As a breeder, one of the saddest stories I hear is the story of someone who has saved their hard earned money, sometimes for a number of years, in the hopes of buying that pet that have always dreamed of, only to get scammed out of their money and their heart broken by not receiving an animal they have already fallen in love with. Sometimes they are trying to fill a void left by the loss of a much beloved furry member of the family, or maybe it's always been a goal to get that special breed of pet that has for so long captured their interest. These individuals are already emotionally invested in an animal that doesn't exist, and it is especially devastating to individuals who are already suffering from the loss of a beloved pet.
When someone expresses an interest in one of my kittens, I always hear "There are so many scammers out there. I just don't know who I can trust." "How do I know I can trust you?" To answer these questions, I have put together some ideas of how you can verify that:
#1 The pet you are interested in is indeed in the possession of the breeder - and -
#2 The breeder is legitimate
My first suggestion is always this: Browse their website thoroughly. Key word "website". Websites are not usually free, and they take maintenance, which is/can be a serious time investment. If the breeder does not have a website, I would start to question their authenticity. This does not imply that there are not good breeders out there that only sell on social media, because that is certainly not the case. However, if you are not familiar with them and you need extra piece of mind, a website can tell you a lot about the breeder and whether or not they are legitimate.
A legitimate breeder will almost usually have a "theme" or pattern to their photos, most of the time, unintentional. Many breeders can simply look at the photo of a kitten, and tell you who the breeder of that kitten is because of the background in the photos, or by the style of photography. Many breeders take "in the moment" photos of their kittens, meaning they don't set up props and fancy backgrounds with extra lighting to capture the best image of the little fluffers. Their photos will be recognizable from the landscaping, furniture, color of walls, decorating schemes, etc. Browse the website, and this "theme" will be consistent throughout. Other breeders are masterful photographers, amazing with holiday and seasonal themes, and just make me so jealous of the uncanny skills of getting fluffers to pose for pictures! This talent will be consistent in every one of their photos, again, lending credence to their legitimacy. If you go to a website and every background is different, some photos are staged and others are not, and the decorating scheme seems all over the place, this person has likely stolen other breeders pictures and posted them on their social media or website. I have seen these myself. I have even seen some of my own photos that were stolen from my Facebook page on someone else's scam account. Many breeders have started using watermarks on their photos, which is an excellent idea because it keeps scammers from being able to use their photos. Many websites will not allow anyone to download the photos on them, like mine, keeping scammers from stealing them. So look for consistency with the photos. Also, the kittens will all look similar from the same litter. If someone has a litter of kittens that is a "potpourri" litter and there are no photos of the parents, beware.
If you find yourself interested in a kitten and reach out to the breeder via social media or their website, don't be afraid to ask for a facetime call, zoom, or a video of them with the kitten. Most breeders will be more than happy to do this because it is an opportunity to show you the kitten, answer any questions, and show you the parents. This will let you know that the person you are talking to does indeed have the kitten you are interested in.
**Ask for a referral.** When I am talking to someone who is having a hard time trusting after being scammed, I will refer them to another breeder. Not because I am irritated or not wanting to sell that person a kitten, but because that is what good breeders do. I have three breeders that are in my "circle" (every breeder has a circle) and I would not hesitate to send a prospective buyer to one of them. Sometimes there will be something about someone else's site or social media pages that will just make someone feel more comfortable with the process, and I totally understand that. By referring a family to another breeder I haven't lost anything, and possibly gained trust for a future fur baby purchase or referral.
Lastly, ask questions that can be verified. Who are they registered through? Who is their veterinarian?
Most breeders will tell you whether they are registered through CFA or TICA (most common in the United States), and the exact name the cattery is registered under. From there you can go to those organizations and look the cattery up. Due to the large number of breeders who have had their registration papers stolen and used in scamming circles, most breeders will not send copies of them out any more. Breeders will also not show copies of the pedigrees until after purchase because those can be stolen as well and used as tools to lure victims into pet scams. So, ask who their veterinarian is. My veterinarian will verify to someone that I am indeed a client there. That is all they will tell anyone, but they know that for me this is a method of verification for prospective buyers.
But what if you are interested in a kitten from a breeder overseas?? Look through their social media friends list. You will likely see a breeder in the United States in their friends list. Be nosey. If you see several breeders in their friends list, they are likely legitimate. If you see none, I would be skeptical.
I hope that you find this little blog helpful. Remember: take your time when searching for the perfect fluffer friend, do your research and ask lots of questions. Ask for that video call. Ask for additional pictures. If the breeder is local, ask to see the fluffer in person before you place a deposit. Lastly, look for a rescue organization for that particular breed. That may be a great place to find the purrfect fluffer friend.