Adapted from: Cat Moody, Stormwatch Maine Coons

First, put "pet shop" right out of your mind. No reputable breeder, of any kind of cat or dog, would even consider selling an animal to a pet shop. Kittens found in pet shops are from what would be considered "puppy mills" in the dog world. Pet shop prices will always equal or exceed what a reputable breeder would charge. And you cannot evaluate the conditions the kitten was raised in, or meet its parents, or other adults of the breed. It is a massive mistake to think about "rescuing" a purported Maine Coon from a pet shop.

Almost as bad are the backyard breeders (abbreviated BYB). These may be people who truly love their animals, but have started out with pet quality cats (perhaps purchased from a pet shop) that they breed together. They don't register the offspring, show their cats, or maintain any contact with the breeding community at large. They do not necessarily provide the same level of research into health issues, breeding their cats to the accepted Standards established for this breed, or socializing their kittens. They have no intention of improving the breed, and they have no network of other breeders to contact to help resolve a problem. Their pricing may be the same as that of reputable breeders - but people end up paying for a cat with questionable heritage, that may or may not resemble a purebred Maine Coon, with no knowledge of what health issues may be lurking in the ancestry of the cat. Make sure you are dealing with a reputable breeder.

The very best place to find a MAINE COON kitten is by attending a cat show in your area. Nope, the kittens themselves may not be there, but the most important thing is finding a breeder that you trust and want to work with. You can find out about cat shows in your area by reviewing the show schedule in Cat Fancy magazine, or by contacting The International Cat Association (TICA) or the Cat Fancier's Association (CFA), who can refer you to shows and breeders in your area. 

Cats are also advertised in various magazines - Cat Fancy, Cats USA and Cats. Many legitimate breeders advertise in all of these publications, but there may also be BYB's - so you will need to ask plenty of questions first

Another referral source is the Maine Coon Breeder's and Fancier's Association, or MCBFA.  They will not recommend specific breeders, but will send you a list of breeders in the area that belong to MCBFA. That doesn't mean that only MCBFA breeders are "reputable", but most are reliable. Again, you need to ask your questions.


How Much Does a Maine Coon Kitten Cost?

This varies greatly depending on the area. Generally, the kittens are more expensive on the East and West Coasts, less in the Midwest. Generally, pet quality kittens range from $1500 - $3000. And you DO want a pet quality kitten. Good breeders have a long waiting list from other established breeders for top show quality kittens, and are unwilling to sell their "cream of the crop" kittens to pet homes. Beware any breeder who tells you that every kitten they produce is a "Top Show Quality" kitten. However, feel free to ask the breeder to show you the difference between pet and show - you'll be surprised. This has nothing to do with size, beauty, or temperament. The factors that determine the difference are so slight that only experienced breeders and judges can distinguish - and even then, most breeders agonize over whether or not they are making the correct evaluation. This difference could mean that the tail is an "tad" too short.  Ears or eyes set a fraction of an inch too close or far apart, eyes that slant just slightly too far up or down, even just the expression in a cat's face....these make cats "pets" rather than "show". You may actually prefer the pets to the show cats! Sometimes, the kitten IS technically "perfect" (or close), but the breeder just does not want that particular "look" to represent their cattery, the kitten is too closely related or they may have a breeding restriction set down by the breeders of the kitten's parents. But ask to see the difference - you'll be surprised. Pet Quality kittens are certainly not inferior cats.

The price of the kitten should include a minimum of one FVRCP vaccination, and at least one veterinary exam given before the kitten leaves the breeder. Shipping costs will be extra. You will be expected to provide a carrier and a mandatory vet visit under most contracts.


Why Are Kittens So Expensive
(a common, but often unasked, question)

While BYB's and pet shops may make money selling kittens, most legitimate breeders do not even cover their own costs. It's a very expensive hobby. Most of us WISH we could just break even, but can't. It may look like a gold mine to you, but let's go through some of the expenses involved and you'll see that turning a profit would be a rare event for a breeder. We do this for love of cats, not money (and most of us hide the REAL expenses from our spouses!).

As an example, buying a top show quality female, with breeding rights (which may have restrictions on how we can sell the kittens), may cost more than $4000. Males are more. Showing her to the preliminary title of "Champion" can add another $2000-$5000 to the investment. Showing a male or female to the title of Grand Champion, or Regional/National Winner, can be from $1000 to more than $20,000! Maintenance, supplies and veterinary care generally cost breeders a minimum of $3000 per cat per year. Before the cat is first bred they must be tested for HCM, HD, PK-Def, SMA and PKD. HCM testing is an on-going yearly expense, that costs approximately $500. By the time a cat is first bred, at about two years old, the breeder will have invested several thousand dollars. Then there is a stud fee for the breeding, which may be $2000 per litter. Kitten shots, worming and exams cost breeders about $300 per kitten - and that's if there are NO problems to be treated. Kittens stay with breeders for 3 months or more, and have to be fed, cuddled, and cleaned-up-after for all that time.  Separate, special areas of the house are often customized for male cats, to use as a cattery or nursery - and some cattery set-ups cost $5,000 or more to build. If all goes well, fat healthy kittens are born - but there are always the disasters, such as C-sections that run $2500 and up. Sometimes, after all the investment is made, a cat is found to be infertile. Good breeders make a huge investment into "doing it right", by having the right breeding cats and facilities. Both pet shops and BYB's reap profits, by cutting corners (not having quality cats as parents, not showing, not keeping kittens until the proper age, feeding substandard food and not providing proper prenatal and kitten veterinary care) - and then they charge the same price as the reputable breeders. And those caring, professional breeders make huge sacrifices in their personal lives, and shed lots of tears, in trying to create successful breeding programs. BYB's are "one hit wonders" - they take your money and are gone. Most legitimate breeders (especially this one!) are going to be pretty darn annoyed if you neglect to send photos and check in once in awhile!

The most important part of your shopping should be identifying a breeder you want to work with. The vast majority of kittens placed bounce right into their new homes, healthy and happy and adjustable. But if you have a problem with your kitten, you need to have established a mutually trusting relationship with the breeder. So make sure you feel comfortable with the breeder - hard to believe, but it's more important in some ways than which kitten you pick out.

Most important? Shop around - do your homework on researching the breed - and trust your instinct.  Never, ever buy a kitten if you have any hesitation - there's lots to choose from. And if you shop wisely, you will end up with a terrific kitten who will be the very best choice in the whole world, and enhance your life for years to come. But be smart about it!


Questions to Ask a Breeder

You are making a big investment, in money, time and love. You should make sure that you are getting the very best kitten you can. Ask the following questions of any breeder you contact. These questions should be answered to your satisfaction - or go elsewhere. And most of all, does the breeder seem friendly and anxious to answer your questions? If they seem annoyed with you, move on. Most of us are proud of what we do, and happy to hear from informed pet buyers who have done their research and are asking a lot of questions - it makes us feel more confident in the commitment the pet buyer intends to make to this kitten. Always ask, right up front, if this is a good time to talk. And remember, many of us show on most weekends, so don't feel ignored if it takes a week or so to get a return email. Always give a breeder two tries, don't assume your email went through. Here at Koontucky, we will always return your emails, even if we have no kittens available right now.

  1. Do you show your cats? Do you have a registered cattery? All legitimate breeders will answer "yes" to both questions. Now, of course, there are exceptions to the first part - maybe the breeder has recently moved, had a baby, or has some other legitimate reason for doing so. It is NOT an acceptable answer if the breeder proclaims there is no reason for showing. Showing your cats is not about (necessarily) obtaining titles or acclaim for a cat, and experienced exhibitors are not an elitist, unfriendly bunch. We show our cats to improve our breeding programs, to subject our cats to the evaluation of judges and other exhibitors, and to maintain contacts with the established breeding community, who share a wealth of knowledge about all aspects of the MAINE COON, including health problems.  Showing is how we find appropriate outcrosses, compare our results to others, and share concerns. We also have a darn good time! 

There is no excuse for not having a registered cattery. If you don't know what this means, look at a purebred cat's name - it has three parts. "Koontucky Marvelicious of Coonery" is a typical example.   "Koontucky", the first part, is the name of the registered breeder. The second part of the name, "Marvelicious", is the cat's name. The third part, "Coonery"  indicates the registered owner of the cat. If a cat is kept by the original breeder, you won't see any "of" designation. The breeder's name is the most important part.  The name of the breeder follows the cat throughout its show career, and is on the pedigrees forever. We take pride in our cats, and our cattery name is the identifier for many generations to come. A list of cats bred by the breeder you are interested in can be found by searching their cattery name on the Maine Coon Database - A BYB or pet shop could care less, or rather you did not know!

One other advantage to buying a kitten from a breeder who shows - since we can't determine who is going to be "pet" and who is going to be "show" until much later, kittens ALL have to be raised as potential show cats. This means they need to get used to bathing, grooming, claw clipping, riding in the car, and greeting strangers at an early age. In addition, top show cats generally have a superior disposition - they are trusting, laid-back, and fond of people in general. They pass these qualities on to their kids. Show cats are necessarily bred for temperament.

  1. What are the health problems of this breed? A bad answer is "none" - it's just not true. As in all humans and animals, the MAINE COON has some potential inherited problems. The breeder should not only identify these breed health problems, but should tell you what they are doing to try to prevent these things from happening in their offspring. In our case, information ca be found on our "About Us" and "News From Koontucky" pages. This is one reason the established show/breeders stay in touch - we share information freely and often. BYB's may tell you that the breed is perfectly healthy and that there is no problem. This is equivalent to the used-car salesmen telling you the car was only driven by an old lady to church on Sundays. Beware.

For example, if you ask a BYB "how much Heidi Ho is in your pedigrees?" they will answer Huh? Reputable Maine Coon breeders can tell you about the line. BYB's will have no idea what you are talking about

  1. How old will the kitten be before it comes home? Twelve weeks is minimum, most breeders hold kittens until sixteen weeks or maybe longer. Maine Coon's are a slow developing breed, and need a long period of nurturing from both their mothers and breeders. Kittens develop their sense of bonding with humans between 2 and l0 weeks of age - it's wrong to break their bond to their FIRST "human" - the breeder - any earlier.  They also have not developed their immune systems or had their necessary shots before l2 weeks of age.  Any breeder selling kittens younger than this is more interested in moving the kittens out and getting the money than in raising healthy, stable, happy kittens. At about 12-13 weeks, a MAINE COON kitten is going to be gaining a quarter to half pound a week, and is ready to bounce right into its new home with confidence. Don't worry - they may be "big", but they are still "babies"!
  1. Will the kitten be registered? It's kind of silly to have a purebred cat and not register it - the cost is $20. Generally, the breeder will provide the "blue slip", or official registration, when you notify the breeder that the kitten has been neutered.
  1. Will I get a contract and written health warranty? You should. And read the contract specifications carefully. Most breeders will be requiring that the kitten be kept strictly indoors, not declawed, not shown without permission, and neutered at a specific age. Another clause in most contracts is that this kitten may not be transferred to anyone else without obtaining the breeder's permission (hey, we interviewed YOU!)...and that, if for some reason you cannot keep this cat in the future, the breeder must be given the opportunity to take the cat back and assist in finding it a new home. This is because a nightmare to a legitimate breeder would be to find out that one of his/her cherished kittens ended up in a pound. This should never, ever happen.

Your health warranty will spell out your rights. State laws vary, but most warranties will cover a specific period of time for which the breeder remains liable. Check carefully over the specifics - and ask the breeder if you have questions about it.

  1. What if I want a show cat? Most breeders are happy to mentor someone through the show process, once you have demonstrated a true commitment to the time and money required. The best way to do this is to buy a "show quality cat", neuter it, and show it in premiership or alter class ( the neutered cat equivalent to championship). If you get hit with the show bug, you'll have a lot of contacts and experience if you then decide to go ahead and establish a breeding program.
  1. What if I want to breed? A BYB will be happy to sell you breeding rights to any cat for extra money.  Don't do it. First, you will find it impossible to find a stud cat for your female from a legitimate breeder to breed to. The converse is, no legitimate breeder is going to want to obtain stud service from your male either. Legitimate breeders get these calls all the time - and none of us believe in just plain "breeding for the sake of breeding". We think that the majority of breeding cats should be titled - and the chance of you having gotten a true show quality cat from a BYB is about zero. You will not have a mentor with experience from the established show/breeding community, and by selling you breeding rights, the BYB has created another BYB - you! If you really think you want to be a breeder, then you need to do a lot of research and learning, and you need to do that by becoming involved in the established community of breeders and exhibitors. You will also find that being a BYB is difficult, with an educated public. This is not a way to make money, and the "joy" of having kittens around is balanced - sometimes inequitably - with the tragedies. It takes a strong stomach to survive the bad times. If you are SURE you want to be a breeder, then get the very best start you can, by working with the very best breeder you can find, to mentor you and help you along.
  1. Do you give your own shots? This answer can surely be "yes". Many experienced breeders give their own shots. But they should also be making sure that each kitten has at least one veterinary exam before it goes. In some states, health certificates must be obtained from the vet before the kitten can be sold. Don't buy a kitten that has not been examined by a veterinarian. Back to the used car example, you definitely would want a mechanic to check the car out first to make sure no serious damage already exists!


And finally, there are surely Questions the Breeder Should Ask You!

A good breeder is trying hard to make sure that the kittens get great new parents, and that the parents get an affectionate, healthy and beautiful kitten that fits into their lifestyle. They will want to know if you have children - and if so, how old are the kids and what is their experience with animals so far? Do you have a veterinarian? Don't be surprised if some of the questions seem personal - these kittens are not commodities to the reputable breeder. They are little lives that we have planned, assisted in their births, raised with love and have slept on our heads for the past three months. Do you have other pets? How did you lose your last cat? Are any of the cats in your home allowed outdoors? We want to make sure they are going to great new homes, or we would prefer to keep them ourselves. Beware the breeder who asks you no questions - because it is obvious that they are more concerned with the money than in giving a kitten a fabulous new home, and the buyer a fabulous new kitten.