How to Know a Reputable Breeder from a Bad One: An Interview with Sharon Shulby

As many of you know, there are a lot of Ragdoll kitten scams on the Internet. 

Sometimes the scam is a broker selling for multiple unethical breeders or sometimes it is a complete scam – where someone uses Ragdoll kitten photos of other people’s kittens, pretends to “sell them” by having an excited potential owner put down a deposit, and then that person loses their money as well as their hope for that kitten when they discover it was entirely a scam.  

Sharon Shulby from Magnadolz Ragdolls in Southern California reached out to me and wondered if she could offer some more advice.  I said, I’d love to put it on the site. 

Thank you to Sharon for taking the time to do this interview with us.  Thank you, too, to Sharon, for sending me great Ragdoll cat legitimate photos to include in this interview.

Team Magnadolz Ragdolls 2013-2014 L-R RW SGC/SGCA Calirags Billie Jean of Magnadolz RW SGC Black Doll Angelic Theresa CZ/Fi RW SGC Willowtreerags Sylbr8 of Magnadolz RW DGC Razldazldolls PrplMgnm of Magnadolz Photo by Helmi
Team Magnadolz Ragdolls 2013-2014
RW SGC/SGCA Calirags Billie Jean of Magnadolz
RW SGC Black Doll Angelic Theresa CZ/Fi
RW SGC Willowtreerags Sylbr8 of Magnadolz
RW DGC Razldazldolls PrplMgnm of Magnadolz
Photo by Helmi

Can you please tell me about you and your cattery?

Sharon Shulby from Magnadolz Ragdolls in Southern California.

What made you want to do this interview to help people find a reputable Ragdoll cat breeder?

I’m NOT looking for buyers, I have a long waiting list. I’m doing this to give back to the cat fancy, help educate buyers, so they don’t get scammed, a sick kitten, NO kitten. Dead kittens in a few months. And the buyer and family are heartbroken.

RW SGM Vladkas Teasure Doll of Magnadolz Photo by Diana Starr of Starrlight Photography
RW SGM Vlad’ka’s Teasure Doll of Magnadolz
Photo by Diana Starr of Starrlight Photography

What are some things to look for and ask a breeder?

First, the buyer MUST do their due diligence. Google the cattery and “complaints”. If there’s a lot of people complaining about sick kittens, deposits not returned, etc, people need to look for another breeder.

Ask if the Sire and Dam have been tested for HCM, FIV, FeLV and if the breeder has proof.

Does the breeder have both parents? Can the buyer visit? Can they send photos/video?

Are they a breeder or a broker?

What are signs of a good Ragdoll cat breeder?

First look at their website. If it looks like a 6-year old constructed it, I’d move on to the next one. If a breeder has no kittens at the time the buyer wants one, see who they refer you to. Check if they test for the above diseases.

How long have they been in business. A health guarantee of X for genetic problems. That the breeder will take the cat back, should something happen, a death, divorce, whatever.

When buyer is in breeder’s house, breathe! There should be no smell of cat pee…EVER! There should not be a heavy perfume scent either, cats don’t like fragrances, even in their litter. I buy “unscented”.

I know breeders who allow buyers to roam freely throughout their house. I’m not one of those.

If my buyer gets upset, because I won’t let them roam through our bedrooms, they are free to leave. This isn’t an open house. I have cameras throughout the house, as well as the property.

It’s a safety thing for my family and my cats. If I had a dollar for every time I saw someone lurking around my property, I’d be rich instead of just cute.

Seriously, I know breeders who have had their homes broken into, pregnant cats and entire litters stolen. It’s not happening here, if I can prevent it.

Ch Calirags BlueBlueElectricBlue of Magnadolz Photo by Helmi
Ch Calirags BlueBlueElectricBlue of Magnadolz
Photo by Helmi

What are signs of a bad Ragdoll cat breeder?

Signs of a bad breeder. If their kittens are a few hundred $, as opposed to thousands, might be a BYB (backyard breeder), these are people who put 2 RD cats together, without looking at pedigrees, colors, and know they’ll get X of kittens.

If there are multiple complaints on line about them. I’m not talking about 1 or 2, but 6 complaints all saying the same thing, is a HUGE red flag for me. Take your wallet and your heart and move on.

When it comes to the price of a Ragdoll kitten – I have seen people on the Internet fooled by sites that offer 50% off their Ragdoll kittens. Can you please explain why a reputable breeder would not do such a thing?

I often see sites with “50% off” on them. 50% off of what? Either it’s a broker with 18 kittens who are all 10 weeks old, and the breeders overpopulated thinking they would be sold for Christmas, or the website is a total scam.

Many breeders will discount a second kitten, going to a prior family, or active military. We all have our favorites.

RW SGC Willowtreerags Sylbr8 of Magnadolz at 8 months Photo by Helmi Flick
RW SGC Willowtreerags Sylbr8 of Magnadolz at 8 months
Photo by Helmi Flick

When it comes to the price of a kitten – what do you want to look for? Should certain color patterns cost more?

Depending on the breeders location, I’ve seen pet quality kittens go for $950-$1800.

Of course, if the breeder is in a big city, kittens will be more expensive. Seems like SO many want a female blue bicolor, because that’s what is pictured in magazines/TV.

Look, people can have whatever they like, but, if someone won’t even consider another sex/pattern/color, they’ll usually have to wait a long time.

CH Calirags BlueBlueElectricBlue Photo by Helmi
CH Calirags, BlueBlueElectricBlue
Photo by Helmi

Is it important that a breeder belong to FIFe, CFA and TICA? Or just one of them?

Most breeders are registered in the area they show. I don’t think there are any FIFe shows here. My cats are all registered with TICA and I’ll register a kitten with CFA, if the buyer plans to show in CFA. No problem.

Breeders must be registered with FIFe, TICA or CFA. If they’re not, the buyer has no clue about a pedigree of the cat.

RW SGC Willowtreerags Sylbr8 of Magnadolz and her 6 kittens Photo by Sharon Shulby
RW SGC Willowtreerags Sylbr8 of Magnadolz and her 6 kittens.
Photo by Sharon Shulby

If a breeder is a member of FIFe, CFA or TICA will they be listed on those sites?

Some breeders are, but, it’s a LOT of work, and not a guarantee that everyone listed on their site is reputable. (We breeders all know the ones who aren’t).  The cattery name is listed on their sites, but, only if you look under names.

I know of at least 1 breeder, listed on the “recommended” breeders list, who really shouldn’t be. 20 years ago, they were a great cattery. However, in recent years, there have been MULTIPLE complaints about sick kittens, kittens going home at 8 weeks old, etc. This all goes back to Google “name of cattery” and “complaints”.

Magnadolz Athena Photo by Diana Starr of Starrlight Photography
Magnadolz Athena
Photo by Diana Starr of Starrlight Photography

What do you want to look for in the parents of the kitten? Are genetic DNA tests like FIV, FeLV and HCM important? Why?

We have the cats pedigrees, which I will show to people. I don’t post them on the websites, because of unscrupulous people who would copy them, put them onto their cat and pass it off as one of mine.

Parents are usually, in the breeders homes. All of my breeding parents are tested for FIV, FeLV by oral swabs at UC Davis and Texas A&M veterinary genetics Laboratory.

They are given actual heart scans by a feline cardiologist. Some breeders send oral swabs to UC Davis and Texas A&M.

Now, if the breeder is doing oral swabs, the results should be “-/-“. They should NEVER be “+/+ or even “-/+”.

HCM is cardiomyopathy and if one parent is -/+, there’s a 1 in 4 chance that it will be passed onto a kitten.

There is NO EXCUSE for breeding any cat with a +, it’s just not worth it.

I have to put my head on the pillow at night and know that I’ve done the best I can for my cats, kittens and buyers. It simply is not worth damaging my reputation.

FIV is feline HIV+/AIDS. FELv is feline leukemia. If any of my breeding cats turned positive, for any of these, they would be removed from my breeding program and desexed immediately! It’s just not worth passing these onto their kittens.
Enough said.

RW SGC Black Doll Angelic Theresa CZ Fi Photo by Diana Starr of Starrlight Photography
RW SGC Black Doll Angelic Theresa CZ/Fi Photo by Diana Starr of Starrlight Photography

How old should a kitten be when it comes to your home? Why?

Kittens receive their first vaccine at 8 weeks old. Second one is 12 weeks and 3rd one is 16 weeks.

Many people would LOVE a 6-8 week old kitten to experience their growth. Unless you’re a breeder, forget this idea. At that age, kittens are still nursing from Mom, learning to use a litterbox, clean themselves, use a scratching post and socialize with their littermates. This is really a critical age.

If you take a kitten too soon, you’re asking for problems. Ragdolls should be social butterflies, greeting family, not hiding in the closet, shaking.

My kittens usually don’t go home until after their 3rd vaccine, at 16 weeks. I do this to protect the kitten, and not pass the expense of another vaccine onto the new parents.

Also, some kittens are what we refer to as “under evaluation”. This is when a breeder is thinking about keeping this kitten for their own breeding program, or another breeder is interested in putting that kitten into their breeding program.

What are your thoughts on vaccinations? Are they important?

I give a 3:1 vaccine (for rhinotracheitis, calici and panleukopenia) at 8, 12 and 16 weeks. Before 8 weeks, they have their immunity from Mamma.

After that, they’re given a 4:1 vaccine every year (adds chlamydic psittaci)

Now, I have titers drawn on my cats yearly, to ensure they need that 4:1. I’m not an antivaxxer, but, don’t want to overmedicate/overvaccinate them.

Sometimes, they don’t need that vaccine. It’s more expensive to do the titer test, than to give the vaccine, but, I want (what, in my opinion) the best for my cats.

Since I’m an RN, I give my own vaccines. They run almost $8 each, as opposed to the vet, even the low cost clinic, which is more than double.

RW SGC Black Doll Angelic Theresa CZFi as an 8 month old Photo by Tetsu
RW SGC Black Doll Angelic Theresa CZ/Fi as an 8 month old. Photo by Tetsu.

How do you know for sure your Ragdoll kitten is a purebred Ragdoll kitten?

You don’t, unless you want to send a swab to UC Davis or Texas A&M Veterinary genetics Laboratory. You have to trust the breeder’s word.

What is the price for a Ragdoll kitten? Why does it vary from breeder to breeder?

Expect to pay more in a big city, like LA, as opposed to a rural home in Connecticut.

Also, if one, or both, parents are International/Regional Winners, International Champions (in FEFi), Supreme Grand Champion in TICA, their offspring will cost more.

Expect anywhere from $950-$1800 for a pet quality. This is a kitten who may have a spot of color where they shouldn’t. Or white tipped ears or tail. It has nothing to do with the health or personality of the cat.

It’s just not the cat who will do well in a show ring. This is what 95% of my buyers want. They don’t want to show the kitten, they just want a sweet, healthy, social, floppy RD.

Show quality is where the colors are almost perfect. Now, look, I’ve been doing this for over 12 years and there are very few kittens who are show quality. They can be $500 more.

Breeding quality, the sky is the limit. I know someone who is selling breeders overseas for $20,000!! Each! I’m not one of those people. I have very few people who I would trust with one of my lines, to breed.

Is it important whether or not the breeder shows their cats?

There are many opinions on showing cats. It’s really a beauty contest. Which cat, in the judges opinion, is the most perfectly marked and breed standard.

Breed standards are written by a dozen RD breeders, voted in by general RD members, who write exactly where the markings should be, the shape of the eyes, the bridge of the nose, the length of the body, and tail, the length of the coat. It’s all very complicated.

There are excellent breeders who don’t show, because they have obligations with family members, that keep them home.

On the other hand, I know of breeders who DO show, and are even on the list of recommended breeders for TICA/CFA, but have had cats removed from their homes for sanitation reasons, or have “rare mink/sepia, yellow/green eyed RD in their lines. These can’t be shown.

Please remember buyers, Ragdolls are pointed breeds, and all pointed breeds have BLUE EYES! No exceptions.

Buyers must also consider, if they want a show cat, that the cat may not like showing. I have one, who is absolutely the most perfect RD, and was shown until she was 8 months old. (That’s when they go from Kitten class to Champion Cat class.)

It was then, that my darling began letting me know she didn’t want to be here. She peed on my bed in the RV, hid in her litterbox at the show, and was miserable. After that one show, she stayed home. I’m not forcing a cat to show. It’s not in her best interest.

RW SGCSGCA Calirags Billie Jean of Magnadolz pole dancing for TICA Judge Sharon Kalani Photo by Sharon Shulby
RW SGC/SGCA Calirags Billie Jean of Magnadolz pole dancing for TICA Judge Sharon Kalani Photo by Sharon Shulby

Do you think it’s right or wrong for a breeder to allow a prospective kitten buyer to come by and meet the kittens?

Absolutely, my buyers come, in order of their names on the list, and meet the kittens, and the parents, (although my Kings spend little time with buyers, just because they’re boys)

Often, the buyer will want a “female blue bicolor, but, end up with a male seal mitted. Refer back to “the cat chooses you”.

I had one family who was moving cross country, already had 1 of my breedings and wanted a second one. As soon as it was safe (kitten was vaccinated), they picked him and visited 3x a week until they moved.

What do you think of shipping kittens – like if you were to buy a kitten and have it sent via air courier to you?

I’ve had 1 cat shipped to me from an overseas breeder. She was amazing. The cat’s pedigree was what I wanted in my lines.

I researched the courier and transportation company. I wasn’t disappointed. Everyone was honest, responsible and reliable. And I love my boy! I digress.

My buyers come here, pick their kitten, visit their kitten and take them home, IN A CARRIER, when it’s time.

I have used a wonderful courier, who I know personally, to take a breeding kitten to my Sister, another RD breeder, in Boston. But, again, we ALL must do due diligence when shipping.

RW SGC Calirags Billie Jean of Magnadolz Photo by Helmi
RW SGC Calirags Billie Jean of Magnadolz Photo by Helmi

How do you tell from photos if they kittens are healthy or not?

You can’t

Too much stealing others photos, photoshopping, etc.

They shouldn’t have any eye discharge, and should be little furballs.

Should kittens be desexed before they go home?

ABSOLUTELY! there is NO reason to send an intact kitten home and hope the buyer will have them spayed/neutered. Even if the registration paperwork isn’t sent home until the breeder receives a copy of spay/neuter.

I believe in “early spay/neuter”, kittens over 2# can be desexed without complications.

It’s too easy to breed them and “hang papers on them” (meaning lie about who the cat is, and their pedigree.)

I’ve seen this done.

RW SGC SGCA Calirags Billie Jean of Magnadolz photo by Diana Starr of Starrlight Photography
RW SGC/SGCA Calirags Billie Jean of Magnadolz photo by Diana Starr of Starrlight Photography

Microchip or not?

Again, Absolutely. The vet will implant one at the time of desexing. And my info always remains on the website of the microchip company. In case the cat gets out, or is turned into the shelter, after the owner dies. Whatever. There is always a way to contact me.

RW SGC Willowtreerags Sylbr8 of Magnadolz as a 3 month old kitten Photo by Diana Starr of Starrlight Photography
RW SGC Willowtreerags Sylbr8 of Magnadolz as a 3 month old kitten. Photo by Diana Starr of Starrlight Photography

How to know, for sure, what color pattern your Ragdoll is?

I have a cat who we initially thought was a seal mitted. That’s brown with white paws. The more I showed him, the lighter he seemed to get. None of the judges noticed, it was only me. My friends told me I was nuts. I sent a swab to both UC Davis and Texas A&M Veterinary genetics Laboratory for confirmation. Well, it turns out he was a CHOCOLATE mitted. (lighter brown)

His Daddy was Chocolate mitted and his Mamma was a blue bicolor. The breeder had her tested and turns out, Mamma carries chocolate. One of the happiest days in my, and the breeder’s life!

In conclusion, If this prevents even ONE person from heartbreak, I’m happy.

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Hi, I’m Jenny Dean, creator of Floppycats! Ever since my Aunt got the first Ragdoll cat in our family, I have loved the breed. Inspired by my childhood Ragdoll cat, Rags, I created Floppycats to connect, share and inspire other Ragdoll cat lovers around the world,

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  1. Any advice… I purchased my 3rd Ragdoll recently & have not received the papers. I was told that they haven’t come in. This was over 2 months ago. I’ve contacted the breeder and was given a story & still nothing.

  2. Wanda Wildrick says:

    This is super information that could prevent a broken heart. I had not purchased a pedigree cat for many years as my kitties had passed and I had one left. Wanting another I was cruising and came across many scams, which totally shocked me. $400 kittens, $100 shipping, lots of pressure….I did lots more research and after months found the perfect breeder for me.

  3. Another SUPER PAWESOME & FABULOUS breeder interview, Jenny honey! Great info and such lurvely pics! A BIG PURRY TYSVM to Sharon for her love, devotion & respect for Our Amazing Ragdoll Breed. Her cattery and outlook sound purrfect! Really enjoyed this interview a lot! Great job!

    Big hugs & lots of love & purrs!

    Patti & Miss Pink Sugarbelle

  4. Sharon, Thank you for the great interview. I loved reading about your cattery and the way you breed. Also, I thought it was a great idea to have kittens chipped with your info at the time of desexing.
    Probably what I loved most was seeing the photos of all your beautiful babies!!
    Thank you for being a great breeder!!

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