When considering the purchase of a pedigreed cat of any breed, there are several questions you will want thorough, clear answers to ... your breeder should be prepared to give you as much information as you feel comfortable with and do so in an easy-to-understand way. If you need clarification on any question, ASK for it. Don't wait for the breeder to volunteer information - know what you want to ask prior to the interview - write it down beforehand and remember to try to be as considerate of the breeder's time as you can be. Listen carefully to the breeder's answers, take note if you think you might need to go back and ask questions later. Listen for obvious signs of frustration or shortness from the breeder - she should not become annoyed by your questions, rather she should welcome them and encourage you to ask away!
You will want to determine whether the breeder is an active member in good standing of one or more recognized pedigree registry associations. If not, move on to another breeder. Responsible breeders register their cats PERIOD. There is never an exception to this. Once you determine the breeder is registered with one or more recognized pedigree registry organizations, contact them - many of the registries also maintain records of complaints filed against breeders or have taken action against them for violation of various organization rules or ethics.
Does she also register all of the litters she produces? If not, why not?
What is the health history of the prior generations? How old did they live to be and what did they die of?
Has the kitten had its shots (as to see a written record of the vaccinations received, date they were administered, the specific brand of vaccine and the legible name, address and phone number of the vet who administered them) and been checked over by a vet? Have both parents been checked and declared negative for Feline Leukemia and FIV? Many breeders will administer vaccinations themselves - however, just as many vets won't recognize these vaccines and will require a kitten to be re-vaccinated - watch out for this. If you purchase a kitten, you will want to request written confirmation that a vet has seen and examined the kittens at least twice and that he/she has administered safe vaccines using the accepted vaccine protocol be included with your other documents.
Does the breeder have a written sales agreement which clearly outlines what she expects from the buyer and what the buyer can expect from the breeder? Demand one - it may just turn out to be the most important document in your filing cabinet at some point.
What kind of health guarantee will the breeder offer in their sales agreement? What specific health issues does it include and when does it expire? Are there conditions upon the guarantee, such as vaccinations which should not be administered which will void the guarantee? The sales agreement should also very clearly state whether or not the kitten can be used for breeding - most breeders won't allow this for a pet placed in a family home - and should include a very clearly defined spay/neuter clause which specifically prohibits breeding along with what consequences or financial obligations the buyer will have to face should they breed the kitten anyway. Most often, the breeder will withhold the pedigree/registration papers as well as the transfer of ownership documents until written confirmation that the kitten has been spayed/neutered has been received. There should also be a clause which covers declawing, outdoor access and remedies for resolution of disagreement between the buyer and the breeder. One of the best indications of a good breeder is their willingness to take the kitten back in the event you cannot keep it. At no time should a breeder ever allow one of her kittens to end up in a shelter or worse, tossed away outside.
Is the price of the kitten substantially higher or lower than the amount charged by other breeders in your area for similar kittens? Prices may vary from breed to breed for kittens, but most breeders of a specific breed will usually sell pets for about the same amount. If the kitten or cat is significantly less expensive than kittens of that breed from other breeders nearby each other, ask why. If there is no logical reason - just "that's what I charge" or "this kitten is sold without papers" - stay away. Likewise, if the cat seems to be significantly more expensive compared to other breeders, stay away. Be careful of a breeder who charges significantly more for a "rare" color or pattern. Many times, the rare colors and patterns are not yet accepted by the registering organizations and actually should be sold at a lower price.
Ask the breeder for references, both from their veterinarian and previous kitten buyers. Contact these references. Ask buyers of kittens or cats if they would purchase from this breeder again. If they say no, ask why - was it the wrong breed for them or were there problems dealing with the breeder?
Ask when you can schedule a preliminary appointment to meet the breeder in person and to see the kittens' parents. Make completely certain that this visit does not obligate you to placing a deposit on a kitten. This visit gives you the best overview of how the cats are being managed. There are several points to consider when visiting the cattery. When you first walk into the house, look around for a general feeling of cleanliness. Do not be concerned if you notice a faint "cat odor" especially if the breeder keeps a whole male stud in her home. This is to be expected. However, if there is an overwhelming odor that nearly knocks you over, politely decline continuing the visit and leave. You will want to meet the queen and the sire if he is on premises and look them over carefully. Many breeders will not allow you to handle their studs. Do not be concerned if this is the case when you visit. Intact male cats kept in a breeder's home may or may not be confined or caged. While other breeders may disagree with me on this, caging a stud is not an unacceptable thing when considering their nature and propensity to be aggressive with people. It is for the protection of the cats, the residents of the home and any visitors to the home that males may be confined. It does not denote an irresponsible breeder. If the sire is on premises and confined or caged, you will want to make certain his enclosure is clean and free from debris, that water and food bowls and present and fresh, litter pans or trays are clean and scooped and that the stud has a warm, clean place to recline. There may be a strong odor of "stud spray" wherever an intact male cat is kept however, this is also to be expected and should not be a huge factor in determining whether or not this breeder is the right one for you. If there is also a strong odor of feces or spoiled food, then yes, that's not a good sign, but the smell of stud spray is normal where males are kept. The queen and kittens should have a space to themselves, many will have a "queening cage" or other set up specifically designed to keep the kittens safe and provide the queen with a comfortable place to raise her kittens. This place should also be clean and free from debris. There should be a separate litter arrangement for the queen and kittens if they are old enough, and food/water bowls should be clean and fresh. If the kittens are older, they should not be kept full-time in a cage, but rather have a room in the house where they have free roam to explore, run, stretch developing muscles and play. All cats should be clean and healthy (no runny noses or eyes and no sneezing), be of the proper weight, fur soft and dry, and the cats should display good temperament.
Be prepared to answer questions about yourself and about your living/family situation. For a breeder, selling a kitten is like finding adoptive parents for a child. They are very concerned that the kitten's new owners have the resources and knowledge to provide a high quality and quantity of care including regular veterinary care, high quality food, love and attention. They may request references and written approval from landlords. You will be asked about your experience in owning cats and what other pets are in the household.
Get to know the breeder and his/her cat family, if possible. The breeder can be one of your best sources of information for any adjustment problems your cat may have in making the move to your home, also if any health problems arise. Many breeders love to keep in touch with people who have purchased their kittens.
Do try to find a breeder in your area, or within a day's drive. Shipping cats and kittens is never a good idea if it can be avoided. Even if you must purchase a kitten from a far-away breeder, do try to visit the breeder's facility at least once. If the kitten must be shipped, try to make arrangements to fly home with it - in the cabin with you.
Don't buy a cat or kitten over the Internet from someone you don't know. Never buy a kitten sight-unseen. The Internet is a great information resource for many things but it is only a first step in finding the right breeder for your new pet. You can research breeders online, find out who has kittens online, even meet the breeder online, but then follow up with personal attention, a visit to the cattery and perform all the evaluation techniques outlined above.
You may also be able to find a breeder or more about a specific breed of cat by attending local cat shows and talking with the breeders and exhibitors. Keep in mind that they are there to promote their cats, so they may be a bit preoccupied with the show, but most love to talk about their cats. Ask how often they breed their females. More frequent breeding may cause stress and health problems in the queen/kittens. Do not prepay for an unborn kitten, however a deposit for a kitten with payment in full when you pick up the kitten is reasonable.
I sincerely hope this answers your questions. As always, if you have more, feel free to ask.