Next select a breeder. Waiting lists are common. The vast majority of sales go well - but not all. A bad breeder can sell a good kitten and reputable breeder can sell a bad kitten. The difference is if there is a problem, a reputable breeder will work with you to resolve the issue.
We use a the term "back yard breeder" to describe someone who just sells kittens primarily for money and is not trying to improve the breed. Rarer are commercial breeders which are even worse. This is an expensive hobby. When done well a good breeder losses money.
- Never ever buy a kitten less than 12 weeks old. It is not in the kitten's best interest. Unlike puppies, kittens need the time to be well socialized by mom and siblings. They are much more confident and physically robust at 12 weeks. Its like the difference in a 9 or 10 year old child vs. a 12 year old child. Also they should have at least 2 vaccines with one at 12 weeks. The 12 weeks minimum age for placing kittens is supported by studies from vet schools like Cornel. For example, studies have shown kittens rehomed younger than 12 weeks have a much higher incidence of obsessive-compulsive disorders (OCDs) like wool sucking. There is no positive for the kitten in selling it younger than 12 weeks and only negatives in doing so. No reputable breeder sells less than 12 weeks.
- If you go to a breeder's home and things don't feel right - don't buy a kitten. Don't buy a kitten because you want to save it from a bad breeder. If you are uncomfortable in any way, get out without purchasing a kitten. Listen to your instincts. Even if there is nothing wrong with the kitten or breeder, if you feel negative it will affect how you view the kitten. You will be looking for some thing that may not exist. You need to feel positive about the situation.
- Good breeders either show or have someone else who shows their cats. Some claim they don't show because they don't want their cats to get sick. Healthy cats do not get sick at shows. Breeders who don't show usually have highly inbreed cats and frankly don't want to spend the money and time to show. The only way to improve the breed is by showing. Shows are where we network and discuss breeding practices. We establish relationships so we can out-cross to keep the breed healthy. Those that don't show or work with some one who does are just kitten sellers.
- Commercial cat breeders. Almost all cat breeders are hobby breeders. There are very very few commercial cat breeders - unlike the dog world which has a lot of puppy mills. This is because cats are not a herding animal and do not do well raised in dense populations. Commercial regulations are aimed at herding animals raised for food. The commercial cages with hard surfaces are aimed at bacteria. But cat are very susceptible to many airborne viruses. Keeping surfaces clean and hands clean does not stop such viruses. Cats keep in small cages in dense populations increases virus problems enormously as well as increases stress which can increase chances of fatal FIP. Add to that sociability problems and problems transitioning to a real home environment. Commercial breeders may have a good story to tell, but there is reason commercial cat breeders are rare. Stick with normal hobby breeders who do it for love of the cats - not to make profit. This is an expensive hobby when you put the kitten's welfare first.
- Where to pick out a kitten? Although I occasionally sell kittens at a cat show, the best place is at a breeder's home. But some US breeders no longer allow pet buyers to come to their home because of harassment by animal rights activists and severe limit laws in their town. Someone who insists that you have to meet them at a shopping center etc - be wary. It can be a red flag they have too many cats or poor conditions but it can be legitimate because the breeder lives in an area where they are limited to 3 cats in total (breeder or not). So there are legitimate reasons to not allow a buyer into a home yet that is still is the best place to judge personality.
- Beware of breeders who breed many breeds. A good breeder will breed one or maximum two breeds at a time. You can't do justice to lots of breeds at the same time. Breeders with lots of breeds are "just selling kittens".
- Demand a real address of the breeder's home on your contract and not a mail service. Hopefully there will be no problems with your purchase. But if problems arise with your breeder, you have only one option. Small claims court. Under most state's small claims rules, you have to have a real home address and not a private or PO box to serve papers.
- Buying on the Internet. Most breeders make contacts on the Internet today, but they still sell locally when ever possible or least have in-person pick up. At the other end of the spectrum are breeders who primarily sell over the Internet and prefer to ship sight unseen. A web site that appears to prefer Internet sales that are shipped sight unseen are at least a yellow flag. Some folk do not live near a breeder so naturally that may be an option you want, but this is a far riskier sale. With sales which cross state lines, small claims court is not very realistic if you are not satisfied. Who pays shipping costs if you want to return the kitten? So I am not saying don't go that route, but again its far riskier. Both you and the breeder need to discuss who pays transportation to return the kitten and under what conditions they can be returned.
- Expect registration papers from a real authentic national/international registry. Demand the kittens come with papers from CFA, TICA or ACFA. They are the only reputable registries in the US. Any other registry is bogus and a breeder using some thing else is not reputable.
- Be wary of breeders who are not a member of the Tonkinese Breed Association (TBA). TBA will not help you if a deal goes bad. So why do you want a TBA member? TBA is the only US national Tonkinese breed club. Its very inexpensive but you do have to sign a code of ethics. All the reputable US Tonkinese breeders are members. Anyone unwilling to abide by our simple Code of Ethics or pay $14 a year is someone I would be suspicious of.
- Putting a deposit on a kitten not yet born is risky if it is nonrefundable. You and the breeder should have clear written terms in case the breeder can not offer you a kitten in a reasonable time.
Most Tonkinese kitten sales go well but occasionally there is a problem. Remember these are not manufactured items. A good breeder can sell a kitten that develops a problem that they did not know about and a bad breeder can sell a wonderful kitten. So unfortunately a referral may not always help. A healthy kitten can come down with a cold from the stress of moving to a new home. But a good breeder will take a kitten back if that is best. They will communicate with you. Good breeders love their babies and want this to go well. Most sales are satisfactory to both parties. I have had a bounced check (from a lawyer no less) who still has not paid me even after I won in small claims court twice. Kitten sales can go bad on both sides of the equation. But this page is an effort to help you avoid the problem breeders. Go with your instincts. If you are uncomfortable go else where.
Good luck. A special Tonkinese is worth the effort to make a good selection. Life with a Tonkinese is special and worth being patient to find the right kitten for you. It will give you many years of joy justifying spending time to get a good kitten. Good luck.