It is unfortunate, but we live in a world full of deception, and the breeding world is no exception as many breeds are expensive. You might have received phishing emails, or text messages from long-lost relatives asking for money, or even calls pretending to be the IRS or another government entity in order to steal your identity or banking information.
Every month at FurryTail Ragdolls, I receive at least one call, email or text from potential clients who recently discovered (or suspected) they had been ripped-off in their journey of Ragdoll ownership. The story is usually the same - they put down a hefty deposit for a kitten, only to be contacted weeks or months later for more money. Sometimes it is for unexpected vet bills, additional transportation costs or previously undiscussed and unapproved expenses.
That being said, there are still many, many legitimate and ethical Ragdoll breeders out there, and here is what you should look for. Obviously this list is not exhaustive, nor should this information be taken as legal advice. This is simply our observation and opinion, which we are passing along to help educate our families in protecting themselves from a potential scam. There is nothing more heartbreaking than allowing yourself to fall in love with your future feline companion, only to find out they never existed. FTR would love your business, but we understand that we are not for everyone, we may not have the kitten you are looking for - when you are looking for it, we may not meet your budget needs, etc. Should you desire referrals for other reputable catteries, please do not hesitate to reach out as we will do all we can to help you have a great experience, no matter which breeder you ultimately go through.
Details, Details, details!
When you are browsing the website for a potential cattery, how easy is it to detect the cattery location? Can you find the name of the breeder? The history on how they came to be? Do they perform DNA testing for HCM? A legitimate cattery, especially in today's world, is going to be as transparent as possible. That being said, we also live in the information age where you still have to be wary of HOW much personal information you put out there. If you do not easily come up with the name of the breeder or their history, it does not necessarily mean they are not legit. Ask questions! If they are unable or unwilling to give you verifiable information, client references, veterinarian reference, etc, you should consider looking for another breeder. Scammer websites will generally have little to ZERO specific information - the less details they provide, the less they have to remember, and the more they are free to create them as they go along.
Are they associated with TICA or CFA?
A legitimate breeder will be registered with one (or both) of those organizations. FurryTail Ragdolls is a TICA registered cattery under "FURRYTAILRAGS". All of our Kings and Queens are TICA registered pedigreed Ragdolls.
Do they have an online presence?
Can you find the breeder on social media? This does not immediately disqualify a cattery from being legitimate as there are still many "old school" breeders who do not have social media accounts, or even a website. I would imagine, though, that most breeders today have some form of online cattery presence and social media account(s) - Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.
Are actual photos of their kittens posted online?
Can you see photos of the parents when requested? How many photos of their kittens or catteries are available? Scam sites will contain minimal photos, and most will be cropped small to include just the kitten. If you are purchasing a specific kitten, and you are questioning the validity of the breeder, do a quick "Google Image Search" of the photo of your kitten that they provided to you. If that photo shows up anywhere else, that should raise some red flags. Scammers will "steal" real photos from other breeders (usually overseas). These photos will come up in search results with each site the photo(s) resides. In every instance where we were provided a photo of the kitten, we found that photo associated with several fake sites, and one legit site where the owner had many photos of that same kitten, or where they were IN the photo with said kitten. How can you spot the real site? They will (usually) have a bigger version of the original photo - uncropped. Additionally, you'll find greater details about the breeder, cattery or info as notated above.
Are you provided with a NAME and phone number, or just a contact form on their website? If you were provided with a phone number, like the image search, do a number search! Does that number come up in multiple catteries (usually different breeds). While some breeders may breed two or three different breeds, most usually focus on one breed - and where they do have more than one, each will be featured generally on one website (or will be linked back on both/multiple sites). Scammers will use the same or similar information across each cattery site, but will not link to their other sites. Additionally, in most cases, the "catteries" are located in different parts of the country/world. If you call them, do they answer? Are they willing to video chat with you? Most catteries are closed, but many will allow visits on a case-by-case basis. If you want to visit their cattery, what is their response? Use your best judgment here. Listen to your intuition! I once google searched a phone number and it came up on six different breeder catteries, for six different breeds of felines.
Excessive down payments, or asking for additional payments?
Or Low Fees compared to other breeders in the area. If the "going rate" for Ragdolls in your area is $800-$2500, and you find a breeder asking just $300 or $400, it should raise some questions. Is this a backyard breeder who does not care about the genetics of their lines? Do they sell sick kittens? Most legitimate and ethical catteries ask for a deposit before holding a kitten for their new owners. These are usually non-refundable if the new family changes their mind before taking possession of their new kitten. This fee helps the breeder in that situation, with finding a new suitable family to take the kitten as many families are turned away once a kitten is reserved. You can expect to pay $150-$500 as a deposit, with many factors driving the amount - coloring/markings of the specific kitten, show quality or breeder quality, geographical location, etc. If you are asked for a deposit higher than expected, this could be cause for concern. If it is paired with any of the information above, it should certainly be cause to continue on your search. If you are EVER asked for additional money prior to picking up the kitten and it was not previously arranged, do not do it! Research, research!
Check the reviews for your potential cattery BEFORE paying any money! Make sure you're looking at off-site reviews (like Facebook, Google, Yelp, etc - not reviews on their website, as those can be self-generated; you want verifiable reviews from real people). It is not uncommon for a cattery to have a few bad reviews. Especially consider the amount of time they have been breeding versus the amount of reviews they may have, as the longer they have been breeding, the more likely they will encounter a few negative reviews. No one is perfect, myself included, and despite our best efforts, a kitten may slip through with a previously undetected problem. However, more than a few complaints of kitten illnesses like FIP, or genetic issues such as HCM or PKD, over a long length of time should be a HUGE red flag! If the parents have been genetically tested for HCM/PKD and are negative, all kittens will also be negative. If any problem arises in their lines, a good breeder is going to immediately retire the parent(s) and remedy the situation in their breeding program. It is unfortunate, but it can happen, and the remediation should be taken into consideration when making your decision to purchase a kitten from that breeder.