CallisteCats FAQ

A lot of thought has gone into your deciding on a Birman kitty, but have you given much thought to selecting a breeder? You will be bringing home the product of a breeder's line and environment - nature and nurture - so some time spent interviewing a prospective breeder will help in your selecting 'just the right kitten'.

How much do your kittens cost?

That depends upon what you looking for. Our kittens are priced individually according to several factors including color and quality. Our seal- and blue-point pet kittens begin at $750 (plus applicable sales tax if sold to CO residents) with a spay-neuter agreement (buyer pays).

At what age do you let your kittens go to new homes?

Of course, you will want your kitten to be weaned and box trained when you take him home, but he should also be independent of his mother, well socialized, and have a strong immune system. When a kitten is ready to go to his new home depends a lot upon the kitten himself. Most responsible breeders wait until they're at least 12 weeks old, but some kittens aren't ready until they are about 16 weeks old. There are many reasons for this, but proper socialization and having a fully functioning immune system are two good ones. You want a kitten that is accustomed to being handled every day. Kittens should be raised in a home environment. The frequently used phrase is 'raised underfoot', meaning that they are accustomed to being around people in a home environment. Naturally, you want to look for friendly, outgoing kittens, but you should also evaluate the temperament of the adults in the cattery whenever possible. This is your best indicator of the personality your kitten will have when it grows up.

Is it all right if we breed our pet female once or twice so that our children may witness the miracle of birth?

If you have determined that your children are old enough to witness the miracle of birth, have you also determined that they are old enough to witness the miracle of death? There's a lot more to successfully breeding cats than 'letting your girls run with the boys', and responsible breeding practices necessitate that our pet quality Birmans remain just that - pets! The kittens we sell as pets are not breeder quality animals and should not be used as such. We do occasionally have breeder quality kittens, but we choose to work exclusively with established and experienced breeders. If your pregnant queen was having a problem pregnancy, would you recognize it? Would you know what to do? In the case of a breech birth, will you recognize it and know what to do? If the queen spends too much time relaxing in the sun and not nursing her kitties, what then? Do you have the time or inclination to hand-feed a litter of kittens every few hours, day and night, week after week if something happens to the queen? Have you kitten-proofed your home? What male do you intend to use and is it even a Birman, or will you be breeding 'barn cats'? Unless you are willing to make the time, financial, and emotional commitments necessary to breed cats, please leave it all to professional breeders - that's a large part of what you are paying for when you buy a kitten!

Many people feel that it is necessary to allow a female to have at least one litter of kittens for the cat to be well socialized and healthy. This is complete nonsense! Consider that our policy on this matter is identical with thousands of other professional breeders, and the majority of people with female cats who have been altered without allowing them to breed have happy and healthy cats. If anything, allowing a cat to remain 'whole' will result in a more reclusive adult with undesirable habits. Consider that a queen in heat may try to literally dig her way out to find a male - any male. In fact, when Michael was a kid his family had a Siamese cat who was left home alone one morning when she was in heat and she tried to escape outside through a window air conditioner, tearing the front panel from the unit and shredding the aluminum fins on the heat exchanger! She cut her paws badly and required veterinary care. This has always impressed us as a rather extreme example of what a very determined ten-pound queen can do!

Is the cost of the spaying or neutering included in the price of the kitten?

No it is not. Our kittens are sold with a 'spay/neuter agreement'. This is a common term used by breeders which means that the buyer agrees to bear the cost of having the cat surgically altered at their own expense, and that the cat is never to be used for breeding purposes.

I have heard about 'early speutering'. What is it and do you recommend it?

The term 'speutering' is a handy contraction of the words 'spaying' and 'neutering'. Early speutering (technically called prepubertal gonadectomy) is the surgical altering of a kitten before six months of age, and is usually performed at about eight to twelve weeks of age.

Many breeders early speuter all of their kittens before sending them to their new homes and increase the price of their kittens accordingly. On the other hand, some breeders feel very strongly that early speutering is a bad idea and word their contracts such as to prohibit it. We tend toward this latter point of view, however we feel that with the exception of eventually altering the cat and never breeding it, the choice of whether to opt for early or conventional (at approximately six months) speutering is a matter to be decided by you and your veterinarian.

We have made an exhaustive search of the veterinary literature regarding the early procedure and am unconvinced that the procedure has been adequately demonstrated to be without deleterious physical developmental or behavioral effects that manifest later in life. There are fewer than half a dozen papers that have ever been published in professional veterinary journals concerning this procedure in cats, and most of what has been published is limited to detailing the complications attending to the surgical proicedure itself (and it appears to be quite safe), and all papers published to date have dealt with numbers of cats so small as to question the validity of the conclusions. Also, no study that has been published in a peer-reviewed journal has followed early speutered cats for more than eighteen months, and no study has ever been reproduced. In short, the long-term 'safety' of early speutering is based on junk science. There are in fact papers describing very significant behavioral and developmental abnormalities in species other than cats. Several of the papers concerning cats mention urethral abnormalities (causing urinary tract problems) in males that typically require surgical correction.

It is for these reasons that we do not recommend early speutering, but again we do not prohibit it. If you wish, we can provide you and your veterinarian with a detailed review of the current literature, and the pertinent references, so that you can make up your own mind. Should the early procedure be demonstrated to provide benefits beyond mere convenience to owners and breeders, then we may change our position on this.

To be fair and complete, there are a few demonstrated benefits attending to the early procedure: it is a simpler surgical procedure; there tends to be less bleeding; there are fewer postoperative infections; and there are fewer overall complications. However, as the kitten matures it is substantially less active.

Have the kittens you sell had all their shots?

The kitten you take home may have had it's first of three 'FRCP' vaccination shots. At present we are not aware of any vaccines which have been demonstrated to be completely without side effects and truly safe. There is a lot of controversy at present concerning vaccinations of household pets, and some fairly conservative advice from the Colorado State University Veterinary College regarding vaccinations may be found here. We feel that the vaccination of your pets is a personal matter to be decided by you in consultation with your chosen veterinarian.

What are 'papers', and do your kittens come with papers?

'Papers' are documents which are provided by purebred registries. The CallisteCats cats are registered with either or both of the two largest purebred cat registries in the world, the Cat Fanciers Association (CFA) and The International Cat Association (TICA). When you buy a cat 'with papers' you are assured that the cat is certifiably purebred, and that the breeder is working with purebred breedstock that was obtained with 'breeding rights'. Upon buying a cat from Callistecats arrangements will be made for you to receive his papers from the registry(s) for a small fee (you pay). Proper papers are never generated by the breeder but only by the registry, so if you buy a kitten "with papers" generated by the breeder the papers are less than genuine.

What is a 'backyard breeder' and a 'kitten mill'?

Broadly speaking, these are derogatory terms typically used by breeders to describe other breeders with which they have certain (often unspecified) objections. The most common understandings are that a 'mill' (a term I will use here to represent both) is using substandard breedstock (in whose opinion?), illegitimately obtained breedstock (such as an animal bought as a pet but used for breeding), or is breeding animals too closely related and producing highly inbred progeny. As most breeders are very closed-mouthed concerning their breeding stock and practices, you will often find one breeder referring to another as a 'mill' based upon rumor or conjecture. It must be stressed that most breeders have a lot of time and money tied-up in their breeding operation, but frequently what keeps someone in the breeding business is sheer ego! In other words, if one's animals are being compared to some other's it is often convenient to disparage the other's as being the product of a 'mill'. This is probably the most unfortunate aspect one encounters when interacting with breeders.

Frankly, there is very little profit realized in cat breeding. The vast majority who are involved in the fancy are 'hobby breeders' who are primarily motivated by an appreciation for a particular breed and a desire to generate a 'line' with a particular 'type' or 'look'. The CallisteCats cattery is interested in breeding true to the original Birman type. Other breeders may be interested in modifying the type, perhaps producing a smaller build, or a different head shape. At present, mny breeders are interested in introducing new colors (eg. red) or patterns (technically these are the result of introducing pattern modifier genes) into their Birman lines. There are some breeders who want a flatter more Persian-like muzzle, while some are striving to achieve a more pointed Siamese-like head. These are just a few examples of the experimenting performed by breeders. It is not our intention to criticize those who are doing this, but the CallisteCats Birmans are the traditional 'European' type: a very stocky body, large head with a full but blunt muzzle, and traditional seal and blue coloration.

Do you have a waiting list?

Yes we do. Serious breeders don't overproduce (a common criticism leveled against 'mills'). Many breeders typically have a backlog of people waiting for kittens and will decide to breed only when they have the right cats, when the queen is in good condition, and when they have the space, time, and money to devote to it. Far from being a moneymaking enterprise, we are lucky if our revenues cover our expenses, and most years they do not! Our intention however is to breed high-quality 'traditional' Birmans, and to make money - we make no excuses.

If we cannot provide you with exactly the kitten you are looking for in what you consider a reasonable length of time, we will refer you to another breeder who may have what you want. That's just the way we are! Be cautious however of any breeder who has nothing good to say about another cattery. Slander is all too common in the cat fancy - a reputable breeder doesn't have to speak ill of other breeders, they can simply remain silent.

Do you accept deposits for kittens?

No we do not, but we will try very hard to match you with what you are looking for. Once we determine the color and quality of our kittens we will contact those people for whom the kitten will be a good 'fit' - typically, this does not occur until the kitten is about two months old. We will accept 'earnest money' for a specific kitten, however this is not a 'deposit' and imposes no obligation either upon you to buy from us, nor upon us to sell to you. Our policy concerning deposits and earnest money is fully described here.

Do you ship kittens?

Shipping by air freight can be quite stressful on a kitten, not to mention expensive. There are breeders who frequently ship kittens without incident, however there are cases where the shipping experience terrifies the kitten. Since once the kitten leaves our hands we have no control over its care and treatment, we discourage shipping. In fact, we have never shipped a kitten and don't intend to. Why should we even consider the risk of shipping when there are so many people willing to come to us to take home their kitten?

As an alternative to shipping we suggest that you consider flying out to Denver to pick up your kitten, and carry it back as on-board (under-seat) luggage. The overall cost is more than what it would cost to ship the kitten as freight, but you will be able to combine picking up your kitten with an enjoyable trip to Colorado. We can recommend several brands of 'soft-sided' cat carriers that are airline approved. Many people have driven and flown to Colorado to pick up their kittens.

Another point to consider is that if you receive your kitten by freight you will not have an opportunity to meet the kitten, the breeder, or to inspect the breeder's facilities prior to acceptance. Also, should you decide to return the kitten for any reason you will have to bear the expense of shipping a second time to return the kitten, and we will refund your purchase price only if the kitten is returned to us in the same condition (including psychological) as you received him. In general, it is always best if you can select and pick up your kitten in person.

Can you help us find a Birman breeder?

Yes. If you are interested in a Birman kitty click here to locate a breeder near you.

Is it all right if we declaw our kitten?

No, but yes. There is nothing in our contract prohibiting you from doing so, but it shouldn't be necessary. Again, we feel that with the exception of not breeding a cat for which you do not have breeding rights, your cat is yours! Cats need their claws for proper grooming and self-defense, they naturally know how to take care of their claws, and it is your responsibility to simulate the cat's natural outdoor environment indoors as best you can. In practice, this means periodically clipping the claws (at least once a month) and providing your cat(s) with their own furniture to scratch. By furniture I don't mean a $10 'scratching post', but a decent and large 'kitty condo' (we call them 'catstles') covered with a high-quality thick pile carpeting with multiple cubbyholes and platforms to curl up on and play in. Plan on spending over $100 for a good piece of cat furniture. With time they will become covered with shed hair, but an occasional vacuuming and brushing with a 'slicker' brush will keep them adequately clean. On average cat furniture should last a couple of years before it looks so bad that it needs to be replaced.

CallisteCats kittens are trained from an early age to scratch only on their catstles. In fact, should you come to visit you will find that there is absolutely no damage to any of the 'human's' furniture. Declawing is really quite unnecessary!

Will a neutered male spray?

I wish I could say, "No, never," but the truthful answer is, "Probably not." Spraying is a learned characteristic. All cats (male and female!) have the ability to spray, but just as humans have an instinctive ability to flee at the first sign of danger, most do not. The same is true with cats. Spraying (or, scent marking) is the symbolic use of urine to delineate territory. Humans use flags and border crossings, cats use urine! The desire to establish exclusive territory is strongest among whole cats, and especially whole males. This desire is almost always completely eliminated by surgical neutering, thus allowing the neutered male to live amicably among even a large household of mixed-sex altered cats. Note that I stressed altered! Introduce a whole male into the household and it's likely that everyone will start spraying!

If your intention is to have one or a few strictly indoor cats, then it's safe to assume that the probability of spraying is practically zero. I really wish I could say absolutely zero, but it's simply impossible to foresee all possible future events. For example, if a whole male 'follows' one of your kids home one day, you may find a problem on your hands (or, on the carpet). In this instance, the whole male is likely the one who will initiate spraying, thus stimulating your other cats (both male and female) to react by marking out their own territory. Suffice it to say that in the five years that we have been breeding and selling kittens, we have not had a single report of a CallisteCat of either sex spraying.

What are the behavioral differences between male and females?

Not one heck of a lot. Once they are altered, both sexes tend to behave quite similarly. We have observed however that the males tend to be a little more playful and independent, and the females tend to be a little more watchful but also more people-oriented. It's difficult to say anything definitive about this, for there are so many exceptions. Each individual cat has a unique personality that will evolve as they become a part of your family.

I do have a theory about this slight behavioral difference, and it has to do with their inherited instincts. Most all domestic cats (Felix Cattus cattus) were bred from the European wildcat (Felix Felix sylvestris) and the Lybian desert cat (Felix Felix lybicus). In the wild, males and females don't live together in a 'pride', but are quite solitary and come together only when the female is in estrus (heat). The female hunts for herself and her kittens, whereas the male only hunts for himself. Thus, the hunting skills of the female are quite developed, whereas the male tends to have a lot of spare time on his hands - sound familiar? A skilled huntress, the female is naturally a very watchful and apprehensive animal, whereas the male can afford to be more playful and take poorly calculated risks - still sound familiar?? My theory is that the slight differences in behavior between the domesticated sexes harkens back to these distant ancestral hunting traits. It's just a theory...

What are the differences between pet, breeder, and show quality kittens?

In addition to deciding upon sex and color, you need to consider the cat's conformation to the breed profile, which is a technical way of saying 'quality'. Birmans have a published definition of 'type', and in most lines perhaps 1% of Birman kittens will meet it completely. To the extent that an individual animal deviates from the profile it moves away from being 'show' quality (four-figure, big $$$s) to being 'breeder' or 'premier' quality (three-figure big $$$s), and then pet quality. Should you wish to discuss procuring a higher quality, more prestigious Birman, we'd be happy to help you as best we can. If we don't have what you are looking for, perhaps we can help you.

Do your cats live in cages?

We have two whole males that live in our cattery (see the facilities page). All of our kittens are raised 'underfoot' and typically spend their first month in a nest under our bed! We wish it were possible to keep everyone together all of the time, but in order to practice 'controlled breeding', and since whole males tend to fight, it's necessary to have things arranged as they are. As can be seen in the pictures, the two boys in the cattery have quite a lot of space and are well taken care of.

Do Birmans get along well with children and other pets?

Yes, absolutely! Of course, even a Birman can take only so much tail-pulling before striking out, as a Breed the Birman tends to be a very gentle and playful cat. We have successfully sent young CallisteCats kittens home to be introduced to their big dog brothers, including a full-grown Rottweiller, a Flandre de Bouvier, a Lab, and twice to homes with adult Great Pyrenees! It has always worked out. In the event that things don't go as well as hoped, we always offer a one-week return policy (see our sample kitten contract for details).

Do Birmans shed a lot?

Very little - what you've heard is true! Most cats have long guard hairs (the ones you pet) and very short and fine body hairs. The body hairs are the ones that float in the air and get in your nose. Birman grooming habits are such that they tend to pick a favorite place (or three) to groom themselves, and when they are done you will find a little twisted clump of hair on the floor.

How much grooming do Birmans require?

Most Birmans are intrinsically 'low maintenance' cats - they are meticulous self-groomers. Our neutered male Caligula hasn't had a bath in over 5 years. He looks great and we almost never brush him. Of course, a Birman will enjoy a daily brushing (they consider brushing to be 'attention' more than grooming), and a bath once a month or so won't hurt.

Although classified as a 'long haired' cat, the Birman coat tends to be medium in length, and its silky texture tends to resist matting. There are however some Birmans with extraordinarily long coats that will occasionally form a mat - for instance, Vesta (see Vesta's picture here). These long and dense coats are highly sought after by breeders and serious fanciers, and the additional grooming required is actually quite minimal - monthly brushing should do it. On no account would a Birman ever require the frequent grooming of a Persian.

Is it all right if I let my kitten outside?

Indoor cats live much longer than outdoor cats. There are diseases, physical hazards, and catnappers outside - it's a scary world! Think of it this way - a Birman kitten costs nearly as much as three ounces of gold coins. Would you leave a small bag of gold coins out on your front lawn?

Can I get a copy of your contract to look over?

To view a sample copy of the CallisteCats kitten contract click here.

No matter who you are dealing with, you should always ask to review the sales contract before you commit to buying. This is a good way of evaluating the professionalism and motivations of the breeder. Sales contracts are typical, even for pet-quality cats. Every breeder uses a slightly different contract, so read through it carefully. Be very careful about dealing with breeders who don't use a contract at all. A good contract protects all parties in the deal by carefully spelling out what each can reasonably expect of the other. Someone who says they deal on a basis of 'mutual trust' or a 'handshake' and prefers not to use contracts, is someone who may prefer to write their own rules as they play the game!

Typical kitten contracts include a spay/neuter agreement (the buyer pays), and a money-back period which may be limited to a 'health warranty', but may be worded more liberally. During that period, you should have the cat checked (at your expense) by your vet, and tested for FeLV, FIV, parasites, and ringworm. At a minimum, a contract should allow you to return the cat for a full refund during the period if there is any question concerning its health.

The CallisteCats contract incorporates a seven-day money-back period. This allows time for you to obtain a professional evaluation of it's health, and an independent assessment of it's quality by another breeder if so desired. Additionally, this money-back period provides you an opportunity to decide if you really like the kitten, and if the kitten gets along well with your other family members and pets. We also encourage you to return the kitten should you feel 'buyers remorse' and decide that you simply don't want to spend so much money on a kitten. These things happen, and we want to be as accommodating as possible.

The CallisteCats sales philosophy is quite simple: Our first desire is that the kitten is happy. Our second desire is that the buyer is happy. Then, and only then are we happy!

A family member has an allergy to cats. Would a Birman be a good choice in this case?

The breed of cat probably makes no difference to someone with an allergy. What people are allergic to is not the hair, but the dander and dried saliva that creates an invisible powder.

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Last edited 02-28-04
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