How to buy a Bengal with a Known Health History and a Solid Health Guarantee

Buying a purebred pet is a big decision.  Sometimes the shopping process can be confusing because prices can vary greatly and when you start talking to breeders, what they tell you differs as well.  The top three reasons to purchase a purebred pet are 1. To get a known health history and health guarantee 2. To obtain a breed-specific temperament 3. To get the desired look.  Too often, people shop only based on #3 and ignore 1 and 2, therefore, missing out on two-thirds of the benefits of buying a purebred pet.  Here is what you need to know about getting a known health history and a good health guarantee when you buy a purebred Bengal kitten. 

Getting a known health history means you need to buy from a breeder who is doing health testing.  For the Bengal, specifically, you want to buy from a breeder taking their cats to a cardiologist for heart testing and who has run the genetic tests for PK Deficiency and PRA-b.  Working with a breeder who has several generations of home-bred cats has some advantages.  They may have cleared out PK Def and PRA-b years ago and no longer need to test.  When it comes to heart testing, having several generations of cats being tested to older ages offers more security than one generation.  For example, testing a cat for heart disease up to age eight provides more protection than testing a cat at age two.  Because breeding cats are often young, please find out the age the parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents last had their hearts checked. It is important to remember that heart testing is not a genetic test, like PK Def and PRA-b, so having cats testing negative isn't a guarantee that heart disease will never develop. Still, by heart testing their cats to older ages, the breeder demonstrates that they are doing what they can to make informed decisions. 

If you would like to see the paperwork from all this testing, I would advise that you ask to see this during your in-person visit with the breeder.  And be open to the idea that it make take time for the breeder to put it together in a way that will make sense to you.  Reputable breeders get many looky-loos, and to pull that paperwork together and explain it all when the customer hasn't demonstrated a serious commitment is a lot to ask.  However, if you are willing to commit your time to do an in-person visit, this confirms you are a serious customer.  Be careful that you don't come across as being health-obsessive, though.  Cats are live animals, and a breeder cannot predict what will happen.  If it appears that your expectations are unrealistic, then a conscientious breeder may have concerns about selling to you because so many things are out of our control.  There are things that a good breeder cannot prevent from happening, but they will ensure - through their health guarantee -  to deal with it fairly if something does. 

Not every health guarantee is equal, so find out what the breeder's health guarantee is.  Buying a purebred pet should offer you some securities you don't get when you adopt a shelter or a rescue.  The health guarantee should be one of the biggest perks. 

The first thing you should do is take in the first impression of the contract.  While this is a generalization, more extended contracts tend to have more loopholes set to protect the breeder, not the buyer ultimately.  Also, more extended contracts are often created over time; the breeder has written new verbiage that, in all likelihood, keeps them from having to replace or refund after having experiences in which they weren't happy replacing or refunding. 

Look for a return policy.  You should have approximately 72 hours to take the kitten to the vet, see if it checks out healthy, and return it - with veterinary test results - for a full refund if it does not check out healthy.  Will you end up doing this? Hopefully not.  But if you find yourself being forced to take home a sick kitten or lose the payments you have already made, you want this option to be available to you.  Sometimes kittens may not feel 100% on the scheduled date to go home.  If your breeder offers to keep the kitten longer, you should try to take the breeder up on this offer even if it isn't what you really want to do. 

Next, look for the coverage for congenital and genetic defects.  Congenital defects are problems created while the kitten was growing in the mom - they are flukes, lousy luck.  If they aren't disclosed to you before your purchase and affect the cat's long-term health, you want these things covered.  Genetic defects are those that are hereditary.  Congenital and genetic defects should include anything that could go wrong with the kitten that your care - or your neglect - could not cause.  Look to see that both of these are covered.  How long should they be covered? Approximately three years.  One year doesn't entirely give enough time for everything to come up, so look for a health guarantee that extends beyond one year. 

If it is not explicitly stated in the contract, the next thing you want to ask is FIP.  FIP is not something any person (either breeder or owner) can cause or prevent a cat from getting, but it isn't scientifically proven to be genetic or congenital.  You want to know if the genetic/congenital health guarantee includes coverage of FIP.  Because you can't cause a kitten to get FIP, it should be covered for the same length of time as the congenital/genetic defects. 

A common loophole breeders use to get out of ever having to replace a kitten is to require the return of the "sick" kitten before you can receive a replacement.  Imagine you find out your kitten was blind.  It wasn't determined until months after you brought the kitten home because cats cope with blindness really well, but it wasn't disclosed to you either.  Technically, you are due a replacement, but if the breeder's contract requires that the blind kitten is returned before you get a replacement, are you really going to follow through with that?  Most of us would not be able to part with a pet with whom we've fallen in love to get a different one.  If you see that a return is required to get a replacement, you may not want to buy from that breeder. 

Another red flag is if you see a gag order in the contract prohibiting you from publicly sharing any negative experiences.  In the United States, we already have defamation laws that make it illegal to spread false information with the intent to hurt a person or a business's reputation.  If you alter information with malicious intent and harms the breeder's sales, you can be sued according to laws that already exist.  A breeder to write a gag order into their contract above and beyond the current law seems a little questionable.  Be careful of this. 

It will be common to have the breeder require tests being done and shared with them or their vet before a replacement is granted.  This is perfectly logical.  With so much information on the internet, people like to self-diagnose - and they are often wrong.  So it is reasonable for you to provide a veterinary diagnosis of the defects before being granted a replacement. 

Finally, a contract is only as good as the people who sign it.  Yes, you want certain guarantees in place, so it is clear to both sides what happens if the unexpected happens, but the reality is, you don't really want to have to go to small claims court to enforce that contract.  Breeders are merely a part of the broader population.  There are good ones; there are bad ones; there are some in-between.  Don't be so blinded by your desire for a new kitten that you ignore your instincts when communicating with a breeder.  Get a feeling for what type of person they are.  You want to buy from a breeder who will resolve problems fairly should problems come up - not one who will blame and deflect the responsibility back onto you.

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