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Need input from experienced breeders about the importance of early socialization ...

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 
I am not a breeder, but would certainly appreciate help with this question from experienced "cat people"...

Yesterday I went to see a 4 month old male Oriental Shorthair kitten. The kitten had not been out of the nursery before and did not like being held, and when put down ran to hide. Obviously he has not had any socialization.

There were other kittens in the nursery, and when I stood at the door they all scurried away to hide like little wild animals!

As a dog breeder I know that early socialization and exposure to different things is vital and that puppies displaying similar behaviour at that age would probably never get over the fear.

My other OS, bought at the same age from a breeder who raised her kittens underfoot, not in the nursery, has always been fearless and outgoing.

I do not want a cat that runs and hides when people come to visit!

Since I have had no experience with breeding cats I need some expert opinions on the importance of early socialization and a prognosis as to whether this little guy will ever be able to overcome his fears.

The breeder says he will adjust, but I have serious doubts - can anyone help? I want a cat who sits ON the sofa not UNDER it...
post #2 of 12
Hi Pandora

I am not a breeder but I do socialization of ferals. As I see this you have two choices. You can buy this little guy and take him from a place that from the behaviour of the litter really does not care about socializing their kittens and work with him, or you can find another place where the kittens have been worked and played with and buy one there. It is up to you as you will be the one to have to work with this unhandled kitten and gain the trust of him. If you have the time and patience and expertise to do this, then I would *rescue* him from this place that appears to only want to make money and doesn't care about the welfare of the babies they are pumping out into this world.
post #3 of 12
Thread Starter 
Thanks hissy,

It is an interesting aside that the breeder I visited yesterday has top winning show cats!! As a breeder of top winning show dogs, and understanding the need for proper socializing of puppies from a very early age, I would have expected her kittens to be much more outgoing.

The OS that I already have came from a breeder who doesn't show - yet her cats were all VERY outgoing. The kitten I got from her came through leaving his home, spending a night with a strange person (that's me!) in a motel, and being put in a carrier for an 8 hour car ride to a new home with resident cat and dog - all without turning a hair! He has NEVER hidden under anything unless it's to be able to jump out and harass the dog!

I am really puzzled, as I would have expected the show breeder to have the better adjusted animals...
post #4 of 12
My husband and I rescue abused german shepherds. About 6 years ago we had to put down our beloved Brandy dog at 14 years old. We were at a loss for another shepherd as we love the breed, so we sought out a breeder well known in this state. We visted her facility and she has beautiful puppies and her dogs take top honors. She had about 12 litters at the time and the pups were healthy and appeared sociable. We settled on a female pup and took her home, fell in love with her and named her Kenai Spirit-talker, because she talked all the time.

As she has grown, we have found she has several problems. She has a rare genetic bone disorder known in layman's terms as "fragile bones" at any time her bones could break. We took her to many specialists once our vet found this problem and we were told that she would be best off if we kept her in a kennel 24/7. We have opted not to do that and just let her be a dog, though playing fetch and running is not something we encourage her to do, but she would run till the cows came home given the chance. She is also deathly afraid of other dogs, doesn't matter the size, she is terrified. I had to pull her out of obedience and school and train her myself because she was so bad the instructor asked me to withdraw! She is terrified of loud noises and hides in the shower during thunderstorms and during hunting season it is hard on her nerves as well- and the fourth of july? Forget it, she cowers under the bed.

The bottom line is the breeder in this case was out of money and even after I sent her paperwork proving that the genetic disease was caused by the experts because she kept back breeding the bitch, she continues to breed this bitch to get the *look* of the quality dog, forget about the traits.

*Some* breeders are bad. Some people are bad, some cat rescuers are bad, there is always badness in some humans. But most breeders that I know are capable, qualified, loving to the litters and practice good ethics. Sounds to me like you found one of the bad ones. I would be inclined to rescue this kitten, but if you do this, your work will be cut out for you and it may take a long time for you to gain his trust. Good luck!
post #5 of 12
Thread Starter 
As a dog breeder I would have run at very top speed from ANY breeder who had more than 1 or 2 litters A YEAR!!

Since I know the time, effort and love required to properly look after a litter of puppies and get them ready to go out in the world I would state that anyone who had that many litters at one time was nothing short of a "puppy mill".

The fact that this breeder continues to use a bitch that is genetically defective only serves to add validity to the "puppy mill" label (no matter how well she might do at the shows).

It's breeders such as this that give ALL breeders a bad name...
post #6 of 12
We would of thought that had the facility not been immaculately maintained, staffed by others, the bitches and males available to be seen and every one of them friendly beyond belief. We just love the breed so and didn't want the hole in our lives where Brandy was to stay empty. Had we known, we would of walked away, but now we are committed to her heart and soul. But I will never buy from this breeder again and have been very vocal about that in my area when her name comes up in the circles around me.
post #7 of 12
As a cat breeder, the 2 most important things are health and socialization. It's the biggest reason we don't cage our cats and our nursery is in the office where we spend a great deal of time. It's very common for feral or semi feral kittens born outside to have these fears, but not for kittens who are born in a house with people in it. It is common for little ones to run when they hear loud noises and such, but a kitten who has had attention should come over to visit and see who you are. If people don't have the time to socialize thier kittens, they shouldn't be breeding.
post #8 of 12
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the input Sandie - I was very surprised by the behaviour of this kitten, as the breeder is considered reputable, does not "mass produce" and has bred a good number of winning cats at shows, and her cats are bought by other breeders.

The availability of OS kittens in my area is almost nil, and after sending e-mails to six breeders within an 8 to 10 hour drive enquiring about kittens I have only received one reply!! (It has been a month now since I wrote, so they can't all still be on vacation.)

I'm going to go back and see the kitten again - the breeder is only about an hour from here - and see if he behaves any differently. He was beautiful, appeared to be in glowing good health, is the colour I'm looking for, and while he wanted to get away he was purring the whole time and never attempted to bite or scratch! The breeder does have a very good policy re genetic defects and health problems, so I will give it one more try...
post #9 of 12
This is just a thought but could the kitten have wanted to get away just to play? I have seen many kittens just want to get down so they can do their own thing. I could be way off base but it is just a thought.
post #10 of 12
Just a note about the kittens acting like that, especially from a breeder that shows...

Showing is actually a learned behavior. You would be very surprised how some cats who are very loving, socialized kitties turn into very mean spirited monsters in a show hall. It also happens in reverse. Socializing a kitten is extremely important regardless if they intend to show or not, ands not that I am defending the breeder that you went to, but, there are times when kittens are very shy, not ussualy the whole litter though.
post #11 of 12
I have to disagree with some of the messages here. Everyone seems to think that this isnt the best breeder. And I agree so please do not consider buying one of her kittens. Kittens should be handeled everyday for a short time from a very early age to have them properly ready for a new home. If you buy this kitten you are just promoting this woman to continue her practice. If everyone who went to a home or pet shop and saw that things where not to their standard and did not try to save the kitten maybe these places would shut down and their would be enough homes for all the well raised kittens and puppies out there.
Just my thought.
post #12 of 12
Thread Starter 
Well I did it! I went back to see the kitten again, and while he still wasn't too happy at being held this time I definitely felt it was because he wanted to go and play with the other cats, not run away and hide!

After a very frank discussion about temperament and my reservations as to whether this little guy will be able to adjust to life with my "fur family" it has been decided that he will come to live with us on a "trial basis", and if, after a reasonable time for adjustment, the kitten is not happy with us, or we are not happy with him, the breeder will take him back.

In order to be fair to the breeder I do want to state that the woman lives alone, and her policy is that she will not allow strangers near her kittens, or have the kittens out of the nursery, until they have been immunized, so perhaps that helps to explain the behaviour. All her adult cats seemed to be very friendly "in your face" types!

I have spoken to a very well respected local Siamese breeder, and he says that this woman is very highly regarded in local "cat circles". She certainly seems sincere in wanting the best for this kitten (as evidenced by her willingness to take him back if it doesn't work out). Her pet sale contract is very comprehensive and guarantees a healthy kitten, includes a spay/neuter clause, a promise that the buyer will keep the cat indoors and will not declaw and will not "resell" the cat, and a lifetime guarantee against serious genetic defects.

Thanks to everyone for your input on this. It seems to me that I can't lose if I give this kitten a try (except maybe for shedding some tears if it doesn't work out...) so I am getting things ready today so I can go and get him tomorrow. Keep your fingers crossed...
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