; the kitten is fit for purpose i.e. breeding and there are no visible genetic faults.
Your new baby kitten will take a few days to come round and feel back to their usual self. They have been used to litter mates jumping on them, playing at all hours of the night and best of all – Mummy! Now with no friends, no mum and being taken to a strange place you new baby will be feeling a bit scared and sorry for itself. Try to put them in a room on their own such as a utility room. Ensure you remove all chemicals and close toilet lids if you decide to place them in their for two weeks. Coax them out, if hiding, with their new feather stick (they all love these) and ball tube toys are also great. We recommend you buy a scratch post, as this is what they are used to playing on and will bring some home familiarities.
Your kitten may exhibit stress signs through a funny tummy, sneezing, runny nose, watery eyes and/ or constipation with all the stress of coming to their new home and could have diarrhea for the first week. This should settle down by the first week. As we’ve said above – your cat has been fully tested for everything so if there are any runny bottoms then it will be down to the move or if you have changed their diet. Please ensure you have fresh water available at all times for your new kitten and change twice daily.
Once you get your kitten home try and give them some time alone. A couple of days of the various visits to their room will help your kitten realize that everything it okay and there is nothing to be scared of. Once the kitten is settled with you and demonstrates a happiness to see you with purrs, puffy tail and back, along with possibly chatting to you, they are ready to explore the rest of the house. DO keep an eye on them on stairs as they are still babies. Try not to move the litter tray and DO introduce a few more if you have a large house. This may result in confusion and accidents. Your kitten is used to: Wood Litter Pellets.
Always introduce other pets to your kitten gradually and ALWAYS supervise. It is natural for your kitten to puff up and growl or spit to show they are defending themselves and your pet may do this also. Try not to intervene heavily and keep a calm, encourage voice telling them it is okay. It CAN take a few MONTHS for your kitten to be fully accepted in a house with pets already there. Animals do have a hierarchy system and is a natural process for them to let each other know where they belong in that system! Try to be confident and calm as animals do feed off our actions and energy.
Try and baby-proof your home. They will knock of your favourite ornaments by accident when whizzing around playing, may disappear behind the fridge, squeeze out a window, fall down the toilet (and possibly drown!), and eat a plant or flowers, which may be poisonous to cats. Also select good toys, which do not have chokable items, which could come loose. Please note – we can supply you with cat food, litter, bedding and toys at discounted prices so do get in touch if you require anything. Most breeders call it Savannah-Proofing. You have to lock your medicine cupboard, razors in a sharp box and in a lot of cases you are better to have a fridge latch too. One of our F2’s managed to open our freezer door and steal some “Fish Fingers” out of the second drawer, inside a cardboard box. You can’t really be angry at their intelligence, they knew that’s where the food was. They watched us getting food from there and cooking it. They have often opened the oven door to check for any leftovers so it’s important to always be one step ahead of your Savannah cat. Don’t leave anything, anywhere that could be dangerous. You MUST find their intelligence fascinating otherwise it may not be the breed for you.
Birth to 4 weeks old
Kittens can wean from 4 weeks old but we like them to stay with their mothers until at least 6 weeks old when they are fully weaned. Our new cattery buildings have hospital grade flooring in each room, which means each cat has a full-sized single bedroom to have privacy and give birth in – and I can sleep on the floor beside them. The cattery has music on through out the day and then they get a DVD on a bedtime in the evening. This helps to acclimatize them to all the usual sounds. The daytime is so busy vacuuming and cleaning that they are used to all household noises before they have even progressed to the kitten room. We watch each of the rooms on CCTV, which is linked, to our mobile phones and a large 50” CCTV screen central in our kitchen with all cameras featured on it so they are supervised at all times. Their enclosures also have CCTV, which means there is no place unseen in our cattery. It means then that they are not moved out of their home into a different zone to have their babies. There are 4 of us that work on the cattery and enclosures to maintain an excellent level of hygiene and an excellent level of interaction with all our animals.
5 weeks old till leaving day
Once the babies are weaned, we bring them into the kitten room and they enjoy their integration into family life. Your baby will be used to typical things in our house such as Disney Junior, Xbox Car racing and Just Dance, along with a mixture of Country, Dance, Drum and Bass, Dubstep, Pop and Rock/ Metal Music.
They will be used to playing with toy cars, craft and anything else a 6 year old would take into the kitten room with him! We also watch some movies with the surround sound on, which can be funny to watch them adapting to. They are placed beside dinosaurs as part of an attack on an army of dragon warriors or given an important role in choosing colour of paint for a picture although sometimes our Son does disagree with their choice of pink for his pictures!
These souls can breathe family life and we aim for them to be just as important in their furrever home. This is why selecting a breeder is crucial when choosing your Savannah. If all they have learned through their short time with the breeder is that humans are there to feed them and change their litter tray, then they will not want to be around them. They will not want to be around you and you will need to work hard to win them round.
2. First few days
Your cat has been brought up in a very social environment with children. Your kitten should not be nervous after a week in it’s new home with you. Remember that our kittens are full wild or hybrid cats and can be picky with who they decide to bond with. They usually form a parent/child type bond with one person but that is not to say that your kitten will not be approachable by anyone else. Encourage visitors to talk to your cat and pet them but do not force people or children on your kitten as it may deter them from people in future. Gradual is a key word we use for just about everything as cat breeders. Introduce them gradually to both you and your new home.
Don’t feed normal portions. Offer smaller amounts and more regularly. This helps to encourage your kitten to eat as the food is fresh each time and the amount is not overwhelming. Also, it helps to let them know that you are there to care.
3. What to feed and when
Your kitten is used to being fed 4 times a day.
These times are:
7am, 12pm, 5pm and 9pm.
We feed Purrform Kitten Food and Carny Kitten, which is a complete diet. We do not put on any extras such as powders because the food they are eating is complete. With Wild cats, you can add some Taurine or Calcium as they can require higher doses than domestic cats. You can feed raw food or any other kitten food as long as it is a good quality food. We do not force you to feed raw but we do ask that you feed grain-free food because it is much better for them. We do not feed wild cats biscuits or kibble. They have a full meat/ prey diet only.
4. Litter trays and toileting
Wild cats usually prefer open top trays or 25 litre tubs. Wood pellet litter is usually best although for smaller kittens chick feed can be better in case they eat parts of it. Our hybrid cats prefer hooded trays but they must be very clean. One toilet break can mean the whole tray is deemed unusable – so grab a few before your baby comes home. Make sure you have a few about the house to ensure the cat knows where it is. Put your new cat in the litter tray several times a day to encourage them to use it and remind them where it is.
5. Introduction to other cats
Don’t just let them loose and expect everything to be great. It can be! But it doesn’t always work out like that. You need to remember that any animal is an intruder in an already formed household. The pack needs to restructure and build again. This takes time. Be very encouraging and calm. If they hiss and spit, alongside puffing up just speak calmly and let them know it’s okay. Never give them into trouble or shout as it only heightens the anxiety and makes a bad atmosphere within the situation.
6. Introduction to dogs and other pets
Always ensure that your cat has somewhere high to get away from the other pets. If you find that the dog is very aggressive through a controlled introduction such as through a glass door or through a baby gate, then make sure they are on the lead so you can be in control of the situation. Never panic if they start to fight. Try to diffuse the situation quickly and calmly. You will be surprised how quick they will get used to each other. It does take time and patience.
7. Good Suppliers
Suppliers we recommend are:-
McClaw cat wheels
B & M Stores Cat Litter and toys
8. Calling for advice
You can call us for absolutely anything at all! When you buy a kitten from us you get a 24 hour number for advice.
9. Choosing a vet
Ensure that your vet is comfortable treating a wildcat or hybrid. Most vets are okay with it but some of them can be uncomfortable as it is not the normal protocol and they don’t want to make a mistake, which could cost them their career. Power is knowledge so you don’t need to fear taking them to the vet – help your vet understand their needs.
10. Vaccinations and Healthcare
You kitten is vaccinated twice before it leaves unless you have them young for bonding as wild cats. Afterwards, we recommend vaccinations every 18 months. Every 12 months is over-vaccinating, although your vet will recommend it.
We recommend always using Advocate Spot On. If you can, import it to your country, as it’s very effective against just about every parasite.
Do not use any Bob Martin product as they can be dangerous and are cheap for a reason. You can use frontline or Advocate spot on.
If your cat is injured or suffering in any way then take them to the vet. Do not rely on social media for a response. Take them to the vet immediately, but please do let us know.
It is advisable to ensure that you don’t use ketamine in emergency surgeries as it is known cause issues or even death in wild cats or hybrids., however, we have used this in spay/neuter and also some emergency surgeries and had no problems with it on our hybrid cats. It is believed any complications associated with ketamine and hybrid cats could be linked to HCM because of the way it alters blood pressure and heart rates. There is no proof on this subject however hearsay causes us to be cautious and advise caution in any case.
It is definitely worth insuring your kitten or cat. Certain companies will only cover you for short term or long term illnesses but be certain to write down what you need cover for and work out a budget. Many insurers won’t guarantee the purchase price of a hybrid or wild cat and may only offer a small amount against the purchase price. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t insure them as vets bills can run into the thousands.
12. TICA Registration
We will ensure that you receive the Green slip or breeder slip when you receive your cat or kitten. If you have chosen your own name then we guarantee it will be with you within 2 months of arrival.
13. Bonding for life
Your baby needs to know you are the number one thing in their life. This is why it’s important to help them realise this bond from day one. It will come, but the older the cat, the earlier the generation, the harder they are to ‘break’. All our cats are completely socialized so we don’t have any concerns in terms of willingness to play or come and greet you, however if you have a wild cat, the bonding process is more difficult and you will need to work hard with them alongside being very patient. Your visitors need to know how to respect and care for the animals and also if you are on holiday, you might want to get someone to come to your home, rather than them going to the cattery to reduce the stress on them. Patience, playtime and basic care are the start of the bonding process. Talk to your cat and A LOT. Let them recognize your voice and feel the comfort from it. They will learn to love you.
14. Breeding and Code of Ethics
You are not allowed to breed from this cat unless we have registered it, Stylisticat, on the active register with TICA. If your cat has been sold on the inactive register then it MUST be neutered or spayed by the time it is 5 months of age and certainly before we will transfer them into your name through TICA. Please see our TICA Voluntary Code of Ethics as to why we follow this rule.
We work extremely hard to develop an excellent breeding standard. We are inspected annually from a Veterinary Surgeon and the local council to receive our Cattery of Excellence by TICA and renew our Dangerous Wild Animal Licence, which is required to have Serval’s and F1’s.
If you are buying a DWA you MUST have suitable housing and provide us with a copy of your DWA before we will sell you one. We are required to keep a log of DWA sales by the local council as part of our licence.
We are certified as “Responsible Breeders” by The International Cat Association and have signed the Voluntary Code of Ethics.
We abide by these rules as follows:
1. We will remain in good standing of TICA and have a registered cattery.
2. We will breed discriminately and ensure we find appropriate homes who can provide a life-long commitment
Any cat sold as a pet or show will be sold under the following conditions:
a) We guarantee the cats in good health at the time of sale.
b) We urge the buyer to have the cat examined by his or her own vet.
c) We require the cat be neutered or spayed.
d) We have explained the dangers of the outdoors.
e) We have provided a written sales agreement.
f) We will only provide the TICA registration/ pedigree for the kitten ONLY AFTER we have received written confirmation from a licensed VS that the cat has been neutered or spayed.
g) We encourage you to contact us if you have questions and will respond in a timely manner.
h) We will not release a kitten, which hasn’t been inoculated twice against at least: Rhinotracheitis, panleukopenia and calicivirus.
If you can afford to build your enclosure fully in metal then we would recommend it simply because it’s easier to clean, much more longer lasting and require minimum maintenance. You can build one yourself or use a supplier.
Try to include different zones such as water play, balls, rolling around, jumping, climbing. These areas need to be cleaned and also they need to be maintained so try not to make them too difficult to look after. Cats often find places to defecate that are inaccessible by humans so try not to construct something, which causes issues before the cats are even in it. A planted are is also desirable – even with artificial plants.
You can use rope swings, plants, balls, ball pits, swimming pools, sand pits, bark, hanging baskets, water features, boxes, artificial ivy and logs to create beautiful zones which are interesting to your cat. Try to avoid using concrete slabs over the whole area because it isn’t soft on your cat’s paws and therefore they can wear their pads away walking on concrete all day. Try and think like a cat, make it interesting, put food inside cardboard boxes, have high shelves, hang logs to walk along – important part – have fun doing it!
Contact us for local suppliers in the UK.
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All about Stylisticat, written by Kayleigh McIntosh-Lowrie