How to Know if a Cat Breeder is Reputable: An Interview with Bette Willette

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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.  

So, a reputable Ragdoll breeder, reached out to me and wondered if she could offer some more advice.  I said, I’d love to put it on the site.  She then went ahead and asked many of her real Ragdoll breeder friends.  

Bette Willette of Willetteragdol was the first to reply.  Thank you to Bette for taking the time to do this interview with us.  Thank you, too, to Bette, for sending me fun, legitimate photos to include in this interview.

Can you please tell me about you and your cattery?

Absolutely, but I don’t know where to start. I think the best way is to read my website especially the frequently asked questions. I cover everything from health, brushing teeth, to feeding .

All of these questions are covered on my website under the frequently asked questions tab. We are a complete open book …welcome questions and I happy to answer even if a parent is just curious.

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

I will not sell to a parent until I do a phone interview. I will not except a deposit without knowing what kind of life my kitten will have.

I ask questions about the kittens environment, do my parents own or rent? Do you have any other kitties/dogs? Have they ever even had a cat? Why do the want to add a Ragdoll Cat to their family? Our interviews last anywhere between a half and hour to an hour, it’s different with every parent.

We also are here for our parents for the life of the kitty. I encourage them to ask me questions and to stay in touch.  You can see many photos on our Facebook page of past kittens, while always thanking our families for sending the photos in first name only to protect our parents privacy…once my parent has chosen the kitten, we send weekly photos. Again this is all covered on my website.  

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

Again I don’t know where to begin. How many cats do they have? How long have they been breeding? Why are they breeding ? Do you cage your cats? Does a licensed veterinarian do your medicals? How many cats do they have? How many boys? Does the boy have his own room, or is he in a cage?

A breeder must provide adequate accommodations for the male to prevent over surprise pregnancies …I can go on and on and on…mostly all of these questions are covered on our website.  

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What are signs of a good Ragdoll cat breeder?

Absolutely… Breeding for the love of the breed. Breeding for health first and foremost. Even beautiful cats can be sick. Having a clean healthy environment for the kitties. Providing proper nutrition and medical care.

Being able to prove all adults have been tested for disease and also provide proof they have been DNA tested for HCM and PKD. Have they also had blood work, all covered on our website. This is just for starters.

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What are signs of a bad Ragdoll cat breeder?

Yes, what I tell parents is to Google the cattery/complaints or bad breeding.

  • Ask questions and compare breeders …If a breeder does not answer your question or avoids the email don’t buy from them. …
  • Overcrowding, not testing for disease/DNA testing. Excepting deposits without any communication whatsoever.
  • All parents should be interviewed before excepting any deposit.
  • Shipping kitties all over the world without knowing what kind of life they will have. I think this is a bad greedy breeder. I would rather sell a perfect kitten as a pet knowing that cat has a great life. Then to sell for thousands of dollars to a total stranger. Frankly I don’t know how some people sleep at night.How to Know if a Cat Breeder is Reputable An Interview with Bette Willette IMG_3920

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?

Any reputable breeder does not change the prices with the wind. A reputable breeder has set prices.

They may increase the prices once a year. Just as a landlord make increase the price in an apartment. Or a store increases their prices in their products. Changing prices is a sure sign of a scam artist. So is being vague or not listing prices on the website.  

Buyer beware, like anything else …do your homework.

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

Perfect kittens always sell for more. There is a set price. It should be listed on the website – black and white crystal clear, no games.

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

Absolutely, breeders should register all the kittens.

We are members of TICA so when my kittens leave they leave with their registration in the envelope along with medical paperwork and things pertinent to the kitten’s life along with proof that the kitten has been spayed/neutered signed by my veterinarian surgeon. 

We also will do the pedigree for parents upon request . However all kittens leave with their TICA, CFA Registration…

Breeders who say that pet kittens do not need to be registered that is a sign of a scam artist… all reputable breeders should provide the kittens registration whether the kitten comes from TICA or CFA. Even if that registration sits in a draw. In some cases both TICA and CFA…

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

Absolutely, if they are not a member then they’re not a reputable breeder simple as that. You should be able to find your breeder on the websites mentioned.

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

All breeders should be able to send a copy of the parents pedigree, medical paperwork so the parent knows that the parent is not passing along anything that the kitten can get is far is genetic defects such as HCM, PKD, feline aids, and feline leukemia.

The kitten should not have parasites.

We also do a fecal lab parasite screen test with every litter so our parent knows our kittens are not harboring Giardia or coccidia. If our parents request a copy of the parents’ bloodwork and DNA we are happy to send that along as well. All they have to do is ask. For me it’s as simple as pulling. Copy from the adults file and sending it to my parents.

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

Ragdolls are like men … sorry guys … slow to mature and need that extra time with the mother . Our kittens also get two rounds of vaccines done by a licensed veterinarian. They are spay / neutered so they must be around 12 / 13 weeks old . .

What are your thoughts on vaccinations? Are they important?

Omg, they are extremely important. Distemper can be brought in on clothing, this is why we are a closed cattery.

Our kittens are vaccinated twice with the current vaccine provided by our veterinarian. For example Distemper…this is a horrible disease and extremely contagious. This is why they must have all the current vaccines done by a doctor.

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

Our kittens are purebred and we have the documentation to prove it. Selling a half Ragdoll is just wrong. You can get a mix breed at the animal shelter.

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

Again our prices, I clearly state on our website – there are no games, no gimmicks it’s not hard to find.

    • Pet quality kitten … a kitten that may have a little spot or not symmetrical is $ 1700
    • Perfection to breed standards and Guidelines $1900.

The price of kitties also varies in different locations of the country. Over priced kittens are a red flag . Under priced is generally a backyard breeder/craigslist. With us there are no hidden fees, everything is listed on our website. Our price includes all medical testing, fecal testing , two inoculations, and of course spay/ neuter . Here at Willetteragdol our kitties have been seen by a veterinarian three times before they leave our  cattery.

The first time this is mostly about the mother – the parents do not receive a copy because the babies are only a few days old at best and this first initial visit is about the mother. Making sure the kittens are nursing and she has proper milk to provide for her wee little ones .

Our Veterinarian is back again when the babies are 7 to 8 weeks old to get their first total check up and first inoculation… When our babies are 11 to 13 weeks depending on the available of our surgeon and the weight of the babies they receive their second vaccine, spayed/neutered, we microchip on request of the parent for a extra fee which is of course listed on the website and our parents are made aware of this when they choose their kittens.

We also inform them at the first interview.The kittens go home usually within days after they recover from surgery . We really feel 12/13 weeks is ideal age because our kittens need that time to bond with their new families . There is a window of time too soon is not good because the kitten needs to be with their mum and litter mates. We feel our age around 12 weeks is idea for the our kittens growth / development, and of course bonding with their new families.

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

Showing is fine for some breeders. For us at Willetteragdol… we don’t show at this time . I have a family member with Alzheimer’s and we cannot get away for a weekend. No one wants to babysit a 220 pound man who is incontinent and has behavior problems.

My family and my kitties will always come first. I make no apologies for not showing at this time. The truth is we cannot get away for more than 2 to 3 hours at any time let alone weekend.

My kittens and my family come first. Plus we are a closed cattery and so I do not want to expose my cats to other cats. Because we are a closed cattery and we have a license veterinarian who come to us we do not feel a need to expose our cats to other cats . We breed to Ragdoll breed standards and our reputation speaks for itself .

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What does it mean to have a pet quality, breeder quality or show quality kitten?

Pet quality is a kitten that isn’t quite perfect. Maybe she has a little mark on her left back leg. A little white spot on her nose. This would make her a pet quality and $200 less at Willetteragdol.

Show quality is a perfect kitten to breed standards. Her eyes are perfect, her ears are perfect. Her coat is like a bunny soft. All my kittens are lovely and have been socialized to perfection. Health comes first, personality than beauty that’s just the way we roll here. Parents are made aware of this during our “kitten picking”. It’s just our priorities.

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

If I wasn’t such a germ freak I wouldn’t have a problem with it. However there are things that can be brought in on the outside that could make my babies sick.

Also we have unvaccinated kittens that are too young and have not seen the doctor as of yet so we do not allow parents to come into the home until the day they pick up the kittens. Even our visitors, people who we consider family, are not allowed to handle our babies until they have had their first shots.

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

We will ship a kitten only with a parent or guardian/courier …I will not ship a kitten alone until the day comes they sprout wings. Kittens that I sell to out-of-state parents or Canadian parents must be picked up in person. I sell very few breeder kitties because a breeder must meet our level of care. We also will hire a courier if need be. We never ever would consider flying a kitten alone, never ever will happen.

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

Most the time yes. The eyes are not bright and shiny the coat is dull. They may have goop in their eyes. Dirty kittens are kitty mill kittens in many cases.

We are a open book here and send photos to our parents every week and on request as long as it’s after 2 PM because mornings are for the care of my beautiful cats and kittens.

On a personal note, I want to thank you for this opportunity. I hope it gives parents the tools to buy from reputable breeders.

Comments (3)

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  1. WOWZA! Another SUPER PAWESOME & FABULOUS interview, Jenny honey! TYSVM to YOU and Betty for sharing such great information with all of us! LURVE those pics! STUNNING Ragdolls for sure! Those kittens just melted my heart immediately…now I want a kitten…lol! Luckily, I have one as Miss PSB is just a Great Big 7-Year-Old Kitten! 🙂 <3

    Big hugs & lots of love & purrs!

    Patti & Miss Pink Sugarbelle 🙂 <3 <3 <3

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