Written By: Shauntay Burris of Scantily Scad Sphynx
An ethical Sphynx breeder is actively working towards the goals of improving the breed’s health, promoting the breed through educating the public, supporting the breed via rescue work or volunteer work whenever possible, and preserving and protecting the natural mutation which helps make our breed so special. This should never be intended as a source of income, breeding should not SUPPORT a breeder, instead a breeder should be supporting the breed. This is a life consuming passion and hobby that is very expensive to maintain and establish.
An ethical Sphynx breeder should be doing everything in their power to ensure the over all health and intrinsic strength of the immune systems of their cats. This should include recurrent health tests, such as URI and fecal PCR tests, annual or bi-annual echocardiograms by a board certified veterinary cardiologist (DACVIM), as well as the appropriate DNA tests for PKD1, PRA, CMS, blood type etc.
An ethical Sphynx breeder should be happy to furnish you with these health tests at your immediate request, and should be transparent in the description of the health of their cats and consequentially their breeding program.
An ethical Sphynx breeder would be happy to connect you with their veterinarian and cardiologist as a reference to their breeding program, their breeding standard and their over all animal husbandry. They would also be happy to connect you with all previous pet buyers, as personal references for their experiences throughout the adoption process.
An ethical Sphynx breeder would be happy to show you how their cats and kittens are raised, and this should be a healthy, clean and loving environment. The use of confinement is widely acceptable during the first few weeks of life, as a means to keep a litter safe from environmental hazards (such as falling off a bed) and to aid in litter box training, but as kittens grow and become litter box trained it is crucial to their wellbeing, physical and psychological development that they are raised in a stimulating environment that nurtures play, kitten feats of acrobatics, and exploration. Being confined to a cage does not allow any of this and should be considered, in my humble opinion, inappropriate and unnecessary. It is important to note, that while I allow home visits, this might not be something others are comfortable with; after all, our cats live in our homes and some breeders might not feel safe opening their homes to strangers.
An ethical Sphynx breeder will have sufficient time to devote to the social development of a litter; this means several hours or more a day to cleaning, playing, loving and socialization. Because of this paramount requirement for individual time allotment, it is understandable that raising a large number of litters simultaneously can impede the ability to adequately provide this crucial time to each litter and should be discouraged.
An ethical Sphynx breeder would never hand off pregnant cats or litters to be raised by pet buyers. These are often referred to as Satellite Breeders. This goes against one of the salient principles of an ethical breeder. Every single cat in their breeding program, and every single litter should be insurmountably valuable to them. The value is not monetary, but is instead a value to the foundation of their goals, breeding standards and program ambitions. Because of this, an ethical breeder would never risk their litters being raised remotely by a pet owner who is not experienced in parturition, neonatal care, dystocia and any other possible complication. An ethical Sphynx breeder is wholly responsible for every life they bring into this world, and that responsibility should be heavy on THEIR shoulders, not the shoulders of others.
An ethical Sphynx breeder is knowledgable and passionate about the nutrition offered to their cats. While the views and opinions differ on what the pinnacle of nutritious diets are, each breeder should concern themselves with offering their cats the best possible diet. Diet plays a monumental role in the over all health of our cats, and while I respect the views of others, I choose to feed my cats and kittens a balanced raw diet.
An ethical Sphynx breeder will have as many questions for you, as you have for them. Expect to be thoroughly screened to ensure you are a suitable home for one of their kittens. A breeder should care where each and every kitten is placed and will want to be kept updated throughout the life of the cat and will keep you updated as well on familial health,HCM screens on littermates and parents.
An ethical Sphynx breeder will actively show in a recognized association. Our breed standard is very important for the longevity of our breed as well as the over all breed goals. A breeder should be actively working towards the written standard and should have healthy, well maintained and social examples of the breed to advertise their breeding program and goals. It is important to get professional and unbiased opinions of our cats so that we are always working towards the goal of producing a perfect Sphynx. While most pet owners do not care about a wonderful ear placement or a lovely profile, if no one was breeding towards the written standard then eventually we would deviate so far from what we all love as the look of our breed. The hairlessness alone is not what sets our breed apart, as a hairless persian will never be a sphynx, and neither would a hairless siamese. This is also an important way a breeder can support the cat fancy, which we rely on for certified registration, lineage and traceability of familial health in pedigreed cats.
An ethical Sphynx breeder registers all of their cats and kittens. While many pet owners do not know the importance of pedigrees and registrations, they are one of the biggest tools we have to track health, familial hcm status, relation and in making ethical sound breeding decisions.
An ethical Sphynx breeder will keep you involved throughout the development of your kitten. Weekly photos and videos not only offer a way for you to feel connected to your future kitten, but they also provide a great way to determine clinically obvious signs of poor health, i.e. runny noses, sneezing or coughing, swollen, red or weepy eyes, frail and thin appearance, hip bones or vertebrae visible, difficulty with mobility, sternal posturing, shyness etc
An ethical Sphynx breeder will not allow kittens to leave before they are 12-16 weeks (16 weeks being optimal). Prior to this kittens are too young, their adaptive immune systems are likely not accurately developed yet, they receive crucial social queues from their mother and litter mates up until the age of 14-16 weeks, and although holding on to kittens longer incurs significantly higher expenses due to feeding, additional vet visits etc for the breeder, it ensures you get a stable, healthy and adaptive kitten. Kittens should be vaccinated at least two times, though a 3rd booster at 16 weeks is ideal due to scientific studies which have shown MDA (maternally derived antibodies) levels still present up until 16 weeks of age, thusly making all previous vaccinations ineffective in triggering immune responses before that date in some cases. Kittens should be dewormed or have had fecal testing done to ensure they are free of parasites, and should have had multiple veterinary examinations, preferably from several different veterinarians for the benefit of additional opinions.
An ethical Sphynx breeder spays and neuters all pet cats and kittens prior to them leaving their home. This is a non debatable issue. If a kitten is intended for a pet home, then the cost, care and responsibility of the surgery should be on the hands of the breeder, not the pet buyer. Surgery always entails risk and this risk should not be the stress of a new pet owner, not to mention the healing process is much quicker when it takes place in a familiar environment versus after moving to a new home. This also protects the kitten without a fraction of a doubt that they will never accidentally be bred, or intentionally be used in a kitten mill or back yard breeder endeavor.
An ethical Sphynx breeder will require you to sign a contract for the adoption of the kitten, and will provide you with a health guarantee of at least greater then 2 years. This contract protects you, the breeder, and most importantly the kitten. It should always be clearly stipulated that in the event the kitten cannot be kept, it ALWAYS goes back to the breeder as the rehoming process and screening of new owners should be extremely important to a breeder, and a new contract to protect said kitten should be signed with the new owners. An ethical Sphynx breeder would never allow their kitten or cat to just be given away to a stranger without properly getting to know them first and ensuring a contract and guarantee is signed.
An ethical Sphynx breeder will not allow a cat or kitten from them to be declawed under any circumstances. This should be clearly outlined in the contract to protect the cat or kitten.
An ethical Sphynx breeder is open, honest and transparent about bad test results as well as the good. HCM screening is not as black and white, and regardless of stringent screening protocols and pedigree research and diligence, HCM can happen to anyone. A breeder should not be judged on wether or not they every produce an HCM positive cat, instead they should be judged on their actions concerning that situation. Sharing the results and notifying all owners of related cats (both breeders and pet owners) and making the required breeding decisions to reduce the risk of disease propagation is all that can be expected of a reputable, caring breeder. No one is immune to this disease and ostracizing breeders who come forward with bad results only conditions an environment where breeders refuse to share results altogether.
An ethical Sphynx breeder will continue to track the heart health of their cats until they are at least 8 years old, regardless if they are still active in the breeding program so they can trace the heart health of their breeding programs for many generations.
An ethical Sphynx breeder will always be more then happy to help you throughout the life of your cat, with advice and experience, support and help in any way they can. They should be an invaluable resource to their pet homes as well as to the breed community as a whole