You want to buy a Bengal, but you do not want to be scammed? Purchasing a pet online can be unnerving, but it does not have to be. There are scams out there, but with this guide, you will avoid them.
Too Good To Be True Scam
These are the websites that promise to sell you a kitten and have it delivered to your door all for one ridiculously low price, such as $500. These people do not have a kitten to sell you. They will show you pictures of kittens and claim they are selling you one. Once they get into the delivery stage, they will start asking for money for this, that, and the other. With this type of scam, there is no actual kitten to sell. Go to a Website Age Checker, type the web address in and see how old the website is. Fraudulent websites do get taken down with some regularity, so these people need to keep making new ones. Their sites are often relatively new. Another critical giveaway on these websites is the awkward use of terminology in comparison to other websites. Breeders use breeder jargon, which does not always translate accurately. People outside of the cat breeding world end up using awkward words because they do not understand the real meaning of the words.
Most importantly, the glaring red flag all relates to shipping. Scam sites often say free same-day delivery or shipping to your doorstep. None of that is possible with a live animal as pets need a Health Certificate to travel via cargo. Shipping costs are several hundred dollars at the cheapest. People who have taken the first step to purchase a kitten from this type of scam website tell us that special shipping costs keep getting tacked on as they continue through the process. All of a sudden, they need more money for a crate. Then they need more money for special shipping needs.
Finally, you should never see a button on a website that allows you to send in money without an approval process. Any responsible breeder of Bengals will want to screen you to find out if your home is suited to the needs of a Bengal.
The Used-Car-Salesman Scam
This scam is a little more challenging to identify because you do actually walk away with a kitten, but you pay top dollar for bottom dollar quality. These breeders are the ones who know that psychologically people are trained to think that more expensive equals better quality, and they market to that belief. These breeders do have cats, and you will get a kitten, but they will be deceptive in their advertising. In their sales pitch - and you will be blown away by a sales pitch of used car salesmen quality - you will be told everything you want to hear, and the first message they will use is "you get what you pay for." If you come across this type of breeder, he is unlikely to be supportive of you if anything goes wrong after the sale. If you get a healthy kitten, you did at least get what you paid for. However, you are likely to get a sick kitten or an unsocialized kitten, and the Used-Car-Salesman type of breeder will not respond to any of your attempts to contact them after the kitten is sold. In your search for a kitten, avoid any breeder who tries to talk you into a sale. Kittens are 15-20 year commitments. No good breeder should try to convince a buyer to make that commitment; it should be entirely voluntary. If you feel like you are getting a sales pitch, look for a new breeder.
The Backyard Breeder Scam
Backyard breeders are people who range from selling sickly, poorly raised, untested Bengals through to people who raise mixed breed kittens as Bengals. You will often find this type of breeder advertise kittens for sale at low prices. This type of breeder often doesn't treat their kittens well, doesn't health test their breeding cats, and usually doesn't register their kittens with a well know registry. In the United States, Bengals should be registered with TICA or CFA. The Backyard Breeder Scam is the most frequently fallen for as you search trying to get a kitten at the best price. Often you will see an attempt to look as if they are responsible because they will claim to test for HCM, but upon further inspection, you discover the cats may have been tested once at a young age or that the breeder claims there is no need to test because there is no HCM in the line. When you contact a Backyard breeder, you will discover they aren't very knowledgable because there is no passion for the breed or the cats. Often they just wanted to have "a litter" of kittens. The cats may be registered Bengals but do not have breeding rights, so the kittens will not be registered.
How can you protect yourself from being scammed?
To start with, look to see if the breeder you want to buy from is registered with either TICA or CFA (United States Registries). Next, just take a moment to google the breeder's name with the words "Bengal cat" and see if that brings you any information. Googling the breeder's name should bring up multiple different websites acknowledging him as a Bengal breeder. It will also bring up potential bad information if the name comes up on a Rip Off Report or Pet Scams website.
Find out all the places the breeder interacts online. Some primarily use a website while others use Social Media. You want to see some consistent interaction and updates happening with the online presence. Pictures should change, or announcements should be current. If the breeder does not currently have kittens, there will be less frequent online action. Some breeders only have a couple of litters per year, and it would be perfectly reasonable for those breeders not to update their online presence regularly.
The website of a responsible breeder should make some attempt to educate the public about Bengal cats. Commonly, you will find Bengal cat history and a page with Sires and a page with Dams. Sires and Dams should have Registered names. For example, our cat we refer to as Freya is SolanaRanch Let Freedom Ring. SolanaRanch is the cattery prefix; Let Freedom Ring is her registered name; Freya is her pet name. If a website calls cats by their pet names on the Dams and Sires pages, it is a sign of informality and lack of credibility. If the website only shows kittens, stay away from that site. On the page that shows studs and queens, there should be some information on the testing results of these cats. Look for PK Def, PRAb, and HCM testing information. A switched-on breeder will also have other genetic information such as what colors, patterns, or agouti genetic the cat has.
There should be some Bengal cat information that explains the appearance and personality. Either through their website or after you make contact, the breeder should make some attempt to make sure you understand the needs of an intelligent, high energy breed. If the breeder does not make any attempt to make sure you understand how owning a high energy breed is different from typical cat ownership, then it may be someone more concerned with sales than with the proper placement of their kittens.
The Importance of Health
You will see all over that responsible breeders health test. But people who want to appear accountable may do some minimal health testing too; however, it may not be complete or thorough enough to be a benefit. For example, some breeders will scan a cat's heart while the cat is young and never scan the cat's heart again. While it is good that the heart was scanned, heart disease doesn't often develop until cats are 3 to 5 years old. When you see health information, pay attention to the wording of health-related information. If health is covered vaguely, you may want to move on. For more information on why scanning cats' hearts to older ages is essential, please read, "Why do we heart test our Bengal cats for so many years?"
There are decisions breeders should be making that affect health that have nothing to do with tests. Breeders should be knowledgable in genetics so that they can make the best genetic decisions for their kittens' health. Understanding the health history of the pedigrees in their breeding program can help a breeder lengthen the lifespan of their cats. A responsible breeder should be keeping three things in mind while making a decision: Health, temperament, and appearance. Their choices should be purposeful beyond breeding pretty cat to pretty cat.
Food is another choice you can look at to help determine a breeder's level of commitment to their cats. Breeders should have a rationale for why they feed the way they do and how the food they feed contributes to the health of their kittens and cats. Responsible breeders make purposeful choices with reasoning that is not guided by cost savings. Understanding why a breeder makes their decisions gives you a good insight into the quality of the breeder.
The Importance of Socialization
If a breeder is letting kittens go at eight weeks or younger, this is a breeder to avoid. They are sending the kitten off too young, which can result in many behavioral issues as they mature. Breeders who do this are either ignorant of how kittens develop or focused on saving costs by sending a kitten home one month before it should leave. Kittens learn a lot of essential lessons from their Mom from week 8 to week 12. Read our article on why kittens do better when staying in their home environment for 12 weeks to understand better why your cat's whole life happiness can hinge on this one decision.
Furthermore, how breeders house kittens during their first 12 weeks make a significant impact on their ability to adjust to your home. Kittens need to have large amounts of space. They should not be raised in cages. By playing with other kittens and adult cats, they learn cat body language and cat negotiations. If they are caged, they do not learn these skills, which are essential for feeling secure in the vast space of your home. Posting pictures of kittens in cages demonstrates normalcy of having kittens in cages - a subtle sign that kittens spend too much time in a cage.
A Kitten is a Commitment
When you bring a kitten home, you are making a 15-20 year-long commitment. It is more important to find the right breeder than it is to find a kitten right now. You want to be able to write your breeder in fourteen years and ask them questions about navigating the geriatric years with a high energy cat. If you are buying a Bengal, you've decided to buy a pedigreed pet. Pedigreed pets can come with some advantages over pets from unknown origins. Those advantages are known health history, a breed-specific temperament, and a consistent appearance. Don't spend your money without getting the three benefits that pedigreed pets bring.
Good breeders do not always have kittens available, but they are worth waiting for. When you buy from a Used-Car-Salesman Scammer or a Backyard Breeder Scammer, you could end up purchasing a heartache that comes with getting an ill, unsocialized pet that needs a lot of veterinarian work and socialization. Furthermore, by giving these people money, you are not "saving" a kitten, you are endangering the lives of future kittens. As long as irresponsible breeders have people buying their kittens, they will continue to breed and sell them. When you support a responsible, ethical breeder, you support the proper care and socialization of future kittens.